Blog | interviews
- 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 09/01/2011 by Mary
So, in this video, Munro Chambers tells us all about his real-life Now or Never moment -- a moment that decided whether or not we would ever see him on Degrassi! -- and then Justin Kelly feeds him a pear.
You should probably definitely watch it.
And don't forget! After tonight's Degrassi: Now or Never finale, you only have a few days to catch up on all of the full episodes in HD right here. Because after Labor Day (which, by the way, will also be a 9a to midnight et Degrassi: Now or Never marathon), the full archive comes down.
So do your eye stretches, get settled, and hit play.
- Posted on 08/31/2011 by Mary
Just a few more days left to watch ALL of Degrassi: Now or Never in HD right here on TeenNick.com!
And now... Jordy Todosey regales us with the tale of a diem totally carpe'd
- Posted on 08/30/2011 by Mary
Remember: starting next Tuesday, we'll only have six Degrassi episodes on the site. So now is a good time to watch any Degrassi: Now or Never episodes you've missed in HD!
In keeping with this week's Now or Never theme... here's Justin Kelly (aka Jake Martin) sharing his real life make-or-break moment.
- Posted on 08/29/2011 by Mary
Only four episodes of Degrassi: Now or Never left! It's been a rollercoaster summer, and there's still some loop-de-loops to come.
And as it happens: Right now is also your Now or Never chance to watch ALL of this summer's episodes online via the Degrassi video page. Because after Labor Day weekend, we'll be back to only having six episodes at a time available on the site. SO DO IT NOW! WATCH 'EM UP! NOW OR NEVER!
Speaking of real life Now or Never moments... we asked some of the cast members to tell you about theirs! Here's #1: Samantha Munro, on her second-to-last day on the Degrassi set.
- Posted on 08/04/2011 by Mary
So. Clare this season.
Clare has gone boy crazy, I would say. Back in season 8 when she said to Darcy "I'm going to school for education, not boys..." Nope! Not really, anymore. It's good though, because she's definitely growing up and going through quintessential teenage experiences.
Were you surprised at people's anger at Clare for breaking up with Eli?
I don't want to label any audience members who were upset, but I think some of them were maybe... distracted? By Munro, and the "damaged character" -- that's always been a magnet for young girls. So I understand how that may have skewed their opinion, but I think Clare made the right choice, personally. And I don't know if I would have been strong enough to make that choice if I were in her place, so I'm really proud of her.
Even though Clare's the type of person that wants to help, she had given so much already that it was taking a huge toll on her, and it was important to take a new direction.
With the casual relationship that Clare and Jake are trying to have, I think no one's sure if Clare is really built for casual. But do you think it's good for her to try?
Clare tries to do that because she doesn't want to get hurt, and I think the experience overall is good for her. She's trying a lot of new things this season, and I think it's all good for her. As teenagers, even the bad choice is a good choice because you get the experience. And Clare's losing her naivete, I suppose.
What does the world need to know about Justin Kelly?
There's too much to say! He's awesomeness in a really tall package! He's a really good artist, he draws the greatest cartoons. And real sketches, too. He's hilarious. And he's really tall.
So, with Ray and Charlotte and everybody graduating, you're kind of one of the seniors now, in terms of being a show veteran. How does that feel?
In all honesty, I'm petrified. I'm so, so scared. I was talking about this with my friend Krista; how once Jajube leaves, I will be the longest-running cast member still on the show. And it makes me... not a leader, because we don't have that around here. But it feels almost like a burden, a responsibility. Like -- I love all the people who are leaving, but Charlotte was an idol. And a friend. And every great thing someone can be to you. I was always looking up to her and trying to emulate her, and I'm not ready for her to leave! She's always that awesome, put-together person. She did great on the show, she did great in interviews, she had great style, she listened to great music, and we just got along so well. And with her leaving... she's impossible to replace, but I do want to give that kind of attitude to the new young'uns coming in.
- Posted on 08/04/2011 by Mary
So! Your first season of Degrassi! What do you think so far?
I love it! I think it's great. I've always been a fan of the show and I've always loved the work that everyone put into it, and it's great to be a part of it -- especially this season. It's like I'm watching it from a different angle.
What did Munro tell you before you got here; did he give you any pointers or warnings?
No... I mean, I was really fortunate to meet most of the cast when Munro signed on last year. We'd hang out and by the time I came along, it was kind of an automatic welcome. I felt welcome right away.
What do you like about Jake? What do you have in common with him, and not?
There's definitely an element of myself in him. I think he's very easygoing; I'm an easygoing person as well. And he doesn't like to deal with confrontation -- we kind of share that.
He's such a breath of drama-less-ness...
That's one thing I loved about him when I read him, 'cause we all know that Degrassi does have a little bit of drama attached to it. But he was one guy that was just like "I don't want to be a part of this drama."
But obviously... it happens. The more he fits into the story lines, the more he gets his feet wet with that Degrassi drama.
OK, time for "Get to know Justin Kelly." Favorite music?
Mostly rock, '90s rock. But I do listen to everything.
What do you do for fun?
I play music. Guitar and bass, that's a big hobby of mine. I like to watch a lot of movies, and just hang out with friends and be social.
Are you outdoorsy at all like Jake?
I want to be? When I get outdoors, if I'm at a cottage or something, then I love it. But it depends on the atmosphere -- in the summer I love to be outdoors, in the winter not so much. And in the middle, we'll see.
What's your family like?
I have one brother, and then mom, dad, and stepfather. And my brother is actually who I got the music gene from... even though he's a sibling. But yeah, we jam together and he's very talented, so I get a lot from him.
Do you mind me asking how old you were when your parents got divorced?
I was 6 years old. It was a while ago. And for sure, that's another thing that Jake and I have in common. It's different because I live with my mom, and he lives with his dad so there's that father-son element. But that's one thing I had to relate to him with at first, getting to know how he felt about it.
What about the casual relationship thing that Clare and Jake try to have. Do you think those work in real life?
Mmm... yeah, I think it can work. Of course it depends on the person, and I think it's hard to have just a casual thing without there being almost a paranoia going on. Like, 'What if we decided today? What would happen next?' It's very hard to just have a casual relationship.
- Posted on 07/25/2011 by Mary
I've heard that you guys knew each other before the show, and that maybe Argy, you suggested that Shannon should audition? Or what's the story there?
Argiris: It was more of a surprise actually. He told me, "Hey, I've got an audition..." I don't know, do you remember how it went?
Shannon: I think we were at Jake Epstein's birthday, who played Craig on the show. I came to meet Argy because he and I were together like, every day that summer. We'd bike in the rain back from a night out, we'd double on the bike.
Oh my God! How did you know each other?
Shannon: I saw him somewhere before, and I was like "Yo, didn't I see you at...?"
Argiris: At an audition room actually, yeah.
Shannon: Yeah, he was doing a self-tape for an audition, so I saw him and stopped him. And then, where did we actually hit it off?
Argiris: Maybe... I can't remember.
Shannon: You don't remember our first date! (laughs) There were a lot of nights and days out. So then at Jake's birthday, I just told him. And he was calling me Zane all night trying to get me in character.
Argiris: Yeah, I do remember that.
So you were specifically auditioning for Zane, it wasn't one of those things where like, Liberty auditioned for Manny...
Shannon: No, and they didn't even know that I was friends with him until when I got the role and we came for rehearsal. Our director was like, 'So, you guys are friends? That's a bonus! We never knew that.' And I don't know if it would have affected their decision, in a good way or bad way -- it could be a bad thing. And then she asked, 'Do you think this makes it easier or more difficult for you?' And I wasn't really sure. It is easier in a way because we have a rapport and we're comfortable with each other.
It's interesting that you weren't just friend but like fast friends, too.
Argiris and Shannon: Yeah.
Shannon: And it's not often... you meet a lot of people in the industry but to get to work with someone that you would actually go out and dance with -- Argy and I would be the only two guys really breaking it down on the dance floor.
Argy: Yeah, a lot of guys wouldn't go out there, they're pretty pathetic, they're just staying against the wall. Though, you know, we were there at some point in our life.
Shannon: They're scoping out chicks.
Argy: They just scope and they kind of creep and they kind of try to pull girls' dresses. It's just like, 'No, you've gotta have fun!' You've gotta show the girl that you're having fun and then stuff flows.
TO BE CONTINUED... too many spoilers in the rest of our conversation!
- Posted on 07/18/2011 by Mary
Who would you say is the hardest working person in the Degrassi cast?
You know what... for me, I'm pretty close to what my character is actually like. For someone like Jordy, who plays Adam, that must be a pretty difficult amount of work. And not even just filming, but dealing with the fans and how you talk to people, it must be a lot more difficult for her.
Who's the best morning person?
Definitely not Munro. Definitely not me. And not Raymond -- you can't even wake Raymond up. You wake Raymond up, you'd better get ready for a karate chop. I'd have to say probably Jordy. Jordy is always happy no matter what time of day it is.
In real life, would you say that you have a taste for the bad girls like Bianca, like Drew seems to? The girls that mommy wouldn't like?
[This is the sound of Luke blushing a little.] I don't know, I guess, sorta. A little bit of danger's always good.
Have you ever felt physically threatened in the way that Drew has to deal with in this season, where you actually felt unsafe?
Not in a way that I felt my life was going to be threatened, but... yeah, when I used to go to school, there were a couple times when I was like, "Wow, I just don't feel safe walking down the halls right now." Because a whole bunch of the guys at my old school didn't like me, and there were very uncomfortable moments where your back starts getting sweaty, like, "Is someone watching me?" But not like Drew -- I never felt like [NO SPOILERS!].
Has there ever been anything that you've wanted to do that you couldn't do because you're an actor? For example, Ray's really excited about cutting his hair now...
Oh, actually yes! I always for some reason wanted to have bleach blond hair, but every time I'd be like, "OK, we're gonna do it," I'd go and get my headshots done. And in my headshots my hair's still brown, so I'm like "so I guess I can't do it." That, and I always wanted to play high level sports, and you can't do that. Like Triple A hockey... it's just so demanding. My friends who play Triple A or now play Junior A, they play hockey just as much as I'd be working on the show, so it's impossible. I'd have to choose, hockey or Degrassi.
What are you doing with your summer when you aren't working?
Wonderland. Going to Wonderland a lot, and I play hockey with Raymond and Munro and his twin brother, and that's pretty much it. I just like chilling at home with my sisters.