A burst of sunshine filled the storied Parlour Room of Hollywood recently when singer Skylar Stecker, KIIS FM’s “Next Up” star bounded into the room for a recent photo shoot. With a confidence that belies her age and a voice to back up the accolades, Stecker happily greeted everyone with a hug and announced, “I’m a hugger… Mom, aren’t I a hugger?”—an exclamation that reminded everyone that Disney’s “Next Big Thing” is just 15 years old. After two national tours and sharing the stage with the likes of Miley Cyrus, it’s fair to say that 2017 has been a prolific year for the burgeoning star.
Stecker’s latest single, “I Only Want You,” hit #2 on the Billboard charts, and its accompanying video (watch it on YouTube!), is a glimpse into the spirit that is propelling this remarkable teenager to stardom.
BELLA Los Angeles talked with Stecker about her fantastic year and her new life in Southern California.
What was your biggest adjustment when you moved to Orange County from your home in Wisconsin?
At first it was hard to juggle going to regular school all day and then driving two hours to and from LA for auditions and rehearsals every day. I felt like I was trying to do too many things at once.
So after trying to make that work for a few years, I finally convinced my parents to let me try home schooling. This made my schedule much more manageable and allowed me more time to spend on my music because I could bring my schoolwork on the road and be a lot more productive.
So far, what’s the best thing about living in Southern California? Is there something you do here that you would never do in Wisconsin?
I love living in Southern California. The weather is always amazing, but what I love most is being surrounded by people from all over the world. Wisconsin is awesome but most people who live in Wisconsin are from Wisconsin. Plus, California has so many more restaurant options for vegans like me!
You’re working so much this year; do you have time for school and friends?
Yes! I am in 10th grade and have to stay on track with my studies. As for friends, I do have a few great ones, but I am somewhat of a loner when I’m not doing music. If I am not writing, recording, or performing, then you can usually find me at home watching “Grey’s Anatomy!”
Your mom said flat-out that she has no idea where your musical talent came from. Do you remember when you first discovered your voice and started singing?
When I was 9, I heard there was a school talent show. I had been playing piano since I was 5, so I decided to try out. The teacher in charge told me to sing instead of play the piano, and a week later I found out I got in for the singing and not the piano. It was shocking! I sang in the talent show, and immediately a light when on that day in my head that this was what I wanted to do forever. From then on, I was on a mission to sing wherever and whenever I could.
You’re a songwriter too—and you’re 15! Where do the songs come from? Is it possible to describe that process?
I started creating music on my piano. When I was 9 years old, I wrote and recorded my first song called “Crush.” It was about a boy who I liked that didn’t like me back. I ended up giving him my recorded version of the song on a CD I made for him but unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned… he laughed and threw it away. (Which gave me more material for later!)
But now, my songs usually start with a track a producer sends me and I write the melody and then lyrics on that. Or me and another writer and a producer just start from scratch and throw ideas and melodies around the room, and go from there.
The video for “Only Want You” is amazing! Most people—certainly most 15 year olds—would be too embarrassed to dance and sing on the street like that, yet you seem perfectly at home doing it. Why do you think that is?
I wanted to do something that was not planned, and [that was] completely organic. So I decided Hollywood Boulevard would be perfect because there is always a lot going on down there. My mom played the music, my uncle and his friend followed me with their camera, and my manager watched out for people who were in the way. I didn’t have time to get nervous because I knew I only had one shot to do it. Thankfully, it worked and we got what we needed in that one take.
I read you’ve performed the national anthem 100 times! Of those performances, can you remember the one that made you the most nervous and the one that had you the most excited?
I don’t usually get nervous for anthems because it’s what I grew up doing. However, I was a little nervous for the Wisconsin Badger game at Lambeau Field. It was a full house—80,000 people, I think! I also had family and friends there, and I wanted to make my home state proud.
Does your crazy life schedule affect your siblings? How do you find time to have fun as a family?
I have one brother named Dorsett who is 10 years old. We are all really close! My family is number one to me, so no matter how busy things are, I always have at least one member of my family with me wherever I go.
BELLA’s tagline is, “Beauty Defined by You.” At this point in your life, how do you define beauty?
I think being true to who you are is beautiful. Right now and even more than ever, it’s really important we learn to love ourselves the way we are. No one is perfect, and if we try to be like someone else or look like someone else, that will only hurt our self-confidence and self worth, not help it. Beauty is being you!