Laura Marano, the former Disney Channel star of hit show Austin & Ally, just dropped her first EP, Me, on March 8. Right off the bat, I've got to admit one thing: The last thing I expected to see chilling next to a few of Marano's new tracks on Spotify was an explicit lyrics warning. But sure enough, Marano's title track "Me," starts off with the explicit-warning-worthy lyrics, "I think how good you would look on my body / I daydream about all the sh*t you tell me." If that intro didn't make it clear, "Me" is a sexy track all about daydreaming about your crush and hoping they're daydreaming about you as well. But that intro made another thing clear, too: This former Disney Channel star is all grown up, and Laura Marano's comments about distancing from her child star image show that she's more than ready to step into a more mature place musically, and do so with authenticity.
I am 23. I'm living different experiences, writing, and singing about different things then I would when I was 16 or 17. Just how it’s going to be when I’m 28, 29, 30. I want my music to represent my life and I want my music to represent where I am.
But make no mistake, Marano getting to a place where she could release her notably more-mature music was far from easy. After stints with major record labels like Big Machine Records and Warner Brothers that limited her ability to create and release music that felt authentic to her, Marano made the major decision to launch her own label, Flip Phone Records, independently.
"I think there’s this obsession sometimes in the major label world like finding a hit song," Marano tells Elite Daily about her experience with major labels. She doesn't sound angry or bitter, but more like a wise veteran of the music industry, seasoned in the unavoidable hoops developing artists have to jump through for creative control. "I totally get it but, for me, it’s less about finding the hit song."
Sadly, the labels Marano worked with in the past didn't necessarily share her belief. "It's like, this might not necessarily work on the business side, but I actually do think it’s really important to not just put a song out there... It's more about finding the song that means most to you as an artist. I think chasing hits doesn’t really work."
Marano starred as songwriter-turned-singer Ally Dawson on Disney Channel's hit show Austin & Ally from 2011, when she was just 16, until 2016. While the show churned out too many ear-worm songs to count, the songs were undeniably geared towards children.
What Ross [Lynch] and I have talked about is it’s really dangerous to look at other people’s journeys or look at what we should do versus what we want to do and what feels good to do.
Stepping into her new, mature sound after so many years of singing kid-friendly pop for the Disney Channel audience was definitely a daunting prospect for Marano. "100 percent, it was super scary," Marano says. "I think, at the end of the day, what was really important to me was putting out music, not just because I felt like, 'I’m 23, this is what I have to do, and I’m trying to shock and surprise people,' because that just isn’t true to me. That’s true to a bunch of other artists and I think that’s awesome but, to me, I wanna put out stuff that is authentic to me."
And that's what she did with Me. While the album is sonically more mature than her Austin & Ally bops, with lyrics about sexual attraction and heartbreak all throughout, there's nothing too shocking or salacious. In other words, there's nothing takes a wrecking ball to the image you had of the Laura Marano you grew up with. (See what I did there?)
"I am 23," Marano says about her slight mature shift. "I'm living different experiences, writing, and singing about different things then I would when I was 16 or 17. Just how it’s going to be when I’m 28, 29, 30. I want my music to represent my life and I want my music to represent where I am."
Marano's former Austin & Ally co-star, Ross Lynch (heard of him?), feels the same way, according to Marano. Even though the pair's Disney Channel show ended in 2016, they still keep in touch as they both explore their new musical paths.
"What Ross and I have talked about is it’s really dangerous to look at other people’s journeys or look at what we should do versus what we want to do and what feels good to do," Marano shares. "And that goes for both sides of the spectrum, right? Like, 'Oh, we should shock people and do this new kind of crazy thing,' or 'You should just stay in your lane and cater to the platform that you have.' I think what’s important is finding your own journey — making mistakes along the way — but staying true to who you are in that sense."
I think the really cool part about the whole cast and crew of Austin & Ally is we are just so insanely supportive of each other — even not working on the show anymore.
Lynch, who now stars in the hit Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and is making music with his brother Rocky as The Driver Era, is one of Marano's biggest supporters as she blazes a new trail sonically.
"Ross came to my performance at the Roxy in Los Angeles," Marano shares about performing at the iconic venue on Feb. 15. "He was just so awesome and we talked for a little bit about music. I think the really cool part about the whole cast and crew of Austin & Ally is we are just so insanely supportive of each other — even not working on the show anymore. So it such an exciting night for me, but also, again, a little scary."
But the endless love and support Marano has received from her co-stars and her fans has spurred her onward. "Everyone was so sweet and supportive, and I think when you have that support system in any kind of area of your life, it definitely empowers you to put out the art that you want to."
And that's exactly what Marano has done with her debut EP under her label Flip Phone Records. You should definitely check it out below, because Laura Marano's new, sexy, but — most importantly — authentic sound does not disappoint.