all the things that could go wrong: Johnny Orlando on his early start in the music industry and his upcoming album
If you’re familiar at all with the rise of Internet stars and viral videos in the early 2010s, you may remember an eight-year-old YouTuber’s viral cover of ‘Mistletoe’ back in 2011. Now 19 years old, Johnny Orlando has spent most of his life in the music industry and has become well-established. He has dedicated the past decade to building upon his initial success in 2011, touring and releasing several EPs and singles that have earned him a dedicated fanbase. Over the years, his music has developed alongside his life journey. His upcoming album highlights all the things that could go wrong, revealing how Orlando has come into his own as an entertainer and artist.
Hailing from Ontario, Canada, Johnny Orlando first began his career in music on YouTube. At just eight years old, Orlando’s covers of popular songs by artists like Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes drew the world’s attention, eventually earning him over 4 million subscribers. Since his start creating popular covers, Johnny has shifted towards releasing his music, dropping his first debut EP Vxiixi in 2015 and his major label debut EP Teenage Fever in 2019. His collaboration with kenzie, “What If (I Told You I Like You),” became a viral audio on TikTok and has been used in almost 12 million videos. In addition to his success on the internet and across social media, Orlando has also been nominated for the Juno Awards. He has been recognized by major publications such as Teen Vogue, Billboard, and Variety.
Orlando’s new record, all the things that could go wrong, drops this summer on August 19 with Universal Music Group. The album marks a growing shift in Orlando’s career as he redefines his identity as an artist. Working together with his sister, Darian Orlando, Johnny Orlando has masterfully created a breathtaking body of work with vulnerable lyrics and gorgeous vocals. To date, he has released three singles from the album: ‘someone will love you better,’ ‘blur,’ and ‘leave the light on.’ Johnny Orlando has also released stunning music videos for both ‘someone will love you better’ and ‘blur.’ Another collaboration with Darian Orlando, each video is a mesmerizingly cinematic visual that paints a dystopian scene that draws viewers in and has them anticipating future videos.
As the release of all the things that could go wrong draws near, we sat down with Johnny to learn more about his inspirations for the record and his future aspirations.
The Orlandos are a very creative family. From podcasts to music to video projects, you and your sisters have produced a lot of media that people enjoy. What has it been like to grow up in such an environment and to have started your career so early on? It’s been pretty great. I honestly couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve now been doing this for so long and started so young that I don’t think I know how to do anything else. There’s just so much action in this industry that it’s messed up my perception of what work is. A hundred exciting things happen per day which just isn’t the reality for most people in their jobs. I’m just so grateful I’m able to do this every day.
Your career began on YouTube with covers of popular songs, eventually featuring your own singles. What have you learned about creating music along the way? The biggest thing I’ve learned is to unlearn everything I think I’ve learned. You definitely are able to come up with more complex, more beautiful, more impactful melodies and lyrics as you practice but all of it is very natural. I think the second you turn a creative process into something that involves statistics and historical data of what has worked before is the second that your songs start to sound like a robot wrote them. There are a lot of well written, well produced songs that are mediocre overall because they’re missing that little intangible thing that makes a great song.
You have written much of your music together with your sister Darian who has also worked with you to direct your music videos. How does the collaborative process usually work between the two of you? It’s very collaborative, with little room for ego, which I feel like is probably how most successful partnerships work. No matter how good you are, you’ll never think of everything so it’s really nice to work with someone as talented as Dar. It just enhances the product. The best melodies or ideas or whatever always happen for us when someone has a great idea, and then someone else tweaks it.
What has been your favorite project that you have created to date, music-related or non-music related, and why? I have a problem with starting things, learning a lot and then never finishing it, so I would have to say the album. I was half-expecting us to just end up making another EP because there wouldn’t be 12 songs that we were happy with, but the fact that we stuck it out and created this thing is something I’m so proud of.
You have grown so much as a performer and as an artist since you first began your career on YouTube over a decade ago. How does your upcoming album, all the things that could go wrong represent this evolution? It’s just the best stuff that I’ve made to date. If you go back and listen you can kinda hear what I was trying to do on the old stuff, all of it is just like a half-baked, more poppy version of the album. I love a fusion between R&B and pop, and I also like making people cry and keeping it super acoustic. The album is a reflection of that and everything else I’ve learned about myself since I started music.
What was the most challenging part of creating this album? Knowing when to stop was definitely the hardest part for me. We did probably close to a hundred sessions before we called it and started mixing, but even through the mixing and mastering process, and even now, we’re continuing to do more sessions. We improve with every song we make so it’s hard to look at the album now and not think “wow I wish I could just tweak that little thing” or add a song or something. As for the actual writing, we kind of just let it happen and try not to force anything so that part is easy.
You dropped two singles this year from the album: ‘someone will love you better’ and most recently ‘blur’. These two tracks give us a glimpse into your album, and its pensive tone, addressing topics such as unrequited love and social anxiety. What have you learned about yourself through the process of making this album? I wouldn’t say I learned a ton about myself while making it, rather the album is a product of the things I’ve learned about myself. That being said, there have definitely been times where I’m in a session dissecting something that happened so I can write about it, and I realize wow that was kind of bad of me or the other person. My music is almost always a product of how I’m feeling in that exact moment.
At the end of the day, what keeps you inspired and motivates you to keep creating? I honestly just love it. Everything about it. I’ve always liked making things, and I’ve always loved the feeling of getting better at something. As an artist, getting better means capturing more and more people, as well as enjoying listening to yourself. I’ve always loved music in general so it’s cool to me that if I want a certain song to exist, I can just make it. I’ve always also kinda liked attention which is basically a prerequisite to being an artist so this is my ideal job (that is a joke).
What do you hope to do next? What does Johnny Orlando in 2030 look like? I’m realizing I probably want to start a record label. Also, hopefully he’s handsome.
The definition of ‘Contrast’ is to be strikingly different. What makes you strikingly different? I think everyone is strikingly different as a rule.
There are definitely similarities between people, and you could definitely draw comparisons between myself and my inspirations in music, and you could definitely say “oh his voice kinda sounds like Bieber” but I think for two people to be without contrast they would have to have had identical nature and nurture. The difference between the most popular, most trendsetting artists in the world and everyone else is that they aren’t afraid to believe in their ideas. It sounds simple but it took me literally 4 years of being signed to my label to be able to tell them what I wanted and who I wanted to be.
I think everyone is unique and has the potential to set trends and break barriers, but we aren’t encouraged to do so in the regular flow of life. I actually really liked school, but it didn’t exactly teach me to unapologetically be myself and stand up for what I believe in. You are either that kind of person naturally, or you have to acquire that quality, and it’s not easy.
Other people telling you what your brand should be doesn’t work, and playing a role in a disingenuous manner also doesn’t work. If you aren’t a Daft Punk type character where there’s a very clear vision, or you aren’t yourself, it won’t work. Either people will find out and lose respect for you, or you’ll implode because you’ll lose your sense of identity.
Believe in your ideas and I promise you’ll be as strikingly different as the people you look up to.
Talent: Johnny Orlando
Production and Creative Direction by Tyler Kenny
Agent: Ashlee Cooper.
Agent: Laura Hernandez.