Laura Marano Sees the Two Sides of Love with Alextbh on “Honest With You”

Love is a secret ingredient. It’s Laura Marano’s potion of choice on her upcoming EP, out in June.

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“Some of this music came at a crossroads in my life,” says Marano. “There were actually a few different crossroads, but one came from a breakup, and one came from falling in love again.” On the indie-pop “Honest With You,” featuring a duet with Alextbh, Marano explores the two sides to love, singing I hide behind the walls you can visit / That’s just my defense mechanism / You won’t ever hear what I’m thinking / But I might change my mind in a minute…

“Sometimes you get so focused on your story that you don’t think of the other person’s story, so I wanted to explore that aspect on this EP,” says Marano, “and continue with these duets, and having different artists give their interpretation of each song.”

Now in Australia through the summer filming a movie, Marano, who started her career on Disney Channel series Austin & Ally, which ran from 2011-2016, and released her debut EP, ME, in 2019 and YOU a year later, following some earlier releases in 2016, says there’s a definite on and off switch when it comes to acting and music.

“There are projects that are going to synergize both sides, like Austin & Ally, which was an acting project that involved music,” says Marano. “I’m always looking for opportunities where the two parts of myself can work together. There’s also this separation in how I approach being an actress and music.”

On the music side, Marano says she’s in charge of her destiny, having more creative control, while with acting—though she is also starting to produce—she’s still not 100 percent in control of her art.

“When I’m just focusing on music, I really try to focus on music as much as I can,” says Marano. “When I’m focusing on acting, I try to consistently keep talking to my music team and keep the ball rolling. I don’t get as much done on the music side when I’m focusing on acting, so there is a little bit of an on and off switch in my head. At the end of the day, they are two different full-time jobs, but they are two entities that are so part of me, and I can’t imagine my life without either one.”

So much has changed in the past decade since Marano, then a teen, starred on Austin & Ally. Now 25, she’s approaching her music, which she admits was her first love before acting, differently. 

“It’s fun to use the art, or the writing that you create, and see the growth within yourself and see where you were at, because it’s very symbolic of what stage of life you’re in,” says Marano, and jokes that her voice is much better now than her earlier 2016 demos. “I want to definitely re-record all that,” she says.

In writing sessions, the chorus or some other lyrical or melodic idea typically comes first for Marano. “It’s different every single time, which is part of why I love it,” she says. “You don’t know what to expect. There’s this idea for me, when I’m in the room with someone or when I’m writing by myself, that the song is out there, so our job as writers is to find the song instead of creating it.”

On “Honest With You,” Marano finds common ground. Writing the song with Alextbh within three days, the two ended up with opposite interpretations of the track. For Marano, it centered around coping with the pain of a breakup, while falling for someone else, and that vulnerability, while Alextbh’s take was completely different. “He looked at it as ‘I just broke up with someone, and I’m feeling really lonely, and I just want to be honest with someone,’” says Marano, “and finding that honesty with someone, because I’m so alone.”

Fueled in duets, Marano’s is a fresh approach to your basic love songs, and “Honest With You” is a glimpse into the artist’s own love affair with music and all its connective parts. Working with three directors across the globe—Johan Lindbrandt in Sweden, Los Angeles-based producer Andy Mac, and her boyfriend Thomas Macken in Australia—helped fill in the many textures of the new music.

“It was a really cool thing to collaborate with someone that I obviously feel so connected with and trust so much,” says Marano. “We reworked all the songs and made them all feel like me, and I feel like we definitely tell the same sonic story throughout the whole EP.”

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