INTERVIEW: Lani Renaldo gets personal, discussing her mental health, inspiration for new single and much more

As a passionate pop artist who connects deeply with listeners, Lani Renaldo is courageous in voicing her most intimate thoughts and fears.

Her new melancholy single “Trainwreck” does exactly just that. Detailing the difficulties in overcoming anxiety that comes with overachievement, Renaldo understands all too well the hazards of placing success before happiness. This sullen, laid-back song has a different vibe from “Love Games”, Renaldo’s last offering which sonically fused pop and R&B. The lofi pop rock tune suits her though with emotive vocals and minimal production orchestrating the backdrop for her poignant narration of distress.  “Trainwreck” is from her highly awaited EP NOHEARTBREAK2020 that touches on candid themes such as coming to age, embracing one’s own sexuality and overcoming mental health issues. With this upcoming release her hope is to inspire others to be their most authentic selves, no matter how uncomfortable that may be. Culture Collide spoke with Lani Renaldo discussing her new single, sonic transformation and more.    

Your latest single “Trainwreck” narrates your personal struggle with panic disorder and the pressures of society that weigh us down. How has that disorder affected you and what coping mechanisms do you use in your daily life to manage it?

It’s definitely not fun. Any kind of anxiety or mental illness can come with moments that are extremely challenging. Stressful situations, particularly releasing music can set me into a spiral of fear, expectation, and pressure. The biggest thing I’ve been working on is learning to express my needs and to ask for help. I can’t control outside situations, people or things but I can work on the way I process and understand my emotions. I think therapy and medication can be really great options but I’ve also been focusing on little day-to-day things like meditating (shoutout to the Headspace app), working out, eating clean foods, getting enough sleep and really prioritizing my wellbeing.

The emotive track possesses a very grungy, garage-pop sound which is a contrast to your more upbeat pop songs like “Love Games.” What prompted this musical evolution?

I think you always have to serve the song. Sometimes I am worried about genre and having a cohesive sound throughout my projects, but then I realize that so many people jump from genre to genre and no one seems to care as long as the track is hot. So, I think that the evolution was necessary for this song. When I was writing it, I originally started with the guitar parts and they just weren’t going to fit within the really rigid structure of electro or commercial pop. It was SO obviously a rock song to me and that direction naturally felt the best.

“Trainwreck” is off your upcoming EP NOHEARTBREAK2020 which examines being in your 20s and accepting where you are in your life. What was your creative process in constructing the EP?

I try to write as many songs as possible and then see if there’s a through-line. I started working on this right as I was finishing my last EP, “Fake Happy,”  because I’m always onto the next project lol – at the time, I didn’t have a subject matter in mind. I spent a few days in Joshua Tree to focus on making new tracks and I think the conversations and songs that came out of that retreat really helped shape the narrative. I had that lightbulb moment. So, when I came back to LA,  I looked back on the songs I had been writing. Regardless of the specific lyrics, they all had themes of growing up, self-doubt, and self-acceptance. I wanted to dig into these last really formative years of young adulthood as I continue to find and step into my place.

I understand you are not only an artist, but also a producer and multi-instrumentalist. How have you been able to hone in on these many skills?

Music has always been everything to me. I grew up with music constantly in my house and started learning the drums at age 3. I also idolized so many musicians across the board whether that was Stevie Wonder on keyboards, Prince on guitar or Marcus Miller on bass. I wanted to be like those guys so I kept practicing and kept playing. When it comes to producing my own music, it came as a result of necessity. I really wanted to be able to shape my sound and have full control over the way it came to life. As an artist, it’s important to me to know how to interact with other people in the industry (learning the lingo as a form of respect and to be able to communicate most effectively).. It has helped me really hone in on my sound and learn to create and articulate what I like, don’t like, the design of the sound. I also have a hard time being told how I should sound!! (I’m a Libra)

As one of only six songwriters chosen to attend Grammy Camp in 2012, that was not an easy feat. Can you tell our readers what that experience was like and how it has shaped your career?

It was absolutely incredible and still a moment that I hold really close to my heart. It was the first time where I met other kids my age that were actively pursuing music and when I went, it was the first time that I really thought I could have a career in music. It sort of felt like my high school of music in the sense that I went during really formative years. It was a great foundation for me to navigate my footing at the time and start to collaborate with other people. I had my first love there and that completely sent me on a trajectory of writing really shitty songs…so I could eventually write better ones.

You have achieved so much in your career like performing with major names such as Alessia Cara and Halsey. What do you attribute your success to?

There’s still so much I want to do! I think a huge part of it is seriously being in the right place at the right time…but even so much of THAT is preparing yourself to be in those moments and having the ability to maximize those opportunities. I’m a risk taker and try to put myself out there as much as possible. I’ve worked really hard to get to a point where I firmly believe in myself and really love what I’m creating. Perseverance is the greatest tool. Lastly, while I’ve been super lucky to have some successes, I’m never solely striving for the deal or the show or the contract. Especially as I’ve gotten a bit older, I’ve really shifted my mentality into just loving what I do and trying to create the best art possible…as corny as that sounds. I think people are drawn to authenticity and that goes farther than only wanting fame and money.

Finally, what is on your playlist? 

“WAP” has been the most heavily played song in my rotation!! I’ve also been listening to Troye Sivan, “Stud”  – also really love Jaden’s latest, “Cabin Fever.” Really into the Canadian band, Valley, and their latest “Nevermind.” Something that has been really important to me in the midst of the racism going on in the world is finding other black artists within the pop sphere, I’ve really been digging KYE, Bronze Avery, Mila Jam and Elliott Trent.