17-year-old Melbourne singer Rachel Costanzo tells us about how she became a national sensation after a phone call changed her life.
What were your first memories of singing?
I remember at the age of around five or six years old I’d just be watching music video shows and the artists singing really inspired me and then I started taking music seriously when I was at the age of ten, eleven years old. I started to write songs on my piano and doing community festivals and paid gigs.
How did you get into festivals?
My mum sort of managed me by calling up local events. They were calling me back year after year, so I guess my name just got around.
Did you enjoy performing?
I loved it as it really freed me up and I could interact with the audience and get them excited for every song instead of being stuck behind a piano and guitar.
How did you receive your big break?
Last year I met Michael Paynter and we started writing songs together. He’s an Australian singer songwriter who was in the Top 16 of ‘The Voice’ last year and has worked with The Veronicas and Icehouse. He taught me how to write a good pop song and how the voice works. I really connected with music because of Michael’s love for pop which is my style.
How do you write a pop song?
What we did when writing ‘Blind Side’ was he produced the music, all the dance beats and everything. He’d strip it back on the piano or the guitar and we’d just try and sing as many different melodies and harmonies as we could and we’d record it on our phones. By the end of the day we had put lyrics to the melodies which became ‘Blind Side’.
Do you feel pretty proud to have created that?
Yes, definitely. It was so much fun. We had no idea we would end up creating a massive pop hit. It was great.
Did you ever think this might be a big deal?
When I first started in the studio it was crazy. I had never done that sort of thing before. I thought it was going to be completely different, like we’d start from scratch. But they were just so professional and they already had the beat ready and they had an idea of where we were going with the song. They read my mind.
Did you feel a bit intimated?
At first I did but then I just realised they were crazy Italians just like me. So we just connected. They’re really funny and they’re great to work with. They made me feel really comfortable.
What happened with Fox FM, what was the story there?
Well one of my best friends sisters called me up at 6 o’clock in the morning and was like “Call up Fox FM because all their computers are down, so they’re taking in music from independent artists.” So I called and was lucky enough to get through and I sent in my demo and kind of shocked them. They called me up the next morning for a proper interview and they debuted my single. It was a fluke, I guess!
Did that give you the big push you needed?
Yes, my Facebook and Twitter blew up and I got a lot more followers and recognition and also the Fifi and Jules show called me in to do a parody of the song ‘Royals’ by Lorde, it was a cat version though so I had to substitute the real version with cat lyrics. I got a lot of opportunities from it!
Have you made a music video?
Yes, its up on YouTube and has nearly twenty thousand hits. With my song now on the radio, it has been boosted a lot.
How does Michael Paynter manage you?
He does everything for me, he arranges my interviews – like this one – and takes control of everything I do right now and keeps my head straight. It’s good to have someone who knows every detail about the music industry and knows the rights and wrongs.
What’s your advice for other up and coming singers?
I’d say go and find a manager that you really connect with and do your research, otherwise they could take you for granted and take your money. Make sure they really understand you as an artist so they can help you as much as they can.
Did you have to build up a lot of courage to share your music?
No, not really. A lot of people would put me down at school when I first started putting covers up on YouTube. But I was strong about it, because I knew this was my passion.
Were people at school saying things about you being a singer?
Sometimes you don’t get that support from people at school because they may not like you or they’re kind of jealous that you’re going for it and all of that. But it pushed me to just follow my dreams, and made me a lot stronger. And that’s why I started to do a lot of writing.
Do you have any posters in your room and if so what are they?
No posters but I have a quote which says: “Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today.” That inspires me a fair bit.
Who are your musical heroes?
It’s a toss-up between Jessie J and the Script for me.
What’s the most played song on your iPod at the moment?
‘Burn’ by Ellie Goulding. It’s awesome.
What would your parents be surprised to learn about you?
When I’m out with friends I am really crazy, I like to be the clown.
If you could go back in time what’s one piece of advice you’d give yourself?
To not let people and their words affect you. Do what makes you happy and really go for your dreams.
What are your career goals for the next year?
My goal is to write more, like an album or an EP. Just perform heaps around Melbourne and really just build a fan base and inspire people.