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You may know Laura Marano from starring as Ally in the Disney Channel hit television series Austin & Ally. Now music has become the main focus for Marano during the pandemic, especially as a way of coping with the infamous 2020. From working on the deluxe version of her YOU EP and filming for Netflix’s The Royal Treatment, working alongside Mena Massoud, there’s so much that Marano and her fans can look forward to.
We got to speak to Marano about her latest single, “Can’t Help Myself,” auditioning for Austin and Ally, the music industry, and her brand new deluxe album, YOU.
What does a day in the life of Laura Marano look like? Every day looks a little bit different. I just came back from LA after filming a movie, so that day looks different from when I am at home working on music. So, when I am in the writing portion of the music era, I usually will get up, try to work out, make myself breakfast, do a voice warmup and then go straight into my piano room and work in there. Then there are days where I get ready for a day of the promotion, being on camera and doing as much as I can from that standpoint. Every day is a little bit different. It is all about balance.
I am ready to have a little bit of a vacation, I am not going to lie! It’s about balancing out those days, especially on the weekends of not doing anything or reading books. But I know that whenever I am actually on a vacation, I’m always antsy to get back and start working.
Do you remember your first musical experience? Two come to mind. I remember I wrote a song for my uncle in New York. I was really young and it was about politics. It was basically me saying I love you no matter what you believe in politically, as he believed something different from what I did growing up. I had no idea what I was saying. That is something I remember vaguely. Everyone thought it was pretty funny and pretty ridiculous. The second thing that comes to mind is that I think I was around 7 or 8 and I performed a solo at my school’s musical for Frosty The Snowman. I just remember loving my life because I was performing in front of all these people and having the best time.
I think I’ve always, no matter, what looked to songwriting as a way to process feelings and create something to use as an outlet. I have been writing and singing since I can remember and I remember just being really proud of them. It’s my way of thinking through feelings, experiences, and imagination. I’m still doing that. I was no Mozart. I always found it super fun and I got more serious the older I got.
I made myself a MySpace and had Soundcloud. Then I got Austin and Ally, and I did my actual real first recording session, which was not what I was used to.
I went to a regular high school and I remember a football player who was a couple of grades older than me came up to me and said that his younger sister was a big fan of the show. He was really nice telling me about how she always watched it. I asked how old is your sister and he said she’s 1 and a half! What I was thinking was that she’s the one controlling the remote at that age? Disney Channel was such a cool and amazing experience. It was amazing to be on a show that was also about music. It’s no secret that Nickelodeon kids and Disney actors and actresses also tend to do music as well. To actually be on a show that was about writing music and the music industry, I couldn’t have asked for a show and the experience that brought together the two loves of my life. I still can’t believe it.
Tell us a bit about your single, “Can’t Help Myself.” So “Can’t help Myself” is the newest remixed duet version of all the songs I did on my new EP. It’s all working towards a deluxe version of the new EP (out today). There are two aspects to it. There’s the original song aspect, which I wrote a while ago with a collaborator I love working with. He’s a Swedish producer named Johan Lindbrandt. I’ve been writing all this emotional music and I wanted to write something fun and still has a meaning to it. We ended up working on the song, which was about when the person who broke your heart realizes what they are missing and really taking advantage of their regret. It became this anthemic revenge song that I just had so much fun writing about.
I knew I wanted to get a different version of the song and a different perspective. I had done duets with amazing male artists and I really felt “Can’t Help Myself” needed some badass female energy. Originally, I really wanted to get one person on this. I didn’t know what that looked like, but I knew that I was a really big fan of Jean Deaux. We met, talked about the song and she was really into it. It became evident that I felt like I needed to make a new version and reproduce what this new song sounds like. From that standpoint, I was really wanting to find another female collaborator on the producing side, so in comes this amazing artist and producer Poe Leos. She added a few vocals herself, so we came up with this female-powered version of this song, which I personally like better than the original.
How do you disconnect from real-life situations such as a breakup to be able to write a song about it? Has it helped you recover? Well, I think when it comes to writing about a breakup, I don’t disconnect. I honestly do the opposite of disconnect, which can be painful, but I think totally helps me recover. Writing about a feeling and experience helps me process everything.
What song from the deluxe EP YOU are you the proudest of? I love all of them so, so much, so this is a really tough question. I love how different the remix versions of “When You Wake Up” and “Can’t Help Myself” are from the originals; they probably took the most amount of work, and I’m so proud of what we did with them. I also love that I was able to incorporate some of my extremely talented fans into the remix version of “Something to Believe In,” and the remix version of “Run” is also incredibly special to me.
When it came to writing the EP, was there a time where you experienced writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it? Honestly, when I was writing most of these songs, I was going through a time of my life that was a bit tumultuous, so writing was this amazing outlet for me to process everything I was feeling. With that in mind, I didn’t experience too much writer’s block, because I almost felt like these feelings were pouring out of me. Even the remix versions came pretty naturally. I worked with the different artists, and they all had such amazing ideas and instincts, so creatively, it was a really smooth process. Logistically, it was a tad challenging.
Who/what were some of the inspirations for the new songs on the EP? I think I was ultimately inspired by the concept that there are two sides to every story. When everyone brings their own perspective into a situation, how does that affect a relationship? That was the theme I was exploring with the original YOU EP. After I released it, I thought the best way to fully explore different perspectives is actually bringing another artist on the same song and letting them do their own version of the same song. This experience brought me a completely new appreciation for these songs and the creative process in general.
How does the writing process for tracks like “Run” and “When You Wake Up” differ from previous releases? Well, “Run” is especially significant to me because the original is the first song I ever put out that I wrote completely on my own. In this new version, I worked with someone who is very special to me, and the song really highlights (in some ways, a little painfully) a specific type of feeling and moment in my life. In regards to the remix version of “When You Wake Up,” I actually wrote over Zoom, and I’m pretty sure it was my first Zoom session ever (and of 2020), so that was definitely a new experience for me!
What are the main differences from the original release of the YOU EP to the deluxe version? All of these incredible artists I have on this deluxe version really put their own spin on each of the songs, so I went from a pretty sonically cohesive EP to an EP full of different genres and vibes, which is kind of awesome. The songs all still completely work together but are very uniquely their own.
What sort of person were you growing up and has being in the creative industry changed you in any way? For sure. I am who I am because I grew up professionally acting at a young age. I also feel grateful because I don’t look at my childhood as something I had to sacrifice. I was still able to go to school, have friends who were my age, had birthday parties. I did so many things attached to the rites of passage you associate with childhood. I don’t look at my life as I had to sacrifice that aspect. Am I the way I am because I started acting when I was 5? Of course. There are many things good and bad that had become a part of me because of that. I also know that I wouldn’t trade it. I wouldn’t not have chosen to do acting at a young age because of a lot of reasons, but mostly because I really love it. It gave me experience. I don’t know if you’ve read the book Outliers or heard the concept of 10,000 hours but for my acting, I really feel like I have been doing it for so long and have that experience locked in. If I had started acting later, I think I would have been really insecure and had all of these unsure voices in my head.
I feel like Austin and Ally came at a good time because social media started becoming a thing. I didn’t have Twitter or Instagram when I started the first season. Everyone else did though. I did feel the pressure of getting it for my career after the first season. It’s strange that it has become such an essential part of the industry. It is an addiction. It is weird when you have it for both career purposes and personal use. There’s also a lot about it that I don’t love and are tough. There’s constant pressure about being on it as much as you can. I definitely have, as many people do have a complicated relationship with it, but I try the best I can to focus on the positives and create boundaries for myself to help me cope with the complexities.
What was the support like from your friends and family when you decided to step foot into the music industry? It was amazing. My family is so supportive and I think that everyone knows how much I love music, so it just seemed inevitable but I’m so lucky that I have a really supportive support system, family friends, and fans.
Do you remember what the audition process was like for Austin and Ally? Yes! It took me a while to get into the audition because I kept getting told that I wasn’t right for it. I was thinking I was right for it. Everyone knew I was pretty outgoing and Ally was supposed to be this really shy, introvert. I wouldn’t call myself a shy introvert. I just connected with Ally on so many levels and I knew I was born to play her. When I did get into the audition, I ended up casting for it immediately. In the test, I met Ross Lynch, Raini Rodriguez, and a whole bunch of people. At the end of the audition process, I said that there’s one person for Austin (Ross), there’s one person for Trish (Raini) and they were testing the other characters another day. But there were two people for Ally! So I left that test not knowing at all. I didn’t find out until three or four days. When I found out I got it, I was beyond happy.
Do you feel like there are any misconceptions that people may have about actors going into the music industry? This isn’t a new thing, meaning there are plenty of actors and actresses who do music as well. There is always a little bit of a judgment that comes across when you do both. There is a level of how can you do both or are you just trying to dip your toe into something you’re not really passionate about? I also do agree that they both are two jobs, so doing both is overwhelming and intimidating at times. I think for me, I really truly can’t see my life without either. I feel a bit more successful in my acting career than my music career, so sometimes it sort of messes with my head a little bit. I am now at a place where I have to sort of separate them in my head, where I’m actress Laura and artist Laura. Compartmentalizing, for me, makes things a little bit easier. As an actress, I make career choices and do things a little bit differently because I’m at a different stage with my music.
Do you remember your initial feeling when you put out your very first single? It was for “Boombox” and I was so nervous. I was also so excited because I knew I had so many things that I wanted to do. It was my first experience with a record label and a bunch of other firsts. So I was really nervous and proud of the song as well.
Is there anything you have learned while being in the music industry you may not have known before? I think you don’t realize the amount of politics that is in the music industry. Yes, the TV world has its politics and other complexities, but music is so interesting because everything does feel quite personal. It is a really small world and it does get quite political. I feel I found myself in the middle of quite a few people’s politics a few times, which was really frustrating. The other thing was that I just want to release music and sometimes it feels like when you’re on a label, that isn’t what happens. You’re constantly in the work mode more than the release mode. For me as an artist, I really need to release and connect with my fans on the content I am putting out. When you don’t do that, you feel like there is a huge gap between you and the audience that no matter what music you’re writing, it feels a bit incomplete.
What has it been like filming, the movie The Royal Treatment? It was amazing! I’m so excited for everyone to finally see it. We’re in the post-production stage right now. I’m working with Mena Massoud in the movie, who is also amazing.
When you weren’t working on music during the pandemic, what other ways did you try to stay creative? I was working on a lot of things for the movie, which was really cool. I’m also working on developing a bunch of other projects on the acting side too. Essentially, music, for sure has been the biggest creative outlet that I had during the infamous 2020. That was where I found I was putting a lot of my creative energy.
Do you have a story that when you tell it, you can’t believe that actually happened to you? I have never-ending stories like that. One story for sure is that I am a huge Jason Mraz fan. One time I actually went to an event that he performed at and had a hilarious moment. It’s a long story, but essentially everyone at the table knew I was a big fan and they somehow got him to sit in my chair. I was a fangirl. Literally, a year or two later, we ended up writing a song together. That was a crazy experience because I still am a Jason Mraz fan and, of course, I don’t think he remembered me from that time because that would have been so embarrassing. But I was able to hold it together and write one of my favorite songs that I have written. It was called “Not Like Me” and I just sitting there feeling like how is this happening to me right now, this is insane! I had the most awkward fan encounter and now I’m sitting here writing a song with him. It was a very special moment in my life.
What are you hoping people take away from the deluxe EP? As cliché as it sounds, we are all in charge of writing our own story. When writing it, we come with our own baggage and perspective, which can get in the way of sharing our story with the people in our lives. Our perspective shapes our experience, and that can be both an amazing and challenging truth, but it’s important to recognize it as a truth nonetheless. I mean … I also just hope people love the EP in general.
What can we look forward to from you this year? I am so excited for the deluxe EP to come out. That is definitely something I am focusing on when it comes to promoting and just excited for fans to hear the last page of this chapter. I’m really excited for the next few months to be working on new music. I have a couple of acting projects that are potentially going to be happening as well. For the next few months, I’m really going to be focusing on what the next chapter of my life looks like, both on the music and acting side.