When we first got a listen to Confidential, the first proper release by the 19-year-old Filipino-Australian R&B singer Lara Andallo, it was a pretty immediate realisation that we had a proper big deal on our hands. The song was the beginning of her processing a bunch of changes in her life – most leading from a change in her lifestyle after surgery on a bung ankle rendered her unable to express herself through the one form of art she used to rely on, dance.
It would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. She found a new crutch – music – and on her first mixtape For Her – we get to process the pain and the empowerment of rebuilding, with her. For Her‘s streaming now, and in this chat Nic Kelly‘s in bold, Lara’s in normal font, having just woken up the morning after a mixtape launch show.
The show was insane! Especially because I haven’t been back on stage in two and a half years. My last show I did was actually with Kwame for Red Bull Weekender back in 2017. So it’s been a very long time. But it was amazing to get back up there.
It looked ridiculous and I think it’s probably the most intensely produced live R&B show I’ve seen in ages. I mean, you’ve got dances, you’ve got Mowgli May doing the DJing. How does this record that you’ve made translate live because it’s a pretty intimate, intense listen, but then it looks like it becomes an entirely savage experience on stage.
It’s about going out and having a good time with the girls. I think there’s like an overall girl-power kind of mood there and I think that really shows and I really want that to translate live. Also, because dance is such a huge part of me as an artist, an entertainer and a creative, I really wanted that to be an extension of the songs and really elevate the music on the live side of things.
What I’ve found listening to this mixtape is it’s quite fun and sort of up-tempo at the top of the record, but then you’ve got songs like Proud Of Us and 365 which are very reflective and intense. When you were writing, did you have to get the hard stuff out first and then get on to the fun stuff or did you get that stuff out first and then dig a little bit deeper?
I think I did the fun stuff first, but I wrote a lot of the fun stuff when I wasn’t feeling the fun stuff. I feel like that’s what a lot of artists feel, when we’re not feeling that into what’s going on. It’s like it helps us elevate our mood and really get into our mindset. I feel like for me, when it comes to those more reflective songs, I have to really process that whole experience before I can really sit down and be like, “how do I actually feel about this”?
That makes me wonder about the overall experience of making this tape. When you were writing and producing the tracks, what was the mood in the room? Was it up all the time? Or was it kind of sad sometimes?
I’d definitely say it was sad sometimes! I’m very open when it comes to writing sessions, with anyone I collaborate with I definitely want them to know what we’re writing about, what actually is the intention of the music, because I feel like that needs to be reflected in the production as well. Like, I try not to stay guarded when I am collaborating with other people and the people I did collaborate with on this project have been massively influential on me as a developing artist as well. I appreciate all the people that really wanted to take a chance on me and see the vision with me and build this together.
Let’s big up some of those people! Who did you like working with? Who helped to bring out your true self?
James Angus! James Angus was one of the first people that was really like “I want to make something that sounds Lara. I want to make something tailor-made for you”. We did 180 and Said & Done at the same time, we started 180 together and then I finished writing both of them in my room and when I came back with him in the studio to finish those up, and then I did 365 with JOY. and Kota Banks which was my first all-female session! I realised it was a year into it and I had never had an all-female session, like, this a moment guys! That was pretty cute. I also had Nic Martin on Trophy which was massive and he was one of the first producers to ever reach out for me when I was seventeen, so that felt like a full circle kind of moment.
365 opened a new realm of what I understand you to be now. There’s a line in there that really sticks out to me: “this year put me to the test, but I always come out on top”. Without getting into too many specifics, I like the music to speak for itself, but what were the kinds of tests that you’re most proud of having gone through and come out the other side on top of?
It is about a year, but the switch from dancing full-time and having a few ankle surgeries where I’ve had to relearn how to walk again and even those experiences are a part of this song. When I did get my last surgery, I was 17, I had just graduated high school, I was just about to sign a record deal, I wasn’t dancing, everything in my life was changing at the same time, which was very intense for me. I do feel like getting through my surgeries have really been the biggest thing for me at the age of 19, but like, I was going to meetings in a wheelchair. I was 15 at the time and 17 for the second one, going through that mentally was very… I just didn’t realize how big of a deal it was. To not have my legs and not being able to walk at the time, especially as a dancer I was used to always moving, but it’s because of the surgeries that I got into music. It’s because my surgeries didn’t necessarily work that I could spend as much time and lean on music almost as a crutch. I honestly couldn’t express myself anywhere else. It turned into what it is now, and I really believe it all happened for a reason.
Something like a surgery like a major surgery that puts you out of action is not physical, it’s mental, it’s emotional… it’s all encompassing, really.
Yeah, and as a fifteen year old I didn’t really think about that. I thought “it’s just ankle surgery… and I’ll be good to go…” I just thought about the surgery on the day, I didn’t think about it leading up…
Which is good in some ways, I suppose. You could probably compartmentalise it when you were younger. But seeing you bring the dancing back into what you’re doing and having these two forms of self expression that kind of talk to each other is it must be a very cool feeling.
100%. As an artist, entertaining and being a performer is what I know I love to do and what I love to be. When I was dancing, being on stage was my favourite part of it so just being able to get back on stage is where I feel most at home. There’s just something about being on stage that I just feel so comfortable with.
I’m really impressed with the breadth that we get from you on this on these six songs and how much we learn about you so quickly. But I also feel like that after this mixtape, there’s a savage in there, just ready to roll. Am I right in thinking that?