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Lauren Aquilina has been in the background of some of your favourite anthemic hits. The multi-talented artist kickstarted her career in 2012 and has since penned tracks for Fletcher, Ava Max, and Rina Sawayama. Following a breakout success, Aquilina stepped aside from the spotlight to recuperate and has returned stronger and better than before.

Now, the dynamic writer and performer is back with the maudlin noughties pop banger, Empathy. The song stirs up emotions of catharsis and frustration as Aquilina finds herself unintentionally overinvesting in those around her. “There were times that I absorbed my roommates’ energy so much I would cry and have panic attacks of my own,” she reflects on the single. With new music on the way, a splendidly funky MUNA remix, among other plans, we catch up with the LA/London-based artist to find out what she’s got planned next.

You’ve been keeping busy, how are you doing?
I’m good thanks! I found lockdown while I was in the UK really hard mostly because of the weather/lack of daylight. But I’m currently back in LA and I’m fully vaxxed which I’m so excited about.

Your EP, Ghost World, was released last year which you described as a “lockdown EP”. What has it been like to create and write music again?
It’s been so amazing because it happened so naturally. I was living with my boyfriend Marcus (who’s a producer) and one of my best friends Caroline (who’s a songwriter) last year and we ended up writing songs together every day. We gave each other this really safe creative space where I could rediscover how it felt to be an artist again and really connect in a deep way to what I was writing.

You’re moving ahead with new music. What have been your creative inspirations for this musical era?
One of my best friends ghosted me at the top of last year which inspired most of the Ghost World EP. It was a friendship breakup that felt just as painful as a romantic breakup. Being in the house and having all that time to think also made me have some realisations about myself which I’ve been trying to write about too.

Empathy reckons with emotional turmoil and confronts the ways in which you have neglected yourself. What inspired this song?
I’ve always been a hyper-empath since I was a teenager. I pick up on the smallest energy shifts from people and I let it get under my skin. Spending most of the lockdown with five roommates was rough for me sometimes because if one of the other girls was having a bad day, I was gonna have a bad day too. It wasn’t their fault but I would let the energy change my own state of being and I noticed it happening way more than it should.

The Knife was heavily praised by fans and in reviews. What did that positive reception mean to you?
Putting out that song was SCARY so I was so relieved!!! I feel like it’s like… the most different I could possibly be to 2012 Lauren’s music haha, it’s the opposite of a piano ballad, so I had no idea how people would feel about it.

Do you keep track of how your releases are received online?
Ohhhh yes! I’m not even gonna tell you what my phone screen time is like on release days but I’m not proud of it. I’m obsessive and I wanna know what everyone is saying. YouTube comments, Twitter, Reddit… I check everything!

Alongside your own creative work, you’ve been writing songs for other artists such as Rina Sawayama and Ava Max. Do you tackle songwriting differently when it comes to other artists?
It’s definitely a different and unique process for each artist. In my own music I get quite poetic lyrically but I know that isn’t gonna work as well for someone like Ava so I’ll put my pop hat on and try and make it as simple but as hooky as possible. Rina always starts the writing session by bringing a title or concept that means something to her and we’ll build sections one at a time while she maps out the production vision in her head.

It’s been announced you’ve been working with Rina on her follow-up record. Have you got started on that process?
We have! I can’t give too many details but we’ve written a lot of songs already that we’re obsessed with. She’s honestly such a visionary and I feel so lucky to be even a small part of her journey. I really believe she’s going to be the biggest pop star in the world.

What do you find the most gratifying as an artist and songwriter?
I love being a songwriter because it’s expanded my creative reach in a way I didn’t know was possible. I’ve always wanted to make iconic songs that became a part of pop culture and now I actually have a chance to do that! But it’s also great being able to release my super sad introspective artist music and have fans tell me that they feel like I’m inside their brain because they can relate so much. I’m so happy doing both.

As an independent creative, what has been the hardest obstacle you’ve had to break through to get where you are today?
Honestly, the first four years of my career (when I was 15 – 19 years old) were ROUGH. I had the wrong people on my team and I was being pushed and spoken to in ways that weren’t healthy for me or my mental health at all. It was traumatic and I’m still recovering and building back my confidence, but I’m so proud of how far I’ve come and where I’m at right now.

You’ve supported some incredible acts from MUNA to Taylor Swift. As our lives start to get back to normal, who would you want to support on stage?
Ugh, I’m such a fangirl I can’t believe both of those things actually happened?! I would love to open for Miley – she’s iconic and think she’d be so fun to tour with.

What’s your greatest goal as an artist?
To make songs that will outlive me and become tiny parts of other people’s lives and memories.

What have you got planned next?
There’s a remix of Empathy coming out (MUNA) which I’m so excited for and then I’m gonna be drip-feeding you more music for the rest of the year!