We chatted with YouTuber, singer, and actress Megan Nicole ahead of her tour stop tonight at World Cafe Live Philadelphia.
You may not recognize her from award shows or magazine covers (yet), but singer Megan Nicole is actually one of the top YouTube music stars, out-subscribing big names like One Republic, Britney Spears, and Lorde. Nicole, 21, first made waves on YouTube in 2009 after uploading her cover of “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon, and followed it with plenty more wildly popular videos. Now, the Texas native has officially crossed over into the big-time, being named a winner of the 2015 YouTube Music Awards, starring in the new film Summer Forever, and headlining her own North American tour. Just a couple stops into the Sweet Dreams tour, we caught up with Nicole to chat about making it big on YouTube, her surprising dream collaboration, and why she’s excited to return to Philadelphia (tickets here).
You just kicked off your Sweet Dreams tour. Congratulations on that! MEGAN NICOLE: Thank you!
What can people who are going to the shows expect? MN: They can expect a lot of new original music. My ultimate goal when I go on stage is to make people smile and hopefully walk away knowing they had a great time that night.
Why did you decide to independently release your debut album, Escape? MN: I was signed to a major label for a couple of years and shortly after, when I went independent, I just wanted to get original music out there. It had been awhile since I had gotten the opportunity to share any of my own original songs, so I wanted people to have a piece of music they could listen to and get to know me and know who I am.
On tour, are you mostly performing songs from Escape, or are you going to do some of your covers you're famous for? MN: I will be playing the entire Escape EP, so I'm very excited about that. I’m also going to be sharing some new songs that I haven't released yet...[and] I’m throwing in some fun little covers as well. I'm excited because I’m doing this thing called karaoke roulette and I'm going to have a spinning wheel of different covers. I'm going to have someone come on stage and spin the wheel and we'll see what cover we play that night.
You made your debut on YouTube and gained tons of fans on the site. What was it like to rise in the ranks of the music industry via this new medium? MN: It’s still so crazy to me how YouTube and social media has become such a great platform to reach out to people and share your music, or whatever it is you’re passionate about. I’m so blessed that people connect to my videos and they share them and like them, and they’re the reason I get to do what I do each day. What I love most about it, though, is that you get a direct connection with your fans and your viewers.
Did you expect it to become this big for you when you started putting your videos on YouTube? MN: Oh no...when I first started posting videos, it wasn’t even a thing to be a YouTuber or to be Internet famous. It was just another platform to share my music on. Actually, my dad encouraged me to post my first video to YouTube, and I'm really glad he did. It’s definitely reached a lot further than the little restaurants and open mic nights and talent shows I was doing around Houston.
You were one of the 2015 YouTube Music Awards winners, alongside Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and One Direction. What does it feel like to be among the ranks of those huge artists? MN: It was honestly so surreal and such an honor to be a part of the YouTube Music Awards. Just the fact that artists that got their starts on YouTube are beginning to get recognition for their own original music...and be respected as artists is awesome. It’s really cool to see the way digital media and traditional media are starting to kind of combine and become one.
Who are some of your greatest inspirations in music? MN: I grew up listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder with my dad, so that’s one of my ultimate dream collabs—dream big! And... Taylor Swift and Katy Perry are just such great performers. They put on amazing live shows and are both really great with songwriting.
Your new film Summer Forever is coming out soon. Is acting something that was always on your radar? MN: Acting is something I always wanted to pursue. I was in theater classes in high school and I used to put on little performances for my parents and grew up seeing a lot of musicals, so to actually be in a musical is pretty surreal. The coolest thing about [it] is the fact that the movie was inspired by my song “Summer Forever,” and also the fact that it's a musical, so I...got to combine my love for music and acting into one project.
In the film, your character is pursuing a career in music. How similar is it to your own journey? MN: She definitely has a lot of big decisions to make similar to what I had, going between college and a record deal. I think we made different life decisions actually, but for the most part I think I relate to her the most through her passion for music and the fact that she loves her friends and family so much and is always encouraging everyone around her to pursue their dreams and chase after their dreams. And meanwhile, Sydney, my character, is a little scared to pursue her own and I think that's somewhere where we’re a little different. But she’s figuring it out along the way—we all are.
You’re stopping in Philadelphia this weekendfor your tour—have you ever been there? MN: Yes, I have. I’ve performed, I believe, once before in Philadelphia, maybe twice. That was almost two years ago I think. It's been a little while, so I’m excited to go back.
Did you get to explore the city at all while you were there? MN: I did one time. I came for a Halloween event and I got to just walk around the city. That was an interesting time to walk around the city. It was some interesting people watching.