Coming into the industry at such a young age, in what ways have you been forced to grow up fast?
I don't think I'm being forced to grow up really fast. I mean, this is what I've always wanted to do with my life, and this is my dream. So, yes, I have to make some sacrifices to not see my friends as often or not be in a regular school environment. But besides that, I'm doing what I love. I'm performing, I'm in the studio, so everything's going good.
Have you come up with any creative ways to get back those sacrifices?
Oh, I'm always on my computer, Skyping, emailing, texting. I stay in touch with my friends a lot. I mean, it's not too hard. But, I'm doing what I love and it's easy to do what you love.
Now that you’re actually “the star” you used to sit and watch from home, what part of the business have you found to be more difficult than they show on TV?
Well, I was under the spell before I did this that people that do music have an easy life and it's just a little different. I thought they just go into their studio and just record and then they're done, which is definitely not the case. I mean, I consider this as my dream. It's really what I want to do. It's so much fun but at the same time, it's a full-time, seven day a week job. It's very hard work, and sometimes it can be very stressful, but it's definitely what I wanted and I'm just so blessed with this opportunity that I have, so I'm not complaining.
What's the craziest day schedule-wise that you have had so far?
Well, I've had some long studio hours. And then you have the rehearsal days.
Over the past few months, you have spent a great deal of time working with Ron Fair. Knowing his résumé and all the people he has worked with, I would imagine that could be overwhelming. Talk to me about some of the interactions you have had thus far.
Well, he's been just so helpful, and he's become such a great friend and such a great mentor. He's one of the coolest guys I've met, and we've been making great music together. He's really incredible. Ron speaks in a lot of metaphors, and one time, very early on, he said, "Have you heard of Meat Loaf?" And I said, "Well, yeah, I've had it a couple of times." And he goes, "No, no, no. Like Meat Loaf, the singer …" I remember we had a camera crew there, I think, and so that's probably out on the Internet right now, but that was a really funny moment.
According to the press release, you have written several songs for your debut. Which song are you most-excited to share with the world?
"Purple Sky" – it is a song that I wrote for the bullying campaign and what's been going on lately. I wrote it with a girl named Danielle Brisebois. She wrote "Unwritten" for Natasha Bedingfield and "Pocketful of Sunshine." One day I went to her house, and I was just like, "We need to do something, Danielle." And she was like, "Well, let's write a song about it." And so we did, and the song came out beautifully. It's so incredible. This song is really in my heart, so I'm really excited for it.
Is there a particular life event, or reason, you have found yourself rallying around the bullying issue?
I was a little bullied back in middle school. I was lucky it was nothing too bad. When some of these kids walk out of school, they're being spat on, punched, hit and pushed to the ground. And nobody deserves that. I'm trying to make this song so when these kids are feeling their lowest low and they're so sad, deprived, depressed and thinking horrible thoughts, and they're crying at eleven o'clock at night, that they listen to this song; that everything gets better and they know that they can make it through it. And that's the main reason why I wrote the song.
As a young, up-and-coming artist, why do you feel obligated to take a stand and use your platform for social change?
Well, I think it's a thing that we need to stand up for because we're losing lives. We're losing actual human lives from this. And it's not fair, at all. These kids didn't do anything wrong, but these ignorant and judgmental other kids are bullying them because they're different. The whole meaning behind the song "Purple Sky" is saying that a blue sky is a normal sky, but we're a purple sky. We're different, but it's okay. We're still beautiful in our different ways.
Your first single is “Waiting Outside the Lines.” Although you didn’t write the song, when you sing it and make it your own, what do the lyrics mean to you on a personal level?
Interesting question. Well, I try to write a lot of my music, because I think it's important so you have the relativity to your fans and that they know that you're coming from meaning. But I remember when I got this song, I listened to it and I fell in love with the lyrics, especially the lyric, "You'll never enjoy your life living inside the box." And that really meant a lot to me. And what it means to me is saying you can get over a problem and an emotional breakdown that you're having. You can get over it. And so that's the whole meaning behind the song.
Considering your age, I have a few fun questions that I wanted to ask you.
Had you not exploded into a major music figure, what career path do you think you would have taken?
I would have been a circus performer! [laughing]
A circus performer? [laughing] Are you a big fan of the big tent?
Oh, I just like that crazy atmosphere! [laughing]
Ah, you just like the constant – and spontaneous – craziness! [laughing]
Yes! Very much! [laughing]
Outside of music, what are your personal interests?
I like playing soccer. I play a lot of soccer actually.
And what similarities do you find between soccer and the music business? Are there any rules or strategies that you think fit with both?
Well, both of them can be very physical. And both of them can get dirty! [laughing]
Well, hopefully you will not have to experience too much of that! [laughing] And your family? How are they adjusting to your “overnight” success?
They've been so supportive. My parents have sacrificed a lot to move out here to L.A. to let me record and do all the rehearsals. They've sacrificed a lot, and my family has just been ever so supportive. They're just a great family to have.
How was the move? How would you describe the transition?
It was a pretty easy one. L.A.'s a fun place.
Now that you’re in the “City of Angels,” do you see your career going into other directions in addition to singing? Is your mind going off into a million different places now?
It really is, but having it go off into a million places is a good thing.
Anything of interest caught your eye?
Not yet! [laughing] Right now, I want to make sure that when I do go on tour to perform, my fans can escape their life; dance to my performances and just be themselves. I want to make sure that my performance art keeps that quality.
On Ellen, you expressed your tremendous love for Lady Gaga.
Yes! She's the queen of performance art!
In addition to Gaga, you are a big fan of Christina Aguilera, the rock band Augustana, R&B singer John Legend, singer-songwriter Elton John, and late Beatle John Lennon. Of these, who do you think had the most influence on your body of work?
Well, I love John Lennon because of how he put so much emotion in the poetry that he's written with his music. He's one of the most passionate and one of the best songwriters ever to step foot on the planet, I believe.
And when you look at your own songwriting, in what ways do you want to grow?
I want to grow into where my fans can escape their lives, where they can feel the meaning of the song, feel the heartbeat of the song and they understand what it's about.
Is there a particular song that does that for you every single time?
"Smile," by Michael Jackson. I really like the cover that he did. And that's just not the only one. I think Gaga does a great thing with her music. She really makes it understandable and she makes it meaningful. I really like "Brown Eyes" and "Speechless" and "Dance In The Dark."
Outside of the meaning, what do you think really makes a great song?
A good bridge.
So when you look at your album, as it is right now, what song do you think has the best bridge?
"Waiting Outside the Lines."
Alright! Well, I wish you the best with your forthcoming album, and I look forward to seeing you grow and develop. So keep your head up, stay out of trouble and as Gaga said, "Watch out for those girls!"
Well, thank you so much, Clayton. It's been an honor.
Article Author: Clayton Perry
Over the past few years, Clayton Perry has interviewed some of the BIGGEST entertainers in music, film and television. Check out his digital archive with 140+ definitive conversation pieces.