Fashion comes in cycles – and music does, to a point. We get inspired by something nostalgic, or wonder why artists don’t play a certain way anymore, and attempt to recreate that in a modern context.
With the late-1990s and 2000s now receiving their revival, Caroline Romano is exploring and adding her spin to pop-punk – a product of an era that saw Green Day and The Offspring reach their peak, introduced us to New Found Glory and Good Charlotte, and paved the way for emo acts like Fall Out Boy midway through the decade.
Romano’s been crafting her career for the past five years, releasing her debut single “Masterpiece” in 2016 at the age of 15. She followed this with “Ready” – which reached No. 3 on Radio Disney’s Top 30 chart. In 2020, she scored another hit – this time on the Billboard Dance Chart – with “I Still Remember,” an alt-pop inflected collaboration with in-demand producer R3hab. This year, “PDA of the Mainstream” built off these sounds while showcasing Romano as a solo artist.
Continuing this momentum, Romano released “The Hypothetical” recently, a catchy, brash tune about being obsessed with one’s crush to the point of psychosis. Her lyrics comparing this relationship to the supposed idyllic reality of Barbie and Ken get joined by distorted guitars and prominent percussion.
Looking to capture the highs and lows of today’s youth, Romano spoke with us about her latest single and her rapidly rising career.
What inspired you to write “The Hypothetical”?
A lot of the inspiration for “The Hypothetical” came from my fascination with the worlds that exist solely inside our heads. We build futures and romances and beautiful things in our brains, and we dream about all of our “what ifs.” I spend a lot of time in my head, so I’m very acquainted with my own version of the hypothetical.
I wrote the song with my friends Michael and Chuckie Aiello, and they are well aware of my aversion to reality. Michael came in with the line “I wanna live in a hypothetical world,” and things took off from there. Writing this song was seriously addicting, as nothing was off-limits. We made the whole world hot pink, and reality didn’t apply. Everything was strictly hypothetical.
How did you get started with music and songwriting?
Music has always played a key role in my life. I can’t remember a time where it wasn’t my favorite thing to do. There was always some song I was obsessed with, and there was always some sort of show I was putting on for my parents. I was a very shy, quiet kid, and I’m still a very shy and introverted person naturally. However, music has always been the thing to tear my walls down. Inhibitions didn’t exist when music was involved, and I guess that’s how I realized it’s what I wanted to do with my life.
I started writing songs when I was around twelve and thirteen years old. Those were particularly difficult years at school for me, and I didn’t have many friends. I began journaling every day after I got home from school, in the form of little poems or stanzas. Eventually, I started putting my journal entries to guitar, and there was songwriting. I was instantly in love with the combination of words and feelings and notes that I could create. It was magic to me.
I asked my parents to take me to Nashville when I was thirteen to play my songs around open mic nights in the city. It’s all somewhat of a blur from there, but I’m very proud of how far I’ve come on this journey.
Your first release “Masterpiece” dropped when you were 15. How have you evolved as an artist since then?
I feel like I am exactly the same, but also nothing like the artist I was when I was 15. I’m exactly the same because, like when I was 15, I know exactly who I am. I know exactly what my dreams are, and I knew the same back then. I’ve always been somewhat of an “all or nothing” person, and when it comes to music, it’s always been “all.”
That hasn’t changed, and I don’t think it ever will. I’ll always have this dream, and I’ll always give it my all, just like I did 4 years ago. However, I’m also nothing like that 15-year-old artist in the sense that my songwriting is worlds different. Songwriting has become more like breathing to me now. I don’t have to think about it so much.
I don’t have to try so hard. It just happens. Writing when I was 15 was definitely a lot more methodical than it is now. I’m also much more confident and bold as an artist today than I was back then. I’m more aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and I’m not afraid to be fully and utterly me in my songwriting, performances, and day-to-day.
Your sound leans toward pop-punk: How would you describe your sound?
I would definitely describe my current sound as pop-punk. It’s a genre I’ve loved, written, and listened to since I was a kid, though it’s only recently I made the move to start releasing my own version of it. I love the passion of this genre. Anger and love and peace and joy intertwine and are sung about interchangeably in the punk space, and I’m fascinated with it.
I’ve never been much for categorizing sound, as every song I write feels like it belongs to its own. However, the pop-punk world has always felt very natural for me. There’s so much emotion involved in it, and I’m all for making a show of things.
Who or what inspires you as an artist?
I find the inspiration to be an artist in too many things to articulate. The world was made to be written about. When I find someone who I think sees the world in the same way I do, and they’re able to use words and syllables to say exactly that, I feel so many things. Noah Kahan, C.S. Lewis, Taylor Swift, Freddie Mercury, Bo Burnham, Yungblud, Jon Bellion, and countless others are able to say what I’ve been trying to say my entire life.
How can I not at least try to put the way I see things into words and music and performance, in the hopes that some kid might find comfort in the words I write, just as I’ve found comfort in words written by others? The innate desire to create is the most powerful thing I know. I don’t think I have any choice but to be an artist.
“The Hypothetical” comes off the heels of “PDA of the Mainstream”: Are you planning to release an album or EP sometime in the future?
Yes! A collection of music is on its way by the start of the new year, and I am beyond excited. It’s been a goal of mine since I was a kid to put out an album, and I cannot wait until the day my first one is out.
These days, how do you go about writing a song?
Writing songs is a different process nearly every time it happens, and I think it will always be that way for me. Sometimes I write a poem, and a melody for it will come to me in the middle of the night. Sometimes I sit down with a specific feeling or concept in mind that I want to write about, and I’ll write to a piano, guitar, or track. Other times I go to co-writes and collaborate with friends and people I love on songs. Lately, my writing has felt a lot like word vomit.
I’ll sit down and just write every thought, feeling, or emotion that comes to mind, sort of like a stream of consciousness. Songwriting is an unpredictable beast and that’s part of why I love it so much.
You also worked with R3HAB on “I Still Remember”: What was it like collaborating with another artist, especially someone with a significantly different sound?
Collaborating with R3HAB on “I Still Remember” has been one of the coolest experiences of my career thus far. It was a really interesting process, especially since a majority of it took place over the height of quarantine, while we were in different parts of the world. I had actually written “I Still Remember” with some friends of mine back in 2018, but I’d decided to hold it for the right time since I really loved the song. The right time definitely came when we were able to present the song to R3HAB.
I’ve been a longtime fan of his sound, as well as the dance music space, so the collaboration process was a lot of fun. At the end of the day, music is music, and every sound/style blends into one another at some point. I think writing and collaborating with artists from different musical perspectives and genres can actually produce some of the best work!
Do you have any more releases planned for the remainder of 2021?
2021 is the year of the release! I’m putting out new music every six weeks, leading up to the release of the album at the beginning of the new year. It’s a lot of music, and it’s going to be very loud.