16-year-old Laura Marano stars as the brilliant, yet shy songwriter Ally, one-half of an internet music duo (along with Ross Lynch) that has become an overnight sensation, on the Disney Channel comedy series Austin & Ally. Read on to find out about her own songwriting, her fave books, and some really good advice for dealing with bullies . . .
Q: What is your all-time favorite book?
Laura: I’m a humongous fan of the Harry Potter series – like ridiculously big fan. I’m obsessed, basically. For my school, in eighth grade, I read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and that was definitely one of my favorites. I never read a Steinbeck novel or anything before and that was my first introduction to him and it was a-mazing. I was obsessed. Oh my goodness gracious. I mean, they’re two way different books, but just both of them really grabbed my love in completely different ways. I know some kids hate when you have to read for school, and I used to hate it because I like to pick my own books, but I’m kind of really glad because I get introduced to novels and authors that I wouldn’t have thought of at first.
Q: Does reading help you write your music?
Laura: Oh, I definitely think so. Obviously writing music is a completely different type of writing, but it’s still writing nonetheless. Any time you can make yourself familiar with writing, whether it is novels, short stories, reading the newspaper, I think it definitely makes your writing style better. You know, reading young adult novels, they hit home because obviously I’m a teenager and I’m growing up, and that can definitely influence what I want to put in my songs.
Q: How long have you been writing your own songs?
Laura: I really started writing when I was like four and like they were 20 minutes, and as we know, songs really shouldn’t be 20 minutes long. Some of them were about like candy and childish things. A lot of them were about romance, which I, at four years old, had no experience in whatsoever. So who knows what was going through my head. I remember I wrote this one song called, “You Say Bye Bye and I Say Why Why?” [Laughter] I don’t even know where it came from. They’d always be about like tragic love stories, and I would sing them to anybody who would meet me, like strangers, right? And so my mom would be like, “No, my husband and I have a really great marriage. I don’t know where this is coming from. Don’t judge this.” And it’s funny because it like came out of nowhere. It’s the weirdest thing. [Laughter]
Q: What books do you recommend to your friends?
Laura: I have quite a few friends who aren’t big readers. One thing I would say is, "Don’t right away tackle any classics." If you go with a mindset of like, “This is going to be super hard,” then it’s not going to work out. A lot of young adult novels are totally cool, and I know a lot of girls who weren’t into reading at all and they started reading the Twilight series, and that really inspired them to read. So it’s sometimes about the story that kind of hooks you. Do your research on what you like. If you like vampires, then read a vampire-based book. If you like love, read a love book. I mean, there’s so many books out there that there’s sure to be more than just one book that you will like.
Q: Is there a literary character that you would love to portray in a movie?
Laura: Oooh, I’m obsessed with Maximum Ride (for ages 12 and up). That’s like the title character. She’s 98% human and 2% bird, and I also love birds. Ok, so I know how I just described it, it sounds super weird, but it really isn’t weird at all. It’s like amazing. I can never describe the story correctly. But if they ever made a movie of that, I would in a second be like, “Hellooo. Let me be Maximum Ride. Let’s make this happen.”
Q: Is there any one thing that you wish everyone would do to make the world a better place?
Laura: Yes. I think respect is something that sometimes people forget, and that can go along with many things. You know, whether it’s respecting yourself, where you are a good person and never do anything to hurt yourself, whether it’s respecting other people and that can stop a lot of bullying that’s going on, or whether it’s respecting the environment, you know, recycling, not littering, not wasting water, I think if people can just remember that one word, “respect,” they could save a lot of wondrous disasters that happen.
Q: Have you ever been bullied?
Laura: I can’t say that I’ve been terribly bullied, thank goodness. But I think if you are getting bullied, first of all, 100% always tell an adult. Always, always, always, if you know somebody who’s being bullied or if you are, tell an adult. Second of all, always come from a compassionate place. I know that’s kind of weird advice, especially when you’re getting hurt or bullied. It’s super hard. You’re like, “They’re not being compassionate with me. Why should I be compassionate to them?” But I feel like we should all try walking in other people’s shoes, and say, “Listen, I’m just not going to think any more of this person. I don’t know why they’re hurting me or bullying me. So I’m going to forget about that person and go and find other awesome, compassionate people.”
Q: Do you have a personal motto?
Laura: My dad always said in order for every relationship to work, whether it’s a work relationship, a romantic relationship, a friendship, whatever, you need to have three things. You need respect; you need compassion, and you need love. If you have those three things in all of your relationships then you can’t go wrong.
Q: How do you balance going to school and working?
Laura: Obviously it’s a lot of work. I basically have no free weekends, but I love it. I knew I just didn’t want to be homeschooled. I wanted to continue to go to school. So my school is super flexible as long as I do the work and I keep in contact with my teachers every single day. I feel like I’m the luckiest girl ever because I literally get to have the best of both worlds. It’s pretty awesome.
Q: Is there a food that you absolutely cannot live without?
Laura: [Laughter] I know this is going to sound ridiculous because I’m how old, 16? I love Go-Gurt. I know it’s a two-year-old kind of food, but I really love it. It’s a really great food. It’s tasty. There’s Raspberry Riptide. I mean, come on. And I also am a big fan of pizza. Like I’m a cheese pizza fanatic. It’s ridiculous.
There you go. If you ever want to surprise Laura Marano with a gift, just bring her Go-Gurt!
Interview by Marie Morreale
Image courtesy of Disney Channel