Blog | interview
- Posted on 05/17/2013 by Lisa
18-year-old singer/songwriter Olivia Somerlyn, the TeenNick Top 10 Fresh Artist of the Month, talks about her writing process in part two of our interview. (Read part one, in which she talks about opening up for Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice on tour this summer, here.)
What's your writing process like?
First of all, I could really write a song anywhere, because inspiration comes at the weirdest times. Somebody says a word, and I think "Oh, that'd be great in a song." I have to write it down. I have to always be ready for that. I've even written songs on a plane, with my headphones, my notebook, and the piano app on my phone, trying to play chords and not being able to do it. The flight attendants were cracking up at me -- that's not the ideal place to write a song.
Usually I get inspired right when I'm about to fall asleep, and I end up staying up way too late working on a song. Sometimes I think that's when the best inspiration comes, when you're winding down. You have time to think.
It's so funny. I'm in bed, the lights are off, and my eyes are closed. I think of either a concept or a melody, but I have to wake up really early the next day... so do I work on this, or do I fall asleep? Should I record it really quick? It's hard to decide sometimes.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
I used to live in the Bay Area, and I had a great view from my room. I had a little keyboard set up there, and I always used to love when it rained. I wrote one of my songs, "Only in the Movies," while looking at that view in the rain. I always go back to that place in my mind. I love writing songs in the rain, there's just something about it.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing their own songs?
I'd just say, get started as soon as you can. Just write, and don't worry about making it perfect right off the bat. I have notebooks full of songs that I wrote, I mean, complete songs -- they have lyrics, melody, everything -- that I never really recorded for real or released. But it was worth it, because I learned so much writing all those songs.
Also, one thing that really helps me as I write songs is to amplify the emotion that I'm feeling. I think in order for a song to really move people, for it to come across as poetry, as art, because that's really what songwriting is, there needs to be an amplification of reality, rather than just conversational words as lyrics.
What's the best advice anyone has ever given you about songwriting?
I love this question because it makes me think about all the amazing people that I've worked with, and all the writers that I've met. When I first started co-writing, I started typing my words on a laptop, rather than writing by hand in a notebook, like I used to, when I was writing by myself. Then I worked with this really great co-writer who told me that she always uses paper and a pen -- not even pencil -- so she wouldn't be able to delete or erase the lyrics that she didn't end up using. Then she could refer back and use those words to create other songs -- flip back and see if there are other lyrics that would work for it. That really changed the way I wrote, because I ended up looking back at my old notebooks and finding little pieces that I can use in other songs.
And this is less technical, but another piece of advice that somebody gave me that really stuck with me is "The more transparent you become, the more universal you become." It has really encouraged me to open up and be more vulnerable in my songwriting. I got that advice pretty recently, and I think it particularly shows in one of the songs on my new album.
Have you ever heard a song and thought "I wish I'd written that"? What song was it?
I think this all the time. My music taste is very eclectic. I listen to so many different artists. I'm always Shazamming songs on my iPhone when I go to stores and restaurants. I find a song and then I'm obsessed with it for a while. Right now it's "Just Give Me a Reason" by Pink and Nate Ruess. It reminds me of my music style -- it's piano based with a really cool beat behind it. I just wish I'd written it!
What else do you think you'll have on your summer 2013 playlist?
I've heard whispers that Katy Perry's new album is coming out this summer, and I don't know if that's true, but I really hope it is, because I'm really excited about it. Also, the new Big Time Rush album, which I'll get to hear all the time on tour this summer.
I've never been on a tour before, so in the days leading up to the tour, I can't sleep because I'm nervous, or I can't sleep because I'm excited. I really like getting lost in a book right before bed. I read as much as I possibly can right before I fall asleep, so the last thing in my mind is what's going on in the book, with the story and the characters. I think it's even better when it's something that's very different from my life, from a different time period especially, so I can just sort of be transported.
Since you love historical fiction, I have to ask: If you could go back in time and play a few songs for ANY historical figure, which one would you pick?
I love this question. I read a lot of historical novels, especially about European history. I took AP European History and I just loved it so much. I wrote a research paper about Marie Antoinette for that class, so I'd probably choose her. Everyone thinks she's so frivolous, but I think she's very misunderstood.
What's on your summer reading list?
I'm in the middle of reading The Great Gatsby, and I really like it so far. I don't know what I'm going to read next, so I'd love suggestions from people.
Thanks, Olivia. I hope you have a wonderful summer on tour!
Thank you so much!
If you see Olivia on the Summer Break Tour, say hi. She says, "It'll make my day." Catch her on TeenNick Top 10 all month long (Fridays at 10pm et, 7pm pt), and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. See her live on the Summer Break Tour, beginning June 21 in Los Angeles.
- Posted on 05/10/2013 by Lisa
18-year-old singer/songwriter Olivia Somerlyn is the TeenNick Top 10 Fresh Artist of the Month for May. I talked to her about her summer plans, which include opening up for Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice on the Summer Break Tour.
Congratulations on being named Fresh Artist of the Month!
Thank you! My TeenNick Top 10 interview was my first TV interview ever, and this is my first phone interview.
Yay! What's one thing you want everyone who reads this interview to know about you?
For the past few years that I've been working on my music, it's been all pretty much behind the scenes work. I've been writing a lot, recording a lot, and just being a perfectionist. This is going to be my first tour, and I can't even explain how excited I am to share my music with everybody.
What are you looking forward to most about the tour?
I'm mostly excited about meeting everybody before and after the show. I'll try to always be outside saying hi to everyone, kind of like I am on Twitter and online. I try to respond to everyone who tweets me, because it's just so much fun talking to everyone and responding to all the questions. I also can't wait to meet Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice, because I haven't met them yet! Everyone keeps asking if I've met them, but not yet! Hopefully soon!
What's your favorite Big Time Rush song?
I have two. One is one of their more recent songs, called "Windows Down." I listen to it when I'm working out, and it's just so energizing and fun. It's always stuck in my head.
I went to the kick-off party for the tour at House of Blues a few weeks ago, and Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice did a little show. Big Time Rush played an acoustic set, and they played one of their older songs, "Nothing Even Matters," and it sounded so cool acoustically. That made it one of my favorites.
What was it like at the kick-off party?
I was just in the audience, thinking, "I can't believe I'm going on tour with these guys!" There were people handing out flyers on the way in, and my name was on the flyer: "Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice and ME?" It was so crazy.
So, what are you bringing with you on tour? Tell me five things you can't live without.
#1. I want to bring my dog, Luke, but I don't know if he'll be able to handle all that traveling. That's making me really nervous, because how am I going to get through seven weeks without my puppy?
#2. This is my first time on tour, and my first time sleeping on a tour bus. I'll probably have to bring a really good pillow so I can get comfortable anywhere. #3. A notebook, so I can write lyrics.
#4. I want to figure out some sort of small keyboard situation for the tour bus, because I'm always writing songs, and it'd be really hard not to have that.
#5. Definitely my phone, because I am always taking pictures. I'm a Big Time Rush fan and a Victoria Justice fan, so I want to be able to share my backstage access. I know what it's like to be a fan, and wonder what goes on behind the scenes, so I want to be the eyes and ears of everyone who wants to follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
You're very active on Twitter. When you communicate directly with your fans, how do you stay focused on the good stuff and avoid the haters?What's your favorite thing about performing live?
Most people have been so nice and so positive, and even when they aren't, I just focus on the positive. I either ignore it or respond with something nice. I don't believe in fighting fire with fire, not just on social media, but in my personal life. I have a song on my upcoming EP about that, about standing up for yourself without having to sink to that level.
I've performed live a little bit around Los Angeles, but since this is my first tour, I'm looking forward to figuring out what it's really like. I've been going to concerts my whole life, thinking "I really can't wait... I just wanna be on stage!" I can already kind of tell what my favorite thing is going to be -- connecting with the audience.
What's the best show you've been to lately?
The most recent show I went to was Imagine Dragons, and it was just so cool. I love their songs, and the stage design was amazing. I've never been to a Big Time Rush or a Victoria Justice show, so I'm excited about getting to see them like 38 times this summer!
When is your EP coming out? Can you give us any hints about what it's going to be like?
I'm hoping to release my EP in August -- right after the tour! It will have a few more upbeat, summer, catchy, fun songs than my first EP, so I hope people will want to sing along.
In honor of the summer tour and your last name, let's do some summer questions.
Favorite summer food?
Seasonal summer fruit. All year, I wait for peaches and nectarines.
Favorite summer memory?
My mom and I used to drive to Lake Tahoe every summer, and we'd listen to Coldplay's album Parachutes the whole way there, the whole way back, and the whole time we were there. Now, when I hear those songs it reminds me of my favorite summer days.
Favorite summer activity?
Probably after this summer, it's gonna be touring! But I hope that at the end of the summer I'll get to drive up to Lake Tahoe and go swimming, or even just jump in the ocean and swim.
In part two of this interview, Olivia talks about her writing process and shares songwriting tips. Read it here!
Catch Olivia Somerlyn on TeenNick Top 10 all month long (Fridays at 10pm et, 7pm pt), and keep in touch with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also see her live on the Summer Break Tour, beginning June 21 in Los Angeles.
- Posted on 02/24/2012 by Lisa
Alex Steele plays a new character, Tori, on Degrassi this season, but she's not new to the show -- she used to play Craig's little sister, Angie. I met up with her when she was in L.A. for the Degrassi party, and we talked about her Degrassi past, present, and future.
So you're playing Tori now, but you already have a place in Degrassi history. How old were you when you played Angie?
I was five or six years old.
Do you remember much about it?
I remember some of the faces. It was a great environment. It wasn't like, "Oh this is work." It was like, "Playtime, let's do this!"
How did you end up back on Degrassi?
They created the character Tori, and then they had an open audition, and I just auditioned like everyone else.
That's so cool. Was your sister psyched about it? (Alex's sister, Cassie, played Manny Santos on Degrassi for years.)
Yes, she really encouraged me. She was like, "We're gonna do this!" and she helped me with my audition, going through the script and giving me pointers. It was really great. She was so enthusiastic. She went to my second audition -- my callback -- with me, and she was there in the lobby like, "You can do this, Alex!" It was great.
Did you and Cassie have sisterly drama growing up?
Nothing bad, really... We're about 5 and a half years apart, but we're a pretty awesome team.
I love how in "Underneath It All, pt. 2," we start to get a real sense of Tori's character. How would you describe her?
She's different than I am, but in a way, she's going through problems that every girl can relate to, like boys and drama. Even though she deals with it differently -- she uses her "charms" -- I think she's really easy to relate to.
I think so, too. I'm really excited to see what happens with her this season.
She's quite a piece of work, I must say!
How has it felt being back at Degrassi?
I was super-super-super nervous at first. Because my sister had worked there, I was like "I've gotta be perfect..." I wanted to live up to my sister's awesome reputation, and then after a while, I just kind of relaxed, because everybody there has a really relaxed vibe.
It's sort of neat that you were nervous about your first day on set, and it was also your character's first day at Degrassi.
Yes, and it was the first job I've gotten since Degrassi! I was like "Oh my gosh, I've gotta do this..."
Where do you want to see Tori go? Do you think she'll end up ruling the school?
I think she's gonna get there, but there are obviously going to be a LOT of struggles for her. Like, this season, she's new, she's a freshman, and she's really trying to prove that she's good enough.
I'm so excited for the fans to see these episodes!
I'm excited to see them, too! I haven't seen them yet.
It was nice meeting you!! Thanks so much for talking to me!
Thanks so much!
*hugs* (Note from Lisa: Yes, we hugged at the end of the interview. Is that unprofessional? It's just how we roll at TeenNick.)
- Posted on 11/05/2011 by LisaEmily-Anne Rigal, 17, was bullied so harshly as a kid that she had to switch schools. That experience lead her to create We Stop Hate, a website where teens make videos to combat bullying. I interviewed Emily-Anne while she was in Hollywood for the HALO Awards ceremony, and she gave me a We Stop Hate wristband. (Thanks, Emily-Anne!)
Emily-Anne Rigal and HALO Awards host Nick Cannon
Can you talk a little about what you're doing with what We Stop Hate?
We raise teen esteem as a way to stop bullying, because if you're happy with yourself, you don't put others down. We post one video a week where someone shares a story about an insecurity they overcame or their favorite confidence tip or trick. Sometimes we have celebrities. We basically make online videos as a way to promote raising self-esteem.
How did it all start?
So, I had been making Youtube videos since I was a freshman in high school. They were comedy videos. I taped my family doing funny things, and my friends and I. There was some vlogging, just talking about things I cared about, but it was very Emily-Anne based, as opposed to We Stop Hate, which is more about creating a platform for other people to share things. It was a hobby, and I ended up loving it so much that I would do it all the time, and some of the Youtubers became my closest friends, and we talked all the time and would video chat.
It was just a really great community, and I had about 5000 subscribers, but some of my friends had like, 100,000 subscribers. And I was like, "Why don't we spread some positive message, as opposed to all of us just making comedy videos?" And the reason I chose self-esteem is because I was bullied when I was younger. I ended up switching schools, and it was just a really bad experience. I had body image issues because of it, and at the time, I just felt so bad about myself. I changed schools and made a lot of friends, and then gradually, my self-confidence increased. By the time I was making videos on the internet, I wasn't having those same issues, but I realized that some kids at my school were. I was like, I want to help them, because I can relate to what they're going through. So that's how We Stop Hate came about.
Was there anything that you found really challenging as you were developing We Stop Hate?
I found it challenging at first to share my idea with others and have them come on board. Sometimes people can be hesitant, because self-esteem sounds like what your guidance counselor talks about, and I wanted to have cool Youtubers make videos. I had to really share my story and talk about why it is so important to do this, and get them on board. I was just really authentic, and I told them what I wanted to do, and one by one people turned around and we ended up making our own phrase, "teen esteem." I felt like people could identify with it, and make their own definition.
What has been your proudest moment? Is there one moment that stands out in your memory?
I was on a panel about teen activism two weeks ago. I remember looking at the kids who were sitting there, and I thought to myself as I was sitting down... two years ago -- almost to that day two years ago -- I was at an empowerment event in Washington, D.C. I hadn't thought of We Stop Hate, I wasn't doing self-esteem things. I was just a kid, just like them, who wanted to do something. And so the first thing I said on that panel was, "I just wanna make it clear that I was in your seats only two years ago, and I'm not better than you. In only two years, I went from sitting there with no idea for this to being on a panel doing this." That moment meant a lot to me, but like, I feel like I could write a novel, there have been so many moments.So when you're building someone's self-esteem, you're also kind of empowering them to help the community, too. That's great.
Emily-Anne with HALO winners, Kyle, Shanoah, and James
I feel like that's a big part of self-esteem, because self-esteem is based on doing "esteemable acts." So when you're doing something that you care about, you're building your self-esteem. It just feels good to give back, and I wish more kids realized that and felt more empowered to do that.
What advice would you give someone who has never really volunteered or started getting involved in their community?
I would say to help one person, because I think that will give you the confidence to believe in helping more. So I think, find a person, and it can be someone at your school. It doesn't need to be wrapped up with a pretty bow -- just reach out to someone that you think needs to be reached out to.
What's one thing everyone who reads this could do today to help We Stop Hate?
Watch our videos. Check out our website and our Facebook, watch our videos, and share them.
What was the whole experience like of winning a HALO? How did they surprise you?
I was interning at Seventeen magazine this summer, and I was told that we were going to do a feature piece about We Stop Hate. I was editing a video with a bunch of the Seventeen editors helping me. I had watched the HALO Awards in the past, so when Nick Cannon came in, I knew exactly what it was, and I was just DYING. [Watch the show to find out what happens next!]
You were familiar with the HALO Awards? That's awesome! So how did it go from that to meeting Lady Gaga?
I didn't know Lady Gaga was the celebrity, and I went to lunch with one of the producers of the show, and I didn't even want to mention Lady Gaga, because I thought they would laugh at me... and then it was Lady Gaga. One of the camera people told me my facial expressions were like, "That looks like Lady Gaga, but that CAN'T be Lady Gaga... oh my god, that's LADY GAGA!" [Watch the show to find out what happens next!]
Aside from meeting her, did anything about Lady Gaga surprise you?
No! I expected her to be super-authentic, and she was. I did an interview with Nickelodeon before I won the HALO, and they were like "Who do you admire?" And I was like "Lady Gaga, because of what she stands for." I feel like she lived up to all of my expectations.
Anything last bits of advice for HALO viewers?
The message I really want to send is that making a difference is about doing what you can, with what you have, where you are. I think the beautiful thing about HALO is that it's regular kids, and anyone can do it.
Watch Emily-Anne helping and leading others on the 2011 TeenNick HALO Awards, premiering Sunday, Nov. 6th at 8pm on Nick@Nite. Follow @WeStopHate and @Schmiddlebopper on Twitter, and watch a few WeStopHate videos!
Emily-Anne Rigal and Lady Gaga!
- Posted on 04/08/2010 by Mary
Jessica Tyler, who plays Jenna on Degrassi, answered some quashes for us. I know a lot of people are Anti-Jenna, but I hope you won't feel anti-Jessica; she 's pretty sweet.
What was the first rock show/concert you ever went to, and what was the BEST rock show/concert you ever went to?
My first rock concert was Backstreet Boys! It was AMAZING and ever since then I've loved concerts :) However, the best rock concert I went to was Kings of Leon! They were so inspiring and true, total rock stars!
What makes you cranky?
What makes me cranky is no sleep! It totally throws me off!
And what gets you un-cranky?
A bubble bath and lots of sleep lol.
When you doodle, what do you draw?
I draw hearts and stars.
What do you think makes a good Degrassi episode?
I think drama makes a great episode, it adds interest ;)