Growing up can be hard, but growing up surrounded by the music industry can be even more challenging. Dylan Conrique, a 16-year-old singer, songwriter and actress, isn't blinded by the California glitz and the glam, though. In fact, she's much more interested right now in chill nights with her friends.
That's what her latest single, "After All," works to convey. While other girls are hungry for wild, late nights "up in the hills," Conrique just wants a slice of pizza to pass the time. But this decision-making process can be hard for any teen whose friends choose the former route. "Can't make up my mind," she sings of that FOMO. "Don't wanna miss out."
That push and pull feeling, be it towards going out or dating someone new, is one Conrique knows her fans will be able to relate to. She struggles with keeping her walls up and wondering if taking them down could result in something wonderful — a question she ponders over the laidback beat and catchy hook of "After All."
In its music video, we see this idea being played out alongside Conrique's acting skills. After finally deciding to go to her prom — a soft pink dress, blue cardigan and corsage to boot — she literally becomes her own prom date when she's stood up. Conrique takes to the streets of Los Angeles, coming to the conclusion that if something doesn't go her way, she'll do what she can to make the best of it.
PAPER caught up with Conrique to talk "After All," juggling the music industry as a teenager and what's next.
Does "After All" have anything to do with your own prom experience — or lack thereof — during the pandemic?
The idea around this song was about someone who has a hard time making decisions and figuring out what they really want, in relationships and other things in life. My co-writers had this idea to talk about prom, and I told them about how I hate wearing dresses [laughs]. We then added other ideas, like "what is a guy after all?," and that's where the back and forth of whether or not prom would be "wonderful" or "sucky' came from. In real life, I've never gone to a prom either, so it was cool getting to act out a bit of that process in the music video.
How do you think the music video further represents the track?
Since I've always been iffy about prom and school dances, because of the whole wearing a dress and getting dolled up thing, we wanted to represent that side of me in the music video. At the beginning of the video, I start out in that stereotypical girly prom look, where I obviously look uncomfortable, and then when I decide to make the night my own. I turned it into something I'd actually wear — more casual, edgy and fun. And the rest of the video and my surroundings showed that too, like ending up at the cool lookout spot over the city. Technically my prom date ditches me, but I don't let it bring me down, and that's what I want people to take away from the video and the song.
"This year I've been writing more closely to what I'm experiencing in my real life."
How do the song and accompanying visual fit in with your other music?
This year I've been writing more closely to what I'm experiencing in my real life. It's a bit more edgy and more mature than the Baby Blue EP, which I wrote when I was 14. My fans are growing up with me, and I think "After All" and my next songs really reflect that — what we're going through right now on a daily basis.
What are your plans for the future?
I just want to keep releasing a bunch of new music this year — songs that really represent where I am in my life right now and what my friends and listeners can relate to. A big goal of mine is to be able to perform live and go on tour, so I'm also focused on writing and releasing music that would be fun to perform on stage live too.
How do you juggle working on your maturity and growth as an artist, while still trying to be a teenager and enjoy those experiences?
Due to COVID-19, it's definitely been hard to experience normal teen life. Since I've mainly been in my house, I've had a lot of time to do Zoom sessions and work on my songwriting and music, in a way that's helped me discover my sound more. My friends and I have been doing a lot of virtual stuff together, like playing Xbox or Among Us. It's helped make things feel kinda normal. We definitely found new ways to stay connected online while we couldn't be together in person. But I'm super excited to be able to go back home and see friends later this year. Going back home was what inspired a lot of the writing on my first EP. It's one of the best ways for me to gain experiences to write about.
What is your songwriting process like, especially since you've started so young?
When I first started writing, it was normally about personal experiences. But now that I'm growing up, I can see things a bit differently. I've started to write about more complex issues or things that my friends and family have gone through. Especially since life hasn't been normal this year, I haven't had much to write about myself in terms of new events. So writing more about my feelings and other people has helped me stay creative.
Let's talk about your YouTube channel and why you chose to start your "Not So Secretly Dylan" series.
I wanted people to see who I really was, which comes off much more in real life or through videos. I'm also so passionate about music and this stage in my life that I wanted to show people that and all the work that I've been putting in behind the scenes with my music.
"I'm still discovering who I am as an artist and what my sound really is."
How are you working to shape your identity as an artist? Is it a work in progress?
It's more of a work in progress because I'm still discovering who I am as an artist and what my sound really is, which I feel much better about now. And I'm more confident with the music I have to release this year! I've also become a lot more open and honest online with my fans about my life and who I am behind the cameras, so everyone's getting to see the real me more both online and in my new music.
Ultimately, what do you want fans to take away from "After All"?
I hope what people take away from "After All" is the idea of "having your own prom." If something doesn't work out, like in my music video when my date doesn't pick me up for prom, you gotta make the best of it. In the video, I decided to not let it get me down and instead go have my own fun prom doing whatever I wanted, going on an adventure and wearing what I really wanted to — making the most of the night.
Stream "After All" by Dylan Conrique, below.
Photos courtesy of Lauren Dunn