While most seventeen year-olds are fretting about their outfits, whether someone likes them or not and generally just being the 'typical' teenager we all live with or fondly remember being (I for one was an angel...), Whitney Lusk has bigger things on her mind.
Having already released an EP and proven herself to be a gifted song-writer through her songs including "I Wanna Know" and "Dark Side" which tackles the very serious subject of suicide, Lusk, who hails from Utah, is working hard to grow as an artist, writing new material and planning for a summer of touring and performances.
With her music now reaching fans across Europe and around the world, she kindly agreed to this interview to chat influences, social media and future plans.
PW: Please introduce yourself.
Whitney Lusk: My name is Whitney Lusk, I'm a 17 year old singer-songwriter from Spanish Fork, Utah. I've grown up singing, I've taken voice lessons since I was 7. I'm the youngest of three and my parents are my biggest fans.
PW: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a singer?
WL: I think I've always known I wanted to be a singer. I guess I never really how serious I was about it until I was like 12 or 13. I remember going into my vocal coach and saying, "I want to do this for the rest of my life, I'm ready." And of course at the time I definitely wasn't, but if I hadn't started then, I definitely wouldn't be where I am today.
PW: Was singing always your dream or did you have other ambitions growing up?
WL: As a kid, I wanted to be a lot of things. I wanted to be a teacher, a hair dresser, a nail technician. But I always put on shows for my neighbors and would act like I was a big super star, just for fun. But I think in the back of my mind there was always a huge desire to be a musician. And then once I started taking lessons, there was no question, music was what I wanted to do.
PW: Which artists most influence you and your music and have those influences changed over the years?
WL: There are different artists that influence me in different ways and in different aspects. There are certain country artists, such as Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride that influence my country side.
In the pop industry though, P!nk is one for sure, because she's so confident in who she is. Her songs are honest, blunt, and she's easily one of the most talented people on the planet. She's extremely fit, she cares what she's singing about, and even though she's an amazing performer, her vocals don't slack off because she's so focused on the performance.
Then there’s Jessie J, for all of those same reasons and Kelly Clarkson, because I think she's just herself. She's never ever tried to be something she's not. Her vocals are insane. She was the first artist I ever saw in concert, and I'm not kidding, it changed my life. Avril Lavigne has been one of my favorites ever since I was like 6. She's so sassy and she doesn't take any crap from anyone. She and Michelle Branch have probably been my biggest influences, lyrically.
I honestly could go on and on and on about certain artists that have influenced me and inspired me, but to sum it up, those five probably are my favorites.
PW: Can you recall the first record you bought and concert you attended? How did they inspire you in terms of your career ambitions?
WL: The first album I bought with my own money was Carrie Underwood's "Some
Hearts" record. I remember when it came out, I was begging my parents to take me to Walmart so I could buy it. And my first concert, like I said was Kelly Clarkson. Both of them have impacted my life in a way I can't really put into words. Even though it's just an album and just a concert, I think just seeing two of my idols living their dreams, makes me want to be where they are. It just pushes me to be as good as they are.
PW: Is there any particular artist you think you're most similar to?
WL: Honestly, I would say Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. I think my personality and songs are very similar to Kelly Clarkson, and vocally, I've always tried to be just as good if not better than them.
PW: What is it about country music that appeals to you so much?
WL: I grew up listening to country music. Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Martina McBride, those were my go to girls, ya know? I think my favorite thing about country music is people aren't afraid to talk and sing about things that aren't usually sung about. Religion is brought in, stories are told, love is shown, and you can hear it in the music, in the lyrics and in the vocals that the people who are singing truly believe in what they're singing about. It's relatable, on one level or another.
PW: Would you agree that country music has undergone a resurgence in recent years due to artists such as Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood?
WL: I do agree with that, to an extent. I think certain things have been brought onto the scene that really we could do without. A lot of the "bro country" is getting really old, in my opinion. But Taylor Swift definitely brought teenagers and younger people to country. She definitely changed the demographic of people listening to country music, and it also changed what was being sung about. It brought certain things to the surface that made people realize they could write about certain things and get away with it.
Carrie Underwood on the other hand, tells stories. She stuck to the legit country, story-telling vibe that everyone grew up listening to, just like Maddie and Tae are starting to do. Every new artist that comes on the scene in any genre has something new to bring to the table. And for sure, Taylor and Carrie changed country music into something very different than what it was, but then again, so did Shania Twain. The industry is constantly changing and making a comeback.
PW: Who or what most influences your song-writing and how easy or hard do you find the process of putting a song together?
WL: Life influences my song-writing. Whether it be my heartbreaks, my friends’ heartbreaks, or somebody sitting in the car next to me at a red light, or a TV show. There's so many things that I get ideas from. The majority of ideas for the songs I write come when I’m laid in bed at 2 in the morning and a lyric or a melody runs through my head. I then record it or write it down in my phone and the next day, when I wake up, a song comes out. But sometimes I can have a great idea for a song but I find that it's not coming out the way I want it to, and that's when co-writers come in handy. Bringing another person into the room and bouncing ideas back and forth off each other, it changes the whole game.
PW: You released an EP last summer which has received rave reviews from fans. Could you pick a favourite track from it or is that like asking you to choose between your children, as they say?
WL: Haha! That's a good question, actually. For me, every song on that EP told a different story. “Picasso” was about getting back at a guy, I guess you could say. “Dark Side” was about a very personal thing that I went through and I wanted to help others through the darkness I'd been through, kind of letting them know they're not alone. “I Wanna Know” was a song I wrote forever ago, and that one's just fun. “Kiss Me” was one of the first love songs I'd ever written. I'm not good at being vulnerable when it comes to that kind of stuff, so that one was hard for me.
Honestly though, “Not Today” is probably my favorite one on the EP. I'm not sure why, maybe because when I wrote that song, nothing really changed from when I was writing it in my bedroom to when I took it into the studio. The idea and the lyrics were 100% me. I also think that song is also vulnerable in a different way. It shows that I
have the strength to get through things, but sometimes it's not going to happen when I want it to. It takes time to heal. So three months from now, I'll be fine. But not today.
PW: Your track "Dark Side" addresses the very serious issue of suicide and the video has had more than 65K views. What was it that made you decide to write about the issue and have you been personally affected by it?
WL: “Dark Side”, like I said, was written about a very serious subject. I had gone through a very deep depression, and music is what saved me. I had been to multiple therapists and counselors and they all told me to write down what I was feeling. I wrote down as much as I could, without being super blunt and then I took it into my producer and he was all, "No, you gotta be straight forward with this” - he'd been through that stuff too; it's so much more common than people think.
That song came out of me and my producer sitting there pouring our hearts into that song. I can't even put into words how proud I am of that song. It's everything I wanted to say, and when people come up to me at shows and tell me that that song helped them, it makes me so happy.
PW: Are there plans for an album in the pipeline?
WL: I've been doing a lot of co-writing. And the songs that have been coming from those co-writes are incredible. So I think when I get 10 or 12 songs that I really just love with all of my heart, I'll make an album. So, yes, in the next year or so I would expect an album from me!
PW: How do you find making music videos and how involved to you get in the creative process?
WL: I love making music videos. I think it’s fun to see a song come to life in a different way than sitting in a studio and hearing it come to life that way; you get to visually see it on a screen with all of the emotion. The videos in the past have been super simple, just kind of making it so the point gets across. But in these videos that I'll be releasing soon, they're going to be more fun and energetic. They'll show the happier sides of me and the more serious sides.
PW: Which video have you had the most fun making?
WL: I loved making “Dark Side”. I got to watch the whole thing be done, and it was so cool to see my band get so into it.
PW: You've covered an array of songs ranging from “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran to “Happy Girl” by Martina McBride, but could you pick a favorite?
WL: I love songs that I can show emotion in. “Thinking Out Loud” is so fun to sing because it shows the softer side of my voice, “Happy Girl” on the other hand is super fun and energetic and it shows my range. My favorite songs that I cover though, would probably be “Mr. Know It All” by Kelly Clarkson, “I Want You Back” by Jackson 5, “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston, and “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran.
PW: Which song would you most like to cover next and why?
WL: I really want to start covering older songs, just to bring attention to the old stuff along with the new stuff. In terms of new stuff, probably “Hollow” by Tori Kelly and for the old stuff, probably “Life Goes On” by LeAnn Rimes.
PW: If you could have written any song, by any artist living or dead, which would it be and why?
WL: That's a really good, but hard question. There's a song by Kelly Clarkson on her Piece by Piece album called "Someone". If I would've written that one, dang. I'd be so proud of myself. But also, “Faithfully” by Journey - that song is magic.
PW: How has social media helped in terms of getting your music out there to a wider audience?
WL: Social media is rough, but it definitely helps. I get to know my fan base more closely and it makes it easier to share my music.
PW: Would you agree that bands and artists today need to be socially inter-active in order to get ahead?
WL: Yes. Not just on social media, but you have to go to local shows for local artists and have face time with them and get to know them. Because when you do that, they'll like you. And then when you release something new, you can only hope that they'll share your stuff to their fan base as well.
PW: What are your tour/performance plans for the year?
PW: Will you be heading across the pond to the UK and Europe at all?
WL: I would absolutely love to. Hopefully sometime in the near future, for sure.
PW: What's your ultimate ambition? What's the number 1 goal for you as an artist?
WL: Honestly, and I know this might sound really cheesy, but I just want to be happy and music brings me happiness. So whether it be writing and co-writing and releasing songs every other month to the fans I have right now on social media and YouTube, or whether it be getting signed and getting a top 10 hit and touring - which I would really prefer - I'll be satisfied
no matter what I do, as long as I'm happy and have no regrets with what I've done.
PW: Finally then, any other plans in the pipeline you can tell me about?
WL: I'm just gonna keep working my butt off until I get that top 10 hit! But seriously, I really will be releasing new music regularly. Stay tuned – there are great things in the works right now.
Whitney's self titled EP is available now on itunes.