By the time Katelyn Tarver won on episode of NBC’s “Songland” in 2019, she was already an accomplished artist.
The Angeleno, whose winning song, “Young,” went on to be recorded by Nashville group Old Dominion and was used in a popular Jeep commercial, recorded her first album in 2005 at 15 years of age, wrote a hit for Cheryl Cole (2014’s “Crazy Stupid Love”), had a regular role on Nickelodeon’s “Big Time Rush” and ABC superhero dramedy “No Ordinary Family,” and more recently, starred with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in HBO’s “Ballers.”
Tarver has been concentrating on music for the last couple of years, with her music racking up more than 100 million streams with the power of singles like “Somebody Else,” “Cynical” and “Heaven.” She should have been wrapping up a national tour with Hot Chelle Rae right now, but a certain novel coronavirus and ensuing quarantine orders had her sheltering in place with her brother and sister at home instead. So she’s released a new song, the aptly named “Feel Bad,” which she’s described as being about feeling fragile and small.
It wasn’t written about the havoc Covid-19 is wreaking worldwide, but it fits. Tarver, who said she’ll keep releasing music throughout 2020, checked in with us recently about what’s been on her mind lately.
RIFF: You famously won an episode of “Songland” last year. Why’d you decide to go on the show? Were you already a fan, did you get invited?
Katelyn Tarver: Yes! Still so surreal. I thought the concept was unique and something I’d love to be involved in. I think there’s so much mystery around what songwriters actually do, so to have a show that highlighted that was really exciting. And to have a chance to work with [show judges] Ryan Tedder, Shane McAnally and Ester Dean was too good to pass up. Winning my episode, getting to work with Old Dominion and Shane, getting to see a song I wrote be placed in a Jeep commercial and then getting to be in the commercial, which was directed by Joseph Kahn—that show brought so many insane opportunities my way. It was so cool.
Which career—music or acting—do you care about more, or is more fun for you?
I get this question a lot, it’s always tough for me to answer. I like both of them for different reasons. Music always feels like my first love. I’ve always loved singing and performing. Getting to perform songs I’ve written and see people connecting with them really never gets old. But acting works a different muscle creatively for me, and pushes me out of my comfort zone a little more, which I also like. I love getting to tell stories, and I feel like music and acting both give me an outlet to do that. I feel genuinely lucky to get to work in both worlds.
What sorts of things have you been writing about lately?
Change, getting older, confronting my demons. I’ve been really inspired by people’s songs that just feel super raw and vulnerable, so I’ve been trying to do that more in my own music. I want to write songs that make people feel less crazy for feeling how they feel. And if they don’t, then at least I’m getting some stuff off my chest!
How much are you able to accomplish personally and professionally during this time?
Eh, like most everyone’s job right now, everything is kind of on pause for me. I’ve been going live on my Instagram every day with other songwriters and artists, and just hanging and playing music together. It’s really been keeping me sane. I’m doing as much as I can, but also trying to not put too much pressure on myself to come out of this with something to show for it. Other than maybe a few new recipes. Which feels pretty major???
How have you been passing the quarantine? What are your days like in L.A. right now?
Watching a lot of TV, finally making myself practice guitar and piano more, cooking, trying to do some form of exercise, Zoom calls with friends. Luckily, I have my family in my house so [I’m] just trying to make the best of it and take advantage of getting to be together.
How has March and April affected your mental health? It seems like it’s easier to feel sad, or angry, or just to be in denial right now.
Yeah, I’ve definitely gone through all of those emotions. It’s all overwhelming thinking about how this is going to affect the world and how many people have already lost so much. But there’s kind of a sense of camaraderie right now too. We’re all going through this together and feeling scared, and attempting dumb TikTok dances, and cooking new meals and not knowing what to think. I think for me personally, it’s always a challenge to push back on negativity and be grateful and choose to see the good. So, trying to keep doing that now, too.
Will the tour with Hot Chelle Rae be rescheduled, or will you be doing your own thing when things get back to normal?
I think the Hot Chelle Rae tour will be rescheduled! I just don’t have confirmed dates yet. Feels crazy to even try and predict how this is all going to end right now, anyway. All I know is when the day comes we can all go to shows and play shows again, it will be that much sweeter.
What are your thoughts on whether the fans will come back once this is all over, and will they feel comfortable being in concert halls again?
Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I think fans will be ready to get back out to shows and appreciate it even more than they did before. I know I will. But again, it still feels so early to try and predict anything about the outcome of all this! I’m hoping public gatherings won’t feel scary for too long once they start back up again. I will not take for granted an overpriced beer at a crowded venue ever again!
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.