ALEXA FRIEDMAN TELLS ALL ABOUT “MEANT TO BE” & INSPIRING OTHERS 43

While most teenagers are still trying to work out what it is they want to do with the rest of their lives, Alexa Friedman has been on her first of two career paths for several years, and recently embarked on a second. Perhaps best known for her roles such as the lead in the film Sarah Smile, the fourteen year old has now launched a music career, with her current single “Meant To Be” offering help and support to the many victims of bullying. TITL caught up with Alexa to chat favourite songs, social media and her involvement with the Make A Wish Foundation.

TITL: Please sum yourself up in three words for me.

Alexa Friedman: Believe in Dreams.

TITL: You’ve been in the spotlight now for several years and you’re still just a teenager. Being so young, how do you handle the pressures of Hollywood and fame?

AF: It can definitely get difficult sometimes. Kids at my school don’t really understand what I do or why I do it. I have been doing this since I was 5, so I guess I have just grown up to get used to it. School is my number one priority.

TITL: You’re perhaps best known as an actress and for your roles in projects such as Sarah Smile, so why did you decide that now was the right time for you to branch out into music?

AF: I love trying new things. I have been singing my whole life, but never taken it as a serious career choice for myself. I have always looked up to people who could easily perform on stage without even a second thought. I started singing as a confidence booster, to get used to being on stage and to go into more of the entertainment industry. I then met Estani Frizzell and my whole image changed. She helped me become who I am today and I wouldn’t be here without her.

TITL: Whose musical styles and influences would you say you’re most inspired by when it comes to creating and writing your own material?

AF: I love Taylor Swift’s style of music, but I also love Selena Gomez and her music. I love how they are both so attached to their followers and fans. They are a huge inspiration to me and I hope to be like them someday.

TITL: Tell me a little about your latest single “Meant To Be.” Is there a story behind it or is it written for/to anyone in particular?

AF: The song was written for me…it is very deep and personal to me. I have been severely bullied and still am today. Many people don’t understand what it is like to be told to give up, that you’ll never be anything. This song was made to show the people that they will not get to me, that they never will. I want this song to help someone who needs it. Even if it only helps one person, it’s all worth it.

TITL: In your opinion, which is the greatest song ever written and why? Which song always makes you feel good and which one can always make you cry?

AF: “Sorry Not Sorry” – the no swearing version – by Demi Lovato is an amazing song that can inspire anyone who has been told they are not valued. I tend to not listen to sad songs because I love staying strong and positive. Even if a song is sad, I try to find the beauty and message of the song. If song was about someone who was hurt, in writing that song, I know that it helped the writer, or whoever the song was about.

TITL: What impact would you say social media has had on your careers and how do you find using platforms such as Twitter and YouTube in both personal and professional terms?

AF: Social media platforms have made a huge impact on my career. It allows me to reach out to my followers and feel a personal connection with them. I want people to see the real me, not always the singer and actor. YouTube allows my music to reach around the globe. It’s really neat when I get comments from other parts of the world saying they love my songs and the messages. It makes me feel like I’m making a difference, even in the smallest of ways.

TITL: What do you most like to do with any down-time you get? Are there any particular places you like to vacation or are you more of a ‘stay at home, Netflix and chill’ kind of girl?

AF: I love to hang out with my friends. Shopping is a personal favorite of mine, but I also love staying home in my PJ’s and watch “Stranger Things” on repeat. My favorite place to visit is LA! It is definitely my second home, but my first choice to get away to. Oh yeah…playing with my dog Cinnamon is always a blast. She has tons of energy.

TITL: How did you get involved with the Make A Wish Foundation and what is it about the charity that means so much to you? 

AF: Make a Wish has been a part of my life since I was 7. I started a lemonade stand one day and made over $200. I knew I didn’t need the money so I asked my mom to search local charities because I wanted to give them the money. She read me a list and what they did. Make a Wish really hit me in my heart. I instantly knew that’s where I wanted to go and we drove there the next day. I wish more people dedicated their time to charity because we have so much to give. Unfortunately, because of my age, it does limit me on how much I can physically do. So, for now I just make financial donations. Once I’m 18, I can volunteer my time to make a larger impact. Why do some get opportunities and others don’t? Make A Wish has tried to change that.

TITL: With two growing careers already established, are there any other dreams or ambitions you want to fulfil? What’s currently on your bucket list?

AF: I am currently a finalist for Miss Teen New York. I hope to win and become a representative for New York in the Miss Teen USA pageants. I feel that I want to inspire young girls and boys to understand that they are not alone. Many people have family and life struggles. It takes connecting with the right people to overcome those issues. I want to bring light to bullying and cyber-bullying as they have affected a huge part of my life.

TITL: Finally then, what advice would you give to anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps and pursue a career in film and/or music? Is there any advice you’ve been given over the years that you tend to think back on?

AF: Do it! I believe anyone can do anything they put their minds to. If I can do it, anyone can. My favorite saying I always say is “Practice makes progress, because no one is perfect” So practice! Start in your community. Family is your biggest support group because they love you unconditionally. I believe in you! Don’t let others get in your head. It’s not an easy road. There are days that the rejection can really get to you. I wanted to quit a few years back because I wasn’t growing. My parents told me to keep trying and to not give up that easily. I trusted them and they were right. Without them I wouldn’t be here. So, listen to your family…they know what’s best for you!

Check out the video for “Meant To Be” below and to keep up to date with Alexa, you can follow her on Twitter. Header photo credit: Nirvana Studios Hollywood.

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ASTRA THE 22S CHAT ‘PARIS LOVE’ AND FUTURE PLANS 32

Inspired by an eclectic array of bands and artists including The Kills and Michael Jackson, Astra The 22s, led by Kerija Kaleja and Eric Jayk, have, in particular since the release of their EP, Paris Love, been impressing both fans and critics alike, on and off stage. Kerija and Eric spoke to ThisIsTheLatest and told us all about artistic influences, their dream show line up and what the future has in store.

TITL: How did the two of you first meet?

Eric: We met in 2011, when Kerija moved to Brooklyn and went on Craigslist to search for a guitar teacher nearby.

TITL: What would each of you say the other brings to the group?

Kerija: Eric brings his whole being into the writing and producing part – I think he is a genius

E: Kerija keeps me from overthinking, while inspiring me with her one of a kind perspective and lyrical/melodic sensibility; she encourages me to stretch beyond the obvious and conventional approach sonically and to use my imagination.

TITL: Can you recall exactly the moment you knew you wanted to make music your careers?

K: I have always wanted to do something that is connected with performing and I was always singing in front of people whether they wanted to hear me or not hah it is just that thing you have in you and it just makes you want to do this..

E: I remember I got MTV as a child and discovered Aerosmith and Guns ‘n’ Roses. I started playing professionally at age 11.

TITL: Which artists and bands most influenced you growing up and have those influences changed much over the years?

K: I grew up in 90’s Latvia and the country was just rehabilitating from the Soviet Union years, so there was not much to choose from or even know about in terms of what was current in the world at the time. I listened to Ace Of Base, Michael Jackson, Louis Armstrong and very eclectic music…

In recent, years I have really loved The White Stripes, Jack White, The Kills, Prince, David Bowie, Blondie, Aerosmith , Guns n Roses , Def Leppard and many more

E: The first four albums I owned were Michael Jackson ‘Thriller,’ Prince ‘Purple Rain,’ GNR ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ and Motley Crue ‘Dr, Feelgood.’ My mom introduced me to The Rolling Stones, and was a big fan of Rod Stewart and Tina Turner. Later, I went to music school where I studied jazz and classical music and discovered The Cure; punk rock. I then rediscovered my love of rock ‘n roll. It’s always been a love/hate relationship with me and rock music.

TITL: Which band or artist would you say you sound the most similar to?

K: Oh it is so hard to say! Actually I am not sure at all; I feel like currently there are not enough female fronted bands to compare us to so I will say Blondie.

TITL: Kerija, how, if at all, have your Latvian background impacted/influenced the music you create now?

K: Music is universal, so if it is good it is good everywhere, I feel like maybe the song messages have something to do with the Latvian background more because sometimes it can get too serious or sad..hah maybe the minor keys hah

TITL: You’ve won a lot of new fans thanks to your single “Stranger”. Is there a story behind it?

E: Stranger is a powerful, empowering and anthemic call to freedom and individuality. If you find the strength and confidence to be yourself, you will overcome the demands of school, society, pressure from your family or lovers. We are all beautiful, remarkable and brilliant, love yourself and don’t let anyone persuade you into thinking that you are not good enough.

TITL: The track is taken from your EP Paris Love. For those who haven’t heard it, how would you sum it up?

E: Eccentric, beautiful, dark.

TITL: Could you each pick your favourite track from the collection and if so, which is it and why?

K: Oh that’s hard but I would say “Stranger” and or the title track, “Paris Love.”

E: “What U Do 2 Me” because it’s autobiographical.

TITL: Who or what most influences your song-writing and how easy or hard do you find the process of putting a song together?

E: Everything is an inspiration, ones’ mood and state of mind, music, art, friends, people’s lives, and one’s own life as well. Each song is different: some come fast and easy some need a lot of love. In reality, melody and lyrics can come in five minutes, but to make the song real and great can sometimes take months.

TITL: In your opinion, what makes a song truly great?

K: A truly great song is not complicated and has a great hook and a great melody.

E: I only like songs I write – just kidding!

TITL: Which venue would you most like to play and which four bands or artists, who can be living or dead, would you most like to share that stage with?

E: Jack White, David Bowie, Def Leppard, AC/DC -with Brian Johnson – at Castle Donington.

TITL: How has/does social media impact your career and do you think you’d have the support you do without it?

E: Social media is a wonderful tool to reach out to people and fans all around the world and to have one’s message out there in matter of seconds, however; sometimes it can get in the way; all we really want to do is make music or perform.

TITL: Finally then, are there any other plans in the pipeline you can tell me about? What does the coming year have in store for you?

E: We’re going to continue writing new music, play more shows and take over the world.

For more information on Astra The 22s, give their page a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Their EP Paris Love is available now.

EMILY BECKER TELLS ALL ABOUT HER POP PUNK COLORING BOOKS 38

Music has always been a source of inspiration for millions around the world and for Emily Becker, having discovered alternative music as a teenager, it has helped inspire her to create the Pop Punk Coloring Book, now into its second volume, featuring some of her favourite bands and artists including Blink 182 and All Time Low. ThisIsTheLatest chatted with Emily to find out more about her artistic background, her thoughts on mindfulness and plans for volume 3.

TITL: Please introduce yourself.

Emily Becker: Hi, my name is Emily Becker and I’m the creator and illustrator of the Pop Punk Coloring Book, volumes 1 and 2.

TITL: Where did your idea for BeckerBelieveIt Media come from? 

EB: I think in high school I really wanted to have my own business cards, so I kept creating new companies and printing out business cards at school; fortunately for me, my teachers were incredibly lenient when it came to my business schemes! After realizing how many different areas I wanted to encompass in my life, art, photography, writing, and eventually video, I decided to put them all under one umbrella as BeckerBelieveIt Media.

TITL: You’ve clearly got a passion for art, and studied fine art at NYU, but what ultimately made you decide to use your talents to create these books?

EB: I was honestly a little dissatisfied with the limits of fine arts – I had gotten really into comic books and illustration and was told several times that those weren’t technically “fine arts,” I actually did a portrait of Frank Iero as a final project in an oil painting class just as an act of sheer frustration. I wanted to take the music-related doodles that were never able to make it out of my sketchbook and turn them into something I could share. And my artistic abilities actually improved as I did this – there’s a clear difference in my skill level between the first and second book.

TITL: It has been argued that art, in its many forms, is something that more of the older generations are interested in. To what extent, if any, do you believe that to be true and how would you say artists such as yourself are working at changing such perceptions?

EB: I think that as soon as something can be consumed by the masses, there’s a sense of elitism that begins to take hold of the community. Graphic design, cartoons, these are still artforms, but since they can now be easily accessed by anyone, it’s easy to dismiss it as not being highbrow enough to count as “art.” I think maybe this generation doesn’t realize how much art we actually consume on a daily basis just by going about our day-to-day lives, and this is where we get the idea that “art,” at least in its traditional connotation, isn’t as important as it once was.

TITL: Colouring is a major staple of mindfulness techniques these days. Was that something you had in mind during the creative process or something that just sprung up at the same time?

EB: I hate admitting this, but I am terrible with mindfulness practices. I have an incredibly short attention span so things like meditation and those really gorgeous mandala coloring books aren’t much on my radar. The Pop Punk Coloring Book was more of a way for me to produce something that others could enjoy with the skill set that I already had; I tend to think of it as fun first and psychologically beneficial maybe third or fourth.

TITL: What is it about the alternative music scene that led you to put bands who are a part of it very much at the forefront of what you do? Did you grow up listening to such bands and artists?

EB: I started listening to alternative music when I was around 16 – up until then I hadn’t really paid attention to music because I was a “visual arts kids”. I saw a My Chemical Romance video on MTV one day, and the graphic power and art direction had me so captivated that I fell down a hole of their videos, which turned into an obsession with the songs they were made to represent.

TITL: Your colouring books have been praised by both Rock Sound and Alternative Press, but who/which outlet would you most love to see compliment your work? Have any of the bands and artists you’ve featured said anything about it?

EB: I think Alt Press really was the ultimate for me, because that was the magazine that introduced me to so many of the bands that are featured in the books. Buzzfeed UK mentioned the first book in a listicle about two years ago and I literally walked out of a drawing class so I could call my mother. As far as bands go, Patent Pending have taken notice of the book, and they’re super supportive; Joe’s wife Dana was one of the first people to order a copy of the second book.

TITL: The second edition features the likes of Blink 182, All Time Low and Simple Plan among others. Have you already started thinking about who you might include in a third edition?

EB: I’m actually wondering if I’ll have to rename the book for the next volume! Volume Two included a lot of bands that aren’t traditionally considered pop punk, and I’d like to include some heavier bands like Of Mice & Men and Bring Me The Horizon.

TITL: Finally then, what advice would you give to anyone looking to follow a creative path such as yours? Is there anything you were once told that you still reflect on today?

EB: My high school history teacher once told me that “good enough” is more important than perfect. I look back on some of my old art, whether the coloring book or even portfolio submissions from when I applied to art school, and I think, “what was I doing, how did I think that was good?” But they weren’t meant to be perfect pieces of art, they were just supposed to be good enough to make people happy and teach me how to do better next time. I think if I had been striving for objective perfection the first book wouldn’t even be out yet – I’d rather create multiple works that people can enjoy over the span of my career than have one perfect work of art when I retire.

You can find out more about Emily and BeckerBelieveIt Media by visiting her website, liking her page on Facebook or following her on Twitter. The Pop Punk Coloring Book Volume 2 is available now in both physical and digital editions.