Lia Hyman has been singing and writing songs since third grade but started her musical career last year. She’s since performed her original music at many events, including the Philadelphia Stories Jr. release party at Musehouse in Chestnut Hill and Arts in the Park in Elkins Park, and will be performing at the free Yo! Teen Philly Fringe Festival event on September 21, from 7-9 at the First Unitarian Church. You can hear a sample at That’s So Philly’s Soundcloud page. Philadelphia Stories editor Rachel Mamola asked Lia to tell us a little about her music and performing life.
Some girls just write in journals and diaries—why did you decide to start song-writing?
I started song writing at a young age. At first, it was only silly songs. Soon, I realized, it became something bigger for me. I wrote to get something good out of a bad situation. I thought, “What a waste to just cry about something and then get over it.” I wanted to send out the message that we all feel the same things at one point or another. If I said some of my lyrics, chances are people wouldn’t remember them. But, when I sing it in a catchy tune, 9/10 times they are going to be singing it for the rest of the day. I always loved finding that one song I could relate to and singing it at the top of my lungs. I wanted that song to be my song. My favorite thing is when people tell me they can relate to my song; that’s all I’ve ever wanted.
How old were you when you first began writing your own songs?
I started writing songs in third grade, so about 9. I realized I truly wanted to be a songwriter at 12 years old in 7th grade.
When do you find that you write or perform at your best?
I, like many other writers, like writing about situations I’ve been in. I can relate to a situation of heartbreak a whole lot more than the pain of being a hamster trapped inside all day. I do, however, tend to write best when I’m angry or sad. Happiness, though it may be surprising, is actually harder to write about. I love pouring my heart out into love songs, and heartbreaks have just always been easy-access to getting inspired for me.
When it comes to performing, I perform at my best when the crowd interacts with me and is engaged with what I’m doing. If you’ve ever watched a famous artist on stage try to get the audience involved, it is for a reason, not just their ego! 🙂 It is satisfying to know that other people are enjoying my music, so I automatically try to perform better. If the audience is hype, I’m hype!
What songwriters and singers are you most influenced by?
Definitely Taylor Swift, ha! The way she can write songs and make them so relatable makes me want to be able to do that as well. Some of her metaphors are genius! I would love to trade lives with a huge star like that. She’s living my dream and her fan base, or “Swifties,” is dedicated to her entirely. Andy Grammar, whose music I actually discovered at summer camp, also impresses me. His lyrics are superb and catchy at the same time. When it comes to artists, I am really only impressed by those who can write and sing their own songs. Being a singer/songwriter, I’ve seen and heard a lot of great singers. But those who can take emotions and thoughts and turn that into lyrics and music are the true stars.
Do you come from a musical family?
One of the reasons I love my family so much is because of our different tastes in music. We all like different genres and artists, so I love hearing a song my mom is playing and checking it out. We are always singing and listening to music. My cousin, Taryn, has inspired me a lot to be a musician because of her amazing voice and love for music. No one in my family has wanted to make a career out of being a performer like I do, so in some ways I am at a disadvantage for lack of connections. Nevertheless, I schedule all my own performances because my parents have always taught me that if I want this, I have to learn how to do it for myself. That advice has helped me more than they know.
Do you play any instruments, dance, or act? What do you enjoy doing besides singing and songwriting?
I fell in love with guitar at a young age. My mom required that my sister and I play piano for 4 years, so until 5th grade, I never picked up a guitar. My guitar’s name is Lily and my piano, Fiarsco. Hey, musicians are crazy. Although no one knows this, I always wanted to be a dancer when I was younger. I still do, actually! I do dance at school for Touring Ensemble, a program quite like Glee that involves singing and dancing as a show, and it has been one of my favorite experiences as a performer. Besides music, I play roller hockey and lacrosse. I will forever argue hockey is the best sport out there, and I love showing the boys a thing or two before they can open their mouths. Although I am artistic, I am also very athletic. I love hanging out with my friends, of course, and going on adventures around the neighborhood, too.
Who is playing the accompanying guitar in your recording of “Beautiful 13?”
I am! I have been playing guitar for four years now and I love it more and more every day. There’s nothing like picking up a guitar on a rainy day and staring dramatically out your window.
I read on the That’s So Philly Facebook page that you started your musical career last year. Was your first performance last year as well, or have you performed in the past?
Technically, I did start my career last year. I had never applied to festivals, performed at open mic nights, or sang at cafés until 7th grade. Alas, my first performance was long before that. At an early age I was in piano recitals, though that does not compare to being asked to perform at festivals, huh? I sang in my 5th and 6th grade talent show as well, and that is when I distinctly remember people considering me a performer. There’s nothing like getting up on a stage and having all eyes on you. It still makes me nervous every single time, but I love it more than anything. It is exhilarating and frightening at the same time. When I am able to connect to the audience and see that they understand what I’m talking about in my lyrics, it makes me remember why I perform. Bright lights and sweaty palms are what it’s all about in the music business.
Teenagers have so much going on between school, sports, after school activities, parents, siblings, friends, relationships, and a future to consider. How do you juggle your everyday life along with your musical ambitions?
Being a teenager isn’t easy. I think any adult or teenager will confirm that statement. A lot of times, it is hard to keep my goals in place and look for opportunities. On top of that, there are also the people telling me I’ll never make it and that I’m just not good enough. And sometimes, it’s just too much. But then I remember why I love doing this so much. I don’t pick up my guitar every day and write a big hit for the Billboard top 20. I do, however, try to play a song I’ve already written or play a cover just for me. I make time for music because it is that important to me. Sometimes stress gets the better of me, so I strum a chord and sing my heart out. If you want something enough, you will carve out the time in your schedule to make it happen.
Do you plan to continue performing as you move on to college and beyond?
Even if I never become a huge star, music is one thing I will never give up. Performing for anyone gives me a rush, so I will make sure to get every opportunity I can find to do just that. I would love to be a part of an a capella group in college like I have in the past because of how much you learn from the other musicians in it. College and what I want to do with my life are already on my mind, but I’m not too worried about it at all. Of course I want to be able to have a career as a performer and go on tour, but I’m also okay with choosing a different career path if that doesn’t work out. I actually would love to become a teacher! Music will always be a part of me no matter what I decide to do with my life.
What are you looking forward to at the Yo! Teen Philly Fringe Festival?
I just can’t wait to sing and play music! I’m excited to meet other musicians, artists, and performers who love what they do, just like me. Bonding over music with other people always makes me feel amazing, so I can’t wait to get to know so many other people who share the same passion as me. I am so honored that I get to be a part of this amazing festival and I can’t wait to see what it holds!
Do you think it’s important to be exposed to other young artists, like yourself?
It is important to be exposed to everyone. There are so many things I can learn from other artists my age. It is also reassuring to remember that other teenagers know what I go through at school, while still struggling to make it in the music business. I am always open to collaborating with people of all ages, for I know there’s so much to gain from experiences like that. With a guitar in hand, and a tune in the air, magical things can happen.