story / Erica Russell
photography / Christopher Captain
styling / James Juarez
hair / Tanya Ramirez
A typical life was never in the cards for Lola Blanc. The singer-songwriter spent her early years growing up on a farm in Michigan alongside her motivational speaker/beauty queen mother, living a self-proclaimed “weirdo creative lifestyle” that involved ventriloquism, auctioneering, and magic shows.
This free-spirited exploration of creative expression eventually steered Blanc towards writing music. “I was obsessed with writing as a kid, but I was 9 when I started really writing pop songs,” she reminisces. “I remember watching the Spice Girls and other singers perform on TV and feeling completely sure that that was what my future needed to look like. There was no question. It was just, ‘Oh yeah, that’s obviously what I’m gonna do.’ That love for music took shape and dimension as I got older and learned about different genres, but I always knew.”
Unfortunately, dark times were ahead for the artist and her family who, at the time, practiced the Mormon faith. Blanc was only 12 when a charming man and future polygamist cult leader targeted her mother at a church dance in Utah. Blanc explains of the ordeal, “He was supposedly translating a lost scripture that Mormons believe will be revealed in the last days. I found his letters to her when I was snooping around one day, and then I believed in him too. He forced her to sleep with men and sent me and my brothers to live elsewhere. Eventually someone broke down and confessed, and then it was over. But he has a whole following now.”
After fleeing with her family, the then-teenage Blanc finished high school at home, and—looking to focus on her music—moved to L.A. when she turned 17. The harrowing effects of her experience in Utah, however, lingered in her subconscious: “I think at the time I thought it was no big deal. I thought we were just moving on, and I was going to be a pop star, and then none of it would matter. But my mom was extremely traumatized, understandably, and that was really hard for me. She was pretty disconnected for a while. I went through a period where I was cutting myself and at the time I saw no connection.”
As all wounds heal, eventually she began to reconcile with her emotions, turning deeper into music as an outlet. She bounced around the Los Angeles music scene for a few years, writing with various producers, appearing in some high profile music videos for other artists (LMFAO, Interpol), and even writing a single for Britney Spears (“Ooh La La”). But for Blanc, music has always been personal.
“I have a hard time writing about things that I don’t connect with personally, which doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m experiencing it right in that moment, but that it’s real and that it means something to me,” she reveals. “There some songs that are just fun to write, and that’s a little different, but even then I have to infuse something real about myself into it or it feels false. Like, who am I to tell this story? I love writing because I can express myself. For me, real life is full of pain and difficulties and darkness, and pretending it’s not is pointless, but it doesn’t have to define you. You can still have fun and be cheeky and find a place of hope. That dichotomy is something that’s really important to me.”
Without a label backing her up, Blanc began releasing her own original material online through 2013 and 2014, eventually grabbing the attention of Ryan Seacrest, Perez Hilton, YouTube star Michelle Phan, and other notable influencers and press, all the while her fan-base growing and spreading her brand of eccentric pop across social media. In early 2015, the artist released “Like Beyonce,” a catchy, hip-hop inspired banger that amalgamates all of her hardship and hope into one big pop anthem.
“It’s funny,” Blanc explains, “when I was writing it, there was a part of me that was almost resistant to the concept; that idea of being broke and not giving a fuck, because it was so real for me that it felt old and exhausted… But it was my life. I’ve gone through many, many long periods of eating nothing but cereal, not being able to pay my bills, having to leave apartments… but as long as I’m writing and working toward the shit I want to do, it’s never mattered. I know I’ll be fine. That song is the externalization of my reality as a starving artist.”
While the struggle is quite real for Lola Blanc in many senses, it’s also been quite extraordinary to her. For now, however, it’s the future that she is most focused on. She is currently working on putting the finishing touches on her debut EP, due out early 2016. It will be her “first real collection” of music and will have all kinds of video, art, and performance to accompany it. In the long-term, however, Blanc’s vision is a bit more ambitious.
“Let’s be honest. I want to write number one songs,” she admits, adding, “but I want to do it in a way that I can still be me as genuinely as possible, and express all the weird shit that’s [part of that]. Lofty, I know, but that’s what I want. And I’m gonna get it, damnit!”