Filipino-Australian R&B musician and performer Lara Andallo talks her new single ‘Obsessed’, working with Troye Sivan, and finding her voice.
Music and performance have long been embedded in Lara Andallo’s DNA. Not just a singer, but also a dancer and multi-instrumentalist, the independent Filipino-Australian R&B artist grew up influenced by a musically-inclined family and inspired by the capacity of music to be an avenue for self-expression. Lara’s songs are smooth, rhythmic, head-bopping anthems that showcase her raw musical talent. Her performances are dynamic and electric, and she’s found support from some of the biggest artists of this generation—and she’s just getting started.
Formerly a dancer that dreamt of dancing professionally, Lara’s life turned a sharp corner in her teen years when she had to receive surgeries on both of her ankles after a devastating injury. In the midst of her struggles involving her career, her cultural identity, her sexuality, and her sense of belonging, Lara turned to music—penning personal lyrics and channeling her vulnerabilities into emotive, empowering songs.
Now, the 23-year-old is emerging as one of Australia’s freshest voices, championing the R&B genre with a discography that caught the attention of listeners and even artists from all over the world, such as NCT’s Jungwoo and Australian pop star Troye Sivan.
THE NEXT STEPS
Starting this year until early in 2024, the R&B musician will be touring Australia and New Zealand with American singer-songwriter Kiana Ledé. She will also be the sole Australian artist on the lineup of Souled Out Fest 2024, Australia’s own R&B music festival commencing in March. Lara’s going to be showcasing her music and performance to the world (and will even drop by Asia!), and will continue to release new music as she does.
Days before the release of her hottest, silkiest new single Obsessed—her first independent release in more than five years—Lara sat down with NYLON Manila for a chat all about her music, her influences and inspirations, and the journey of music and movement that she’s making her way through.
You’ve worked with artists like Troye Sivan at his songwriting workshop, as well as Swae Lee, Lucky Dae and more. Who has been the most inspirational and what lessons have you learned just from conversations or observing them that you take with you as you continue making music?
With Swae Lee and Jeremih, those guys, I just hung out with them versus [working with them in] the studio. Blxst and Troye Sivan, they’re the ones I spent the most time with in the studio. Troye definitely was a game-changing—life-changing—experience, to be honest. Seeing how he’s broken globally from being a kid from Perth has been really cool. And I’m [bisexual] myself—so seeing a queer pop star, too, is amazing. He really supported me in the [songwriting] session…he’s been such a supportive person behind the scenes.
He was such a hands-on guy and it was really cool to see how much he still has the passion for music. I’m such an observer. I love just watching and learning off of people.
Speaking of working with artists, how does it feel to be touring with Kiana Ledé at the end of this month?
I’m so excited! Playing shows and performing is my favorite part of being an artist. You know, some people love the songwriting recording process, some people don’t like performing and only like that part. I love when I get to bring my music to life, especially using dancing in my live show. Performing is my favorite part. So, I’m so excited to do this tour with Kiana. I’ve been a massive fan since she was doing covers. Being just a fan from the outside, to be on this tour with her is going to be amazing.
How important is your identity to your artistry? From your parents’ instrumentality to your Filipino and Australian heritage, and even your sexuality, how do these aspects of yourself come through in your music?
Starting with just the Filipino heritage, I grew up singing karaoke, even though I’m in Australia. From three years old, I remember my go-to song was Celine Dion’s All By Myself. My mom played piano before, and my dad used to play guitar…and my mom was in chorale back home. So the music was there. They never pursued it, but I knew that both my parents were creative. So that definitely funneled down to me.
I think growing up in Australia, as a Filipino female, I didn’t grow up with a lot of people that looked like me, so I definitely struggled a lot with identity because I didn’t have this sense of belonging. And then when you add [the bisexuality] on top of that, I really struggled with feeling that belonging in going into my teenage years.
But when I started to be able to express that in my songwriting privately [and as things grew], I think that’s when I started to find strength in those insecurities and make them a big part of the identity that I push out as an artist. Now, as I’ve been able to anchor myself in those things, they’ve become such a big part of what I actually express now.
You turned to music during a hard time in your life. How was it to deviate from your plans of being a dancer and experience that kind of struggle but then also find a renewed and deeper love for music?
It was such an interesting time for me because I had four surgeries on my ankles, two when I was 15, and then the second round when I was 17. I ended up being in a wheelchair for a bit because I had to learn how to walk again.
From being a dancer that relies on movement as like self-expression, I didn’t realize how much that would affect my expression, you know? So I think once I went through the feeling of having that form of self-expression taken away from me, and then leaning back on music as a crutch to get through it, that’s when I realized how powerful [music and songwriting] was.
Obsessed marks a new era for you. Could you tell me more about your upcoming summer single and what’s next for you moving forward?
I’m so excited to have it out! I think, being a freshly independent artist—like I wrote this song at the end of May, and to have it out in the same year is crazy, because when you’re not independent, there are certain timelines and timeframes you have to work towards. So I think for me moving forward, it’s gonna be really fun to be able to do things at a pace that I can and want to do [them in].
In March next year, I’m doing Souled Out Festival! So that’s going to be a really fun one for me, and the biggest audiences that I’ve played as well, so I’m really excited for that one. I definitely also want to just keep releasing new music consistently for the fans. That’s what I’m most excited about.
Do you have any advice for your younger self that other people could also stand to learn from?
I think a big thing that I’ve learned this year, after five years of this…I really would have told myself to just trust my gut from the start. There are a lot of things when I was 17, 18, going into the music industry that I feel like I instinctively felt I had gut feelings about. But being a young female in the music industry, it’s a bit hard to outweigh [experienced] people’s opinions. And you don’t have any backing in terms of your gut—you don’t have any history of your gut being right, so it’s hard to trust it.
I’ve learned throughout the years that when it comes to art, when it comes to music, and you’re the artist—your instinct is usually the way that things should go. When it comes to the music and when it comes to the creative [decisions], just always trust yourself and trust your gut.
Interview has been edited for clarity and length. Images courtesy of Lara Andallo.