For those looking to have catharsis coursing through their veins, Colby Lapolla has a hand to offer. Following the release of her stunning latest single, Starving, she sat down to chat with us about getting through the pandemic, how she found the strength to write this emotive track, how we should channel our pain into art and what’s next for her.
Let’s start from the beginning: how did you get here? How did you decide music was what you wanted to pursue?
I’ve known I wanted to be a musician and specifically a singer since around the time I started to talk. My mom had been a professional actor and musician, and I don’t remember a time without music being the reason I got up in the morning. I got involved in shows towards the end of elementary school and also started taking piano lessons around age 7. While I was absolutely abysmal at practicing piano, I still loved to play and devoured all of the theory and technical elements that I could. My family didn’t dissuade me from my desire to be a professional musician, and I started taking any and every opportunity that I could to perform. I ended up going to Belmont University in Nashville and got my degree in voice, ultimately moving on to studying with, training under and then working for Brett Manning out of his studio on Music Row. My time in Nashville was the start of me doing all of this for real, and the relationships and connections I made in college and in that town were a vital part of my continued career. Making the change from just vocal producing day to day to also releasing music as an artist and getting music placed with sync licensers was terrifying but also a long time coming. Like anyone, I have had many moments of impostor syndrome — rather, crippling doubt — and frustration with the industry at large, but there is, to this day, nothing else I’d rather be doing. I am a full-time musician living and working in Los Angeles, and that in and of itself is a dream come true.
How have you been doing since the pandemic? Without live shows, what’s a day in your life like?
I had decided to move from Nashville to L.A. about six months before the start of the pandemic, with a date set for the fall of 2020. During the initial stages of the pandemic, I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d still be able to go through with it. I spent most of my days writing, reading and, luckily, working and eventually decided it was in the best interest of my mental health to go through with my move. I’m so glad I did.
A day in my life is usually a nice mix of sessions (writes, voice building sessions with artists), vocal production for clients and working on tracks I’m producing for myself, other artists and for sync projects. I’m humbled that, lately, I’ve had more and more folks wanting me to produce their tracks, which is really exciting for me, since I was mainly a vocal producer for the last several years.
Congrats on your new single, “Starving”! It’s an extremely vulnerable track that starts with reflective synths before building up to an explosive release of energy. How did you come up with the idea to create a sequence like that?
Thanks! I’m so stoked it’s finally out.
Y’know, I’ve said for years that if I could just write a build in a track that felt as good as the one in “Green Light” by Lorde, I would be over the moon. My favorite songs are all ones that build in tension and then take off without fully letting you off the hook. This track initially wasn’t headed in that direction (I posted part of my original demo on Instagram), but then I laid down that driving piano riff and lightbulb went off. Luckily, Andrew Hansen, my collaborator on all of my stuff, is just as big of a Jack Antonoff and Lorde fan as I am, and as soon as I played him the new version, he was like “Yep. That’s it.” We’ve made many changes and tweaks since then, and his rearrangement of the chorus still gets me hype to this day, over a year since we started working on it. I’d like to think that Jack would be proud. I’m finally seeing Bleachers at the Palladium this weekend, so maybe I’ll try to drop him my mixtape and find out for certain.
You tackle the sensitive topic of eating disorders in your new track, and we commend you on your ability to put these difficult feelings into your craft. What’s it like to share something so personal with the world?
Thank you. Yeah, it’s felt like a nightmare honestly (lol). There’s always this crazy mix of emotions leading up to a release, and then the crazy mix right after it’s out there in the world, too. While I’m proud of my body of work, the plan had always been to release this track last out of our most recent batch and let it set the tone for everything moving forward. So, there’s this catharsis in that regard, but then there’s also the feeling of oh god, what have I done? Until last week, I had only shared my story and the fact that I was in recovery with a close group of friends as well as a few folks who needed support themselves, and that was for a good reason: people just don’t take eating disorders that seriously, especially in people who don’t present the way they believe eating disorders “should” present. In fact, the vast majority of people who struggle with eating disorders, including anorexia like myself, are never considered clinically underweight. So, I knew that there would be people in my orbit who met this public announcement of my diagnosis with skepticism and lack of understanding. I think I’m in the stage of this release now (five days in), where I’m like “OK, the genie can’t go back in the bottle, so how do I keep leaning in?” Because, for my own recovery journey, and for the journey of so many others out there, I need to keep leaning in. I need to keep speaking up. And I need to remember that the intersection of vulnerability and art is where the good stuff happens.
For anyone experiencing the same hardships who wants to be able to channel their pain into their art but doesn’t know how to begin, do you have any advice for them?
Great question. It looks different for everybody. All I can say is that only you know what it’s like to be you. Only you know the true extent and validity of your pain. And while you have absolutely nothing to prove to the world around you, your voice and your story matter and will matter to someone. Art isn’t a good enough reason for why we experience pain and go through the things that we do, so there’s no need to try to make sense of it or say that the pain was worth it so that you could create something beautiful from it. But creating something beautiful about it, through it, of it, might help your experience of that pain — soften the edges, smudge the lines, give it a new context.
What do you want listeners to take away from your music?
While I wish no one related to this one, I know that there are those who do. I hope they take away from it the power of righteous anger, of holding multiple truths at the same time and the desire to speak up (or scream at the top of their lungs), even if it’s just to one person. Mostly, I hope it makes you feel something. I’m not in charge of what that is. It’s a choose your own adventure sort of deal.
Besides “Starving,” do you have any other new content coming out soon?
New music is definitely in the works! I’m hoping you’ll catch some of my stuff, whether from my artist project or not, on your TV screen here in the coming months, too! I am also going to be releasing some of the work I’ve done for sync projects with a couple friends, under the name girl fieri. We have a track called “I Got Mine” dropping on Nov. 5, and I rap in it, so that’s a delight and a journey for everybody involved.
Starving is out now via all digital platforms.