Sunday, December 7, 2014

Welcome to We Hear YA! 

Connecting YA Writers with their Teen Audience.

On this blog I'll be interviewing teens about their POVs on tons of topics - including books and school and life and what's got them fired up. I'll also spotlight new books by YA authors, and toss in some celebrity teen coverage. 

FOR OUR FIRST INTERVIEW... I am beyond stoked to chat with the unique and brilliant - Tallia Storm.


Tallia Storm is a 16-year-old Scottish R&B / soul singer from Glasgow. After leaving her demo CD with Sir Elton John's partner in a hotel restaurant, her life changed forever. 

Sir Elton John called within 24 hours and invited her to open his football stadium concert in Scotland at just 13 years old - how amazing! 

Recently, Tallia signed a global record deal with Virgin Records, and she signed a two-book deal with Scholastic UK that will publish in September 2015. 

WAY TO GO TALLIAFollow her: @Tallia_Storm

Now on to the Q & A:

Tallia, congrats on the book deal. WHOOT! Can you please share what your book-to-be is about...

Well, essentially it will be a fictional tale based on my own experiences. It will follow the fictional heroine Storm Hall as she sets out to make a name for herself in music and naturally like any other teenager, the reader will follow all the ups and downs and drama's of being a teenager and let's face it - there's plenty of them.

Q: What role do you feel music plays in a teen's life today?

I think music has always played a role in one's life. For example, the music I have listened to has shaped who I am as an artist today. I think we use music as our emotional crutch to get us through everyday life. When we're feeling sad, it's like this self harm mechanic comes in and we start playing all the sad songs in the world - just add to our pain. I mean why do we do that - but we do right? But when we're feeling elated or excited, we pick our favourite most upbeat song and boom - we're dancing on the clouds, overcome in bass, the drive of the song - the music becomes a drug and we get lost in the melody. It's kind of extremes I guess. 

I think teens are also very fickle when it comes to music - they can love a song for it's drive and not necessarily the lyrics but the beat is so good they don't care or the opposite is that  they become addicted to the story in the lyrics, the journey that artist has had, the message they are portraying. Many teens can take solace, hope, ambition, passion and much more from lyrics but we suit ourselves. I think the access to music now because of the internet is incredible as I have grown up with my parents extensive jazz, R&B, hip hop and soul collections - now you can get everything at the click of a button and I think that choice is everything. 

However, I think teenagers today are looking for substance with music artists, sure we can get access to dance and EDM music and its great, but when it comes to building that relationship with your audience and the artist, they want to see the journey, the origins, the substance, less of the manufactured pop product. I think - actually hope, when you can deliver that you can grow with your audience and have more longevity than that overnight dance record that ruled the summer sound for a season yet has no ownership from the artist and is forgotten by Christmas. 

Q: What is your go-to way of escaping the 'every day'? 

I guess I've always been fortunate in that I enjoy my own company as weird as that sounds, I think's it because I have so many ambitions so when I'm on my own, I'm either writing lyrics or listening to artists that inspire me or writing my blog. But let's face it - I'm one of four kids in a noisy house so just being at home surrounded by my eccentric and wonderful family is heaven for me. Both my parents work but when they come home from work and we cook dinner, dad will get on the piano almost immediately, I can't help but to sing along and Zac my 7 year old brother will be playing the bongo's - my mum and big sis will be talking fashion and Johnnie will be running around playing NCIS with his Nerf gun's!

Q: You mentioned in your Huffington Post interview that you believe teens today are a generation of "remarkable disruptors." - can you elaborate on that?

Yes it was the theme for Tedxteen in London this year and I just loved the idea of that. It means to disrupt in a positive way. It's about those teenagers who dare to break things up but for the better, those who are darling to be innovative and embrace change. It's a scary concept but when you actually discuss it and exchange ideas, you realise how many teenagers are desperate to embrace that notion but perhaps just need a little encouragement along the way. 

I must admit, since I started to get involved with Tedxteen in 2013 it really helped my confidence, simply to know that all these ambitions I had, were ok and that loads of teens felt the same way. So now, I just don't hold back and I think that's the idea - teenagers are really driving the change in the world right now and it's exciting. Nile Rodgers and We Are Family Foundation have really done an incredible job with Tedxteen - I do feel really lucky to be part of that. 

Q: You say that your mother is "so full or positive energy it's frightening." - WOW! That's inspiring to hear. So... Do you feel that the cliche of teens feeling embarrassed and unheard by their parent(s) is exaggerated or still the norm?

I'm not sure. I would say that I think many teenagers are perhaps too afraid to discuss their ambitions, dreams with their parents. Our lives are so busy and we are always doing stuff so its hard to find that time to really talk to your parents. My parents have always insisted that we sit down as a family every evening for dinner - even if they are late, it will always happen so we can share our day, discuss our dreams and listen to each other - and fight of course but hey what's a family dinner with 4 kids without the odd argument right? I think we as teenagers have to make a conscious effort to get our nose out of our phone and actually talk to our parents rather than live vicariously through other peoples lives on social media. 

The bottom line is that it's up to us as individual teenagers - we need to make things happen, we need to put in the time, the graft and my parents have taught me that and nurtured all those ideas in me. I genuinely feel that I would not be half the person I am today without my folks and I'm not embarrassed to say that. In fact a lot of the time I don't see my dad as a dad, I see him as my musical partner, my collaborator - part of my band if you like. We have crafted this great sound I think and that is part of the journey and my story. My mum is the rock - behind all the struggles, the trauma's always turning a negative into a positive and drawing in that energy. I really don't know how she does it - 4 kids, working mum and supporting me and you know what, even if she's feeling sick she will NEVER admit it. Being around her you can't help but feel lifted and drawn to that positive energy - it's magnetic. 

Q: I believe that every person has the ability to become a force to be reckoned with - the power within themselves to achieve something great. You have proven this in your life. Yet, before the first moment of 'validation' began you must have had many moments of mental torment (right?!). 

Of course - every day, all the time - that's all part of the journey, but my mum has taught me not to dwell on them as she believes they are all shaping our path - especially the bad stuff - the failures make us who we are. Every day is a school day, no matter how old you are. I get nervous all the time, and momentarily self doubt sets in but I have trained myself to believe that one can only do one's best. As long as you can actually say you have done you're best (i.e. practise, practise, practise) then that's all we can ask of ourselves - the rest is in the hands of the universe.

Q: How does it feel as a teen to think that you could become your own unique version of extraordinary? And what mental whirlwinds of hope vs. doubt did you go through? 

I honestly don't think I'm extraordinary as this hasn't been a gift, (well apart from us all being gifts from God), I have worked hard, I studied hard for all my exams, yes I did really well but that's because I put in the time. I believe that everyone has the potential to be extraordinary and part of that process is the hope vs doubt - it will always be there, it's what you take from it that counts. It's about persistence, it's about getting up when someone has put you down, it's about belief in your own goals no matter how long they take and I must say to learn to enjoy the journey. 


Now everyone, please join us in listening to this "remarkable disruptor" - RIGHT HERE.

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