It’s not unusual to hear about new music via the internet nowadays, and whilst some acts immediately invade every website (not naming any names PSY), others slowly and gradually rise to bigger things. Lily Allen is a great example, thanking MySpace for her inevitable fame, whilst Gabrielle Aplin is perhaps a more current bastion of e-fame. With piracy and YouTube rips becoming the norm, the internet is rather destructive in its approach to music, but it is also something which 17 year old starlet Lauren Aquilina puts to great use. Packed full of Adele inspired arrangements and lyrics that even Ellie Goulding would be envious of, Lauren’s single – ‘Fools‘- echoes a talent far beyond her years.
Uploading covers and original songs to YouTube for over 2 years, Aquilina released a beautiful cover of Brenda Russell’s classic ‘Get Here‘ in December 2011, with all proceeds going to Meningitis Trust (a feat she would repeat with ‘Wanderlust‘ for Comic Relief 2013). This proved to be just the beginning for Lauren as she began work on her first EP – Fools – which was self-released in October 2012, charting in several countries and even, at one point, taking over the ever-present ‘21‘ by Adele, with no publicity or promotion through a record label.
Beginning to gig around the country, the popstar’s first headline tour sold out (three reputable venues in Bristol, Manchester and London) and as her fan-base continues to grow, she has announced a second tour, reaching even further afield with eight headline shows. Focusing on the power of social media and the internet, Lauren’s YouTube now sits at a very impressive twenty one thousand subscribers with two million views: she has over ten thousand followers on Twitter; and twenty thousand “likes” on her Facebook page. Staying in touch with fans (her ‘Aquisluts’), Aquilina answers questions on Tumblr, replies to countless tweets and even creates Facebook giveaways, with prizes ranging from music video memorabilia to physical EPs.
Having been a ‘follower’ for well over a year now, I was lucky enough to snag a few questions with the singer/songwriter herself regarding her life, how she juggles a Hannah Montana lifestyle, her inspirations, as well as new music.
Vada: Let’s start by rewinding to a year ago when you were toying with the idea of releasing your debut EP. Did you ever think that, at 17, you’d be played on Radio One, have a self-released EP that charted in several countries without promotion and even took over Adele’s ever-present “21” at one point?
Lauren Aquilina: Absolutely not! Being played on Radio 1 and charting in any capacity is something that every musician dreams of and I never thought that would happen for me at such a young age. There was a lot of hard work involved to get there so it felt really good, but I felt equally as blessed and lucky to have it happen.
The internet has proven to be eternally beneficial to you during your musical career, most likely down to your raw talent and close relationship with your fans and friends. It’s safe to say there are plenty of “YouTube” wonders around at the moment (Gabrielle Aplin’s meteoric rise to fame an easy comparison to make) but what separates you from the rest and makes you different?
I’d like to say my voice. For a long time, I had to come to terms with the fact that I don’t have a ‘pretty’ voice. A lot of the female singer/songwriters that I listen to on YouTube and other parts of the internet have delicately beautiful voices, whereas mine always felt a lot deeper and louder… less intricate. At first I thought it was a disadvantage but I’ve learned to love it!
You’re currently still at school and living a bit of a Hannah Montana lifestyle – what’s the biggest struggle that you face and how do you juggle so much at such a young age? If you were not so heavily involved in music, what direction do you think your life would be taking at this stage?
Haha, everything is a struggle! The hardest thing for me has been watching my grades slip due to my other commitments, and knowing that I’m not as advanced as I could be musically. I can’t put 100% either and its so frustrating! I wouldn’t have it any other way though, both are too important to me.
If I wasn’t involved in music I’d probably be going to university in September to study Geography. I’ve always wanted to work in something that involved travelling: it’s still a dream of mine to visit the Amazon rainforest and help replant trees.
Gearing up for another EP release, you’re open about what inspires you musically. What can we expect from EP #2 and how is it different from Fools? Are there new things that have affected you and has this impacted your sound?
This EP is definitely a progression from Fools – I’ve embraced my voice a lot more and there’s a lot more deep, raw emotion in it. I’ve started listening to the music I grew up on again recently, the 90s house music that inspired all the synth sounds in my music, and also a lot of Annie Lennox. She has an amazing voice and really uses it well. The focus for the next EP is really all about my voice. Hopefully that turns out to be a good thing!
Finally, after such a manic year and with even more plans lined up for 2013, you must have had plenty of time to reflect on how your life is changing. What is it about music that is so important to you? Are you around for a good time or a long time?
Definitely! Music is so important to me because it’s the only way I know how to express what I’m feeling. I’m a ‘bottler’ – if I have a problem, I won’t tell anyone! Songwriting is my escape and there are so many songs I’ve listened to and thought ‘I know exactly how they feel’. I think to be able to have an emotional connection with someone you’ve never met just through a song is an incredible thing. I’m around for both! I’d love to make music my lifelong career, but equally I wouldn’t do it unless I absolutely loved it and had the best time doing it; and I really am having the best time ever.
So, there you have it. It’s undeniably refreshing to see such a humble young star with her feet on the ground and her head eagerly craning towards the clouds. Regardless of the stresses surrounding music and her life, Lauren Aquilina is doing what makes her happy and we can all take a leaf out of her book. But do it quickly before everyone does: this pint-sized popstar is one to watch.