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Youth Empowerment

Q&A with Canadian Singer-Songwriter Johnny Orlando

johnny orlando
johnny orlando
Credit: Valentina Caballero

Mediaplanet sat down with Johnny Orlando, singer-songwriter, actor, and vlogger, to get his take on the challenges that youth face today. His debut album ‘all the things that could go wrong’ is out August 19.

What sparked your passion for music and acting? 

Long story short, I tried it and thought it was fun. I always liked music and television, but I was never particularly interested in doing it myself. I guess I never really thought it was possible. Of course, everyone says it would be so cool to be a rockstar or a famous actor when you’re a kid, but if my sister hadn’t suggested it, I would have never given it a shot. 

As a young person in the spotlight, what challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them? 

Music definitely causes me a lot of stress and anxiety, but what job doesn’t, especially one involving creativity. Some days you’re on top of the world, and then the next, you think you’re an imposter, and you suck, and everyone’s going to find out that you’re a fraud. It’s a part of having big goals but also a part of growing up.

As someone who’s been in this industry since before they were 10, it sometimes messes with you. Your expectations for yourself are ridiculously inflated — the people around you and your fans tell you that you’re the greatest thing ever to walk the earth, and inside, you’re just as insecure as anyone. Except you have all this pressure on you to succeed. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but this industry definitely places your perception of yourself, the world, and your social life through the spin cycle.

I never really realized that my perception of life and how you’re supposed to act was so sideways until I went to a regular high school and hung out with normal kids my age for the first time in a long time. Of course, my family and close friends have helped a lot with keeping me sane, but there were definitely a lot of lessons to be learned when I was thrown into the weird cross-section of society that is high school — which helped a lot as well. 

What does youth empowerment mean to you?

Youth empowerment lets young people know that they can literally do whatever they want. Of course, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing, and I was extremely fortunate to have such a supportive family, but my sister and I (who was 13 when we started) drove the ship, and she made things happen before I was even old enough to realize what was going on. Our parents weren’t involved until contracts started to fly around, and I was too young to sign them, but before that, she and I were filming videos on an old camera that my parents had.

With social media, smartphone video recording capabilities, online resources, and free software, you can get started in music with things you most likely have around your house or school. You don’t even really need a computer anymore. In Canada, you can get grants for music videos, touring, and more as an independent artist, and once you find your audience, there isn’t anything stopping you from becoming the next big thing. Labels are looking for talent on social media every day, and with a lot of work (and some luck), that can absolutely be you. 

What helps you feel confident and capable? 

I struggle a lot with this, but affirmations help. If you walk around trying to believe you’re the best and can handle anything, you generally start to believe it after a while. I also tend to overlook my accomplishments which I think is pretty common. No matter how big or small the win is, celebrate it, and then go for the next one.

Another important factor is everything and everyone around you. It’s hard to realize how influenced you’re by your environment while in it, but having a clean space, getting a night of good sleep, and completing little tasks every day help your overall mental state and readiness for anything life throws at you. 

Why do you feel it’s important for Canada’s youth to have a voice and get involved in social issues?

We are the next generation, and we will be running policy and influencing the world on the highest levels very soon. Canada’s youth already wields so much power in the form of social media. We can all organize and use our voices and platforms cohesively and let the people in power know what the next generation of voters want. As is the same with the music industry, never before have so many people been able to voice their opinions and influence what happens.

Nowadays, if people don’t want you to be successful in my industry, you simply won’t be, and no corporation can change that. People in government are getting younger and younger as voters realize that they can’t relate to a system that rewards nepotism and instead choose to support not the lesser of two evils but the people they want to represent them. 

If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self? 

Don’t stress. I’ve always been a bit of a worrier, and no one could really get through to me that you figure most things out for yourself with time. Also, knowing that there are very few things that you go through in high school (regarding drama, what people are saying about you, what parties you’re getting invited to) that are actually a big deal. So don’t take life too seriously.

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