INTERVIEW: Lauren Aquilina
In honour of International Women's Day this week, we catch up with Lauren Aquilina, discussing her influence and influences in the industry, her journey after being signed to Island Records and Rocket Management, her awesome tattoo, and of course, her supporting Taylor Swift!
Let’s start with one of the biggest points in your career – You supported Taylor Swift last year at Hyde Park, how did that come about?
She tweeted me saying that she loved my first EP really randomly, and I creid. And then a few moths later I got an email saying she’d invited me to support her at Hyde Park. And I was obviously like, yes, and there were loads of support acts - it wasn’t just me. I watched her, then afterwards got to hang out with her in her trailer. She was really nice, really lovely.
That’s really cool American acts are seeing you, since you’re from the UK. Are you from London?
I’m originally from Bristol, now I live in London.
Did you get discovered in Bristol or London?
I grew up just outside London for my teenage years so I was commuting in to London and doing gigs, and then that’s how I got spotted.
Now you’re signed to Rocket Management and also Island Records – those are two pretty massive companies! So you must be well on the route now?
Yeah, I mean, it’s different. There’s an argument that when you’re with a major label, and a major management company like that, it’s all set out for you, and you know you’re gonna be fine. But you’re also part of such a big company with such big artists in those companies, so you really have to keep fighting to make sure their attention stays on you. It doesn’t just all fall into your lap once you get signed. So I’m very aware of that but also aware of how lucky I am.
I just read an article you wrote in DIY about sexism in the music industry, so I thought in honour of International Women’s Day this week, do you want to expand on what you wrote? How does it feel working with these big companies as a young woman?
I’m lucky because my manager is a girl within Rocket, so I have constant female influence in my life. But there are few and far between today’s industry. When I say “ah she’s my manager”, people say “ah what’s his name”, assume it’s a guy. And all the top jobs at labels are still held by men as well. It’s not something I feel is drastically affecting me right now but it is affecting other artists, and I want new artists, and young women who want to get in behind the scenes in the industry, to step up and be confident and just go for it. The more equal balance the better.
Is there anything you’re doing which you think might help this?
Well I’m speaking at this Girls Music Day on Saturday which is run by DICE, and they’ve invited young girls aged 14-24 who are interested in getting into music. There’ll be talks from artists, managers, people who work at labels, so I’m doing that on Saturday, but I also just support and empower women. I loved the idea of having a female manager and I got on with her so well when I met her, so there wasn’t another option for me at that point.
You were signed quite young also, do you think that’s affected your career at anyway, releasing your first song at age 16?
Yeah I was releasing music independently when I was 16, got signed when I was 18, and I’m learning all the time, and yeah I was young when it all started, and I had to grow up quite quickly. I basically run my own business now.
Oh yeah I’ve heard a lot of artists say they feel they run their own business, like Taylor Swift is a business.
Yeah, you’re running a business, and I treat all of my colleagues with respect, but I make the final decisions, and I know what I want and where I’m going, so I just have to believe in myself and do that and trust my instincts,
So you said you were signed when 18, and you’re 20 now, so you’ve had a couple of years of development, so what goes on in this development stage?
Well I had a particularly weird couple of years because I changed management, so that threw a bit of a curveball at me, then I spent a lot of time trying to find the right producers and songwriters to work with. Nobody is the type of artist who can write a good song with anybody, it takes time to find the right people to work with. It took me a while to get there.
Do you do a lot of co-writing then?
I did a lot of co-writing when I was first signed, now I’ve got the balance. A couple of writers that I love working with and I still write on my own a lot too.
Speaking of songwritng, I wanted to ask about the tattoo on your wrist, because I’m a tattoo freak. You quoted that with ‘I can always be an ocean I can always chose freedom’ – what was your tattoo about?
I was in an abusive relationship when I was younger and I was imagining what it would be like to be free, and I am now free, so it’s just to remind me that I can always escape a situation that I don’t want to be in, and I can always chose to leave, and I don’t have to please other people. That’s what that’s about.
And finally, do you want to end with any tour or album announcements at all?
I don’t have nay announcements but my album will be out some point this year, so look out for it!