Heather LaRose: Portrait Of The Young Artist In 2018
The life of a young musician in 2018 is a radical departure from one even 20 years ago. I’m not talking about those signed to a label or with people backing them. Musicians today can make their own career until they find their team.
Heather LaRose, who splits time between New York and L.A., is a fascinating case study of the intense time and effort it takes to manage an active music career in 2018.
LaRose has opened for Rachel Platten and Drake Bell and performed at multiple speeches for Hillary Clinton on the 2016 campaign. She’s had a song featured on MTV’s Teen Wolf and has over a million plays on Spotify.
But talk to the personable and ambitious LaRose and you will find she spends as much of her time in meetings and on social media, where she has a hardcore dedicated following, as she does writing. Her work ethic is impressive to say the least.
She has teamed with Gibson, Guitar Center, Smashbox, Hollister, Winky Lux, Alice and Olivia, Revolve, Hairfinity, Make-A-Wish, Yumi Kim among other brands to be able to have artistic freedom and be a touring musician.
That’s much of what it takes to be your own artist in 2018. I met with LaRose, who just released her new song “Kerosene” in advance of an EP coming out in early 2019, and her mother at El Cholo in Downtown Los Angeles while LaRose was in L.A. for Fashion Week.
Steve Baltin: How does the fashion world inspire you creatively?
Heather LaRose: I really like being able to be a part of the fashion and beauty world because they both massively encourage self-expression. One is something you do outwardly that people see right away. And then when it comes to music it’s a layer down, people get to know you and it becomes something more intimate than just your appearance.
Baltin: Who are some of the people who navigate both worlds successfully that you admire?
LaRose: More so I look up to the musicians who have worked with brands and made brand partnerships one of their platforms rather than using the influencer world to gain momentum in the fashion industry. So I really like what Selena Gomez did with Coach and had that collaboration. It even comes across when different artists are only dressed by one person doing the red carpet.
Baltin: Take me through Fashion Week and your involvement.
LaRose: My first time doing Fashion Week was actually two years ago. And I was helping someone who works for AOL cover different aspects and have a musician’s take on it. And I was in the middle of interviewing this one girl named Meredith O’Connor, who I’m really good friends with now. And she’s like, “Oh, I’m actually one of the musicians who’s performing, you should look into it.” So she introduced me to a couple of people and they said, “We love your music.” Two days later her and I did a duet at New York Fashion Week. It was cool how it all came from this one little sparked conversation and making friends, just kind of networking and standing out by being in the fashion world as a musician rather than as a model. Whereas other just music festivals like Lollapalooza, South By Southwest, there are so many musicians, it’s hard to be the one that stands out. But when you’re the only one it kind of works in your favor. I got my start in music at Lagond Music School in E lmsford. (They are a nonprofit music school that not only have me a huge scholarship to study with former Broadway stars, Grammy board members, etc) I was working there when I got invited by AOL and ADDY Media to help cover fashion week.
Baltin: Do you model as well?
LaRose: I have worked with brands before, but I don’t like to consider myself a model because my heart is so involved with music. So it is cool when people are like, “Oh, what, that’s what you do?” And I remember just growing up being in chorus all the time, being in school plays, and going to music school, some of the music school kids would call me a showpony just because I was so oriented into putting on the live show and really crafting it rather than writing a 25-minute song with no chorus.
Baltin: How have brands helped you?
LaRose: My last tour was sponsored by Hollister, so definitely finding brands to cover certain areas of cost is huge. And it does help me be an artist who doesn’t have to answer to anybody else’s idea of musicality and just be 100 percent the artist I want to be.
Baltin: What brands would you like to work with?
LaRose: One thing I did see eye to eye on with Hollister was anti-bullying. With my song “Rumors,” which was my last release in May, it did tie together really well. Right now I am working with the brand Revolve, they put on their quasi-fashion and music festival in Santa Monica at the Pier every year. They do a lot with anti-bullying, body positivity, as well as one of their brands they work with inside of that is Alice + Olivia, which is really big on female entrepreneurs. And they are very heavily inspired by classic musicians. So they did a whole [David] Bowie collection as of recent. One of my favorite collections they did was the Beatles and they just celebrate different artists within fashion and the art of design as well and getting behind powerful and up and coming women. And they have tall pants cause I’m almost six feet tall and it’s very difficult to find a nice pair of pants. One of my favorite brands to work with was Hype Nails. They named a color “Heather L aRose” after me and they are cruelty free and plant-based. I only work with cosmetic companies that are Leaping Bunny Certified which means they don’t test on animals, or harm animals in the process of making their products. Hype was a sponsor of a show that I did in Miami for Miami Swim Week and Cosmopolitan Magazine. So the day after the show we ran around South Beach for an epic photo shoot.
Baltin: As you say how an artist dresses says so much about them. So what is the look and image you want to portray?
LaRose: I’ve always been the type of person who’s really loud. I’ve always been four heads taller than every boy in my class, so I’ve always had this way of sticking out. And because of that people used to always be, “Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t wear heels, don’t wear colors that are too bright.” And so because of that I love leaning back into who I am, this loud, silly person and being able to wear super bright colors, big, fluffy jackets and being able to encourage people to be themselves, even if you are someone who likes to remain more low-key and down to earth.
Baltin: Talk about the relationship you have with your audience and why you believe so many young girls look to you as a role model?
LaRose: I think a lot of young kids, especially on Instagram, are drawn into authenticity because everybody is so photo-shopped. I’m not gonna say I don’t whiten my teeth before a picture (laughs). But I think people are so posed and manicured, whereas if you just hop on your story and you’re like, “This is what I’m doing today” and you are interacting with people, when they share your music especially.
Baltin: I am sure you, like everybody, have those days though where you don’t want to talk to anybody. How do you handle those on social media?
LaRose: Those are the days where I find a cool drawing of something I like on Pinterest and screenshot it, give credit to the artist and then don’t say anything else. So there are ways around it. And obviously you don’t want to be too vocal sometimes because then people are like, “Oh my gosh, shut up, Heather.” But it just comes to down to going with the mood. Some days I’ll get a thousand direct messages a day.
Baltin: I talk about this with musicians a lot and sometimes it can be difficult to find the time to actually work on your music with all of the other demands on your time.
LaRose: I’m always more of a late-night writer anyway, which unfortunately sometimes makes me stay up until five in the morning. But most of the time inspiration strikes when I’m driving earlier that day and I don’t have time to suss it out until later. I wait for a red light and then I do a voice memo. I’m not an advocate of texting and driving, but I am an advocate of stopping at red lights or pulling over and doing a voice memo. I’m pretty good with memory too. So I’ll just keep singing along or humming a certain part of a song and kind of developing it too while driving. That’s why I love L.A.
Baltin: What is your favorite song you’ve written while driving?
LaRose: There is a song called “Along For The Ride,” which I wrote while driving from New York to Virginia. I performed it live a couple of times, but I haven’t put it out yet. So that ideally will be on my EP coming out the beginning of 2019.