Photographer Mallory Barry @malbphotography
What initially sparked your interest in songwriting, and how has it evolved over the years?
Ironically enough, what initially sparked my interest in songwriting was my inability to express myself and my feelings in everyday life. I avoid confrontations at all costs, I never say when I’m upset, I laugh at hurtful jokes, and I hold my tears in until I can cry where nobody will see me. Hence, I often have a lot of emotions bottled up. And like anybody else, I need some sort of method to let it all out. That’s when I turn to songwriting, and that’s the whole reason I started songwriting to begin with. It’s helped me deal with sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, guilt, and many more kinds of emotions and experiences.
How did you overcome her intense stage fright, and what impact did finding a community in a capella groups have on her musical journey?
I overcame my stage fright through continuous exposure to stage performance. But it wasn’t as simple as it sounds. I had to constantly push myself outside of my comfort zone so that performing on stage didn’t bother me so much. And it was terrifying. I had to trick myself into believing I was confident until I actually was (similar to the whole “Fake it till you make it” saying). In fact, at one point in high school, people would come up to me after performances and tell me how surprised they were at how confident I was on stage. And that would, in turn, surprise me! At the time, I was still in the phase of convincing myself I was confident (and struggling to do so). So while I didn’t genuinely feel the confidence yet, other people were already noticing my growth. And don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous before a performance, but it’s a small amount compared to the fear I used to have. I used to think that I was a bad singer and an awkward performer! And maybe I was back then, but now I am confident that I’m good at both. A cappella played a huge role in this. I was in two a cappella groups over the course of five years, and both groups were always so supportive and encouraging. That really helped me come out of my shell, especially in terms of performing. Within both groups I felt comfortable to groove and jam while singing (which I would’ve never done prior), and it was just nice to feel so supported by a close group of friends not only in rehearsals but also in concerts. To put it simply, it made me associate performing with comfort, friendship, love, healing, connection, and general positivity. And I’ll carry that with me forever. And now I absolutely love performing. I’m addicted to it. It’s even made my desire to act stronger. I just want to emote, be dramatic, and connect to art and stories all day everyday for the rest of my life.
Can you describe your style of music and the themes that inspire her songwriting?
I would describe my style of music as very outwardly dreamy, bubbly, and abstract. But under the surface it’s very deep, specific, and oftentimes sad. Some themes that inspire my songwriting are nostalgia, anger and revenge, and emptiness and loss.
How did your TikTok journey begin, and what role did the #guessthatsong videos play in her rise to popularity?
My TikTok journey began precisely with the rise of my #guessthesong series. I posted one video, it blew up, and I turned into a whole project. Suddenly, millions of people were watching my singing videos. I tried my best to utilize it and crank out as many videos as I could while my account was still hot. While it caught me off guard at beginning, it ended up being really motivating and inspiring. People were interested in me, so I thought maybe they would listen to my original songs if I one day released them. People started recreating my arrangements and tagging me in their videos, creating their own arrangements, or even mimicking my “stressed out” and “chaotic” demeanor. It was funny to watch, but definitely made me realize certain things that I do or say that I didn’t even notice before! For instance, I laugh all the time, and I make silly faces when I’m stressed. People have even pointed out the way my nose moves when I sing. Definitely enlightening stuff.
In what ways do you hope to use her platform to inspire other aspiring musicians who may lack industry connections and creative resources?
I want to inspire people to keep pursuing their dreams no matter how far away they seem and no matter how unlucky or disadvantaged they feel. Because it’s a horrible feeling — to feel or think that you need to give up on your dreams just because of your circumstances. I’ve tried my best to turn my lack of industry connections and creative resources into strengths. For instance, when I first started out, I didn’t have any friends or relatives who were producers or who might’ve been able to help me out for free or for a reduced price, and I didn’t have the money to pay real deal producers either. So, I got Logic Pro instead and eventually decided I was going to learn to produce myself. It took me a while to make that decision, though. For a year or two, I didn’t think I could actually do it. I thought that whatever I produced on Logic Pro would just sound completely unprofessional, but I’ve gained a lot of skills and learned which sounds go well together, and that honestly has made all the difference for me. Along the way, I’ve made new friends who are producers, but I really enjoy being able to produce my own music and create my own sound, and I will definitely continue doing that, even if I start working with others as well.
What are some examples of the nostalgic and sentimental feelings that you draw inspiration from in her music?
The nostalgic and sentimental feelings I draw inspiration from mainly arise from thoughts of my younger self. I am an enneagram 4, and enneagram 4s are allegedly constantly thinking about either what they want but don’t have yet, or what they once had but lost. My music really focuses on the latter. When I think about my younger self (from when I was born to around 12 years old), I think about the beautiful way I used to see the world. The world was bright, exciting, warm, and vivid. But over time, you kind of get jaded by society. Now, my view of the world is often dull, grey, and cloudy. And that makes me really sad. So I feel an overwhelming amount of nostalgia for the past, my childhood, and the times when my family was all living under the same roof and spending a lot of quality time together.
How does your quirky and empathetic personality come through in her performances and interactions with fans?
I often get nervous and stressed while recording my #guessthesong videos. As I mentioned, this causes me to make silly faces, say random things, laugh a lot, and scream and make stupid noises in the videos. This is the same way I act with any sort of fan interaction. My nerves, social anxiety, and perfectionism always get the best of me. But fortunately it tends to come out in an endearing way. I say outlandish things, I make people laugh, and I do things that might even make me seem like I’m confident. It might just be another one of my “fake it till you make it” habits, but this one has felt mostly involuntary. And while I might appear confident, I don’t quite feel it yet when it comes to social interactions and videos. But I think I’m slowly but surely getting there.
Could you elaborate on the imagery associated with your , such as flowers, retro fashion, bright colors, and gingham patterns, and how they tie into her artistic identity?
Some parts of the imagery associated with me are simply things I’ve always loved. For instance, I’ve always loved wearing bright colors, I’ve always loved flowers and wearing flowers, and I’ve always loved retro fashion. Growing up I listened to a ton of music from the 50’s and 60’s, and I loved to watch the artists’ music videos or TV shows of the artists’ performances. Their clothes were so stylish to me. I eventually entered a phase of obsessing over Motown music, and that phase still hasn’t ended. Meanwhile, some parts of my imagery represent things that have shaped me as a person or things that have personally affected me. For instance, while my love for gingham is probably related to my love for retro fashion, I think it also has to do with my sense of self and self-confidence. In middle school, I had a bully who once told me that I had an ugly face, and later mocked me while I was wearing overalls and told me that I looked like a farmer in an attempt to embarrass me. It upset me at the time, but as I got older his words meant less and less to me. Now, they mean absolutely nothing to me. I love overalls, and I love gingham. I think I look great in those kinds of clothes. Today, if he told me I look farmer, I would smile widely and thank him.
Have you collaborated with other musicians or artists, and if so, how have those collaborations influenced her work?
I have not officially collaborated with other musicians or artists yet. I have a few friends who are musicians. Even one of my best friends is an artist! We talk about collaborating often, so hopefully things will fall into place very soon. It would be so cool to see how our genres mix.
What are some of the challenges that you faced as a musician, and how has she approached overcoming them on her journey to success?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced as a musician is feeling insecure about my lyrics and my music production. It’s caused me a lot of anxiety and impeded upon my ability to enjoy releasing my music and getting feedback from friends and family. Luckily, with “Sorry” I felt a lot less nervous. However, with my first two singles, I was incredibly scared to put myself out there. Since I do all of my producing on Logic Pro on my laptop, I don’t have fancy speakers or even a keyboard to use, and I use a lot of instruments offered by the app, I often worry that people will judge me for the quality of my work or laugh at the fact that I’m still using the Logic Pro library instruments and synthesizer sounds such as “Abstract Mallets,” which may sound familiar to anyone who knows the software. However, I’ve begun to realize that by primarily relying on those sounds to create my music, I can motivate and inspire people to start making music at home and even learn how to produce on their own. Through experimenting and combining different sounds, you can create something you’re proud of. You don’t need a bunch of fancy or expensive equipment to do that.