Loren Gray is already a bona fide star, boasting more than 15 million followers on Instagram and signed to Capitol Records. But with her latest single “Queen” and the release of its equally-royal music video, Gray’s fans expect 2019 to be the 16-year-old singer’s biggest year yet.
As she begins that breakout year, Gray caught up with TRL about how she’s empowering her fans (and herself) with “Queen,” having a vision come to life with the song’s music video (which you can watch below), and going back in time to share advice with her 11-year-old self.
TRL: In the “Queen” video, you’re truly royalty, from the lyrics to the wardrobe. What was it like for you to act out this royal fantasy?
Gray: It was awesome! Honestly, I’ve never been dressed up like that; it was a crazy experience. I helped with the [music video] treatment and it was my vision, so to have it actually come to life was insane.
TRL: Did you have that vision for the video as soon as you recorded the song, or did you develop that later?
Gray: I definitely had an idea, especially when I heard the track. It’s such a dark and epic-sounding song, and I wanted that to reflect in the video. I wrote the treatment a few months after I wrote the song, but I definitely knew what I wanted back when I was writing it.
TRL: Absolutely! The music video was directed by Ariel Michelle; you posted on Instagram about the importance of having such a talented woman direct the visuals for “Queen.” What was it like to work with Ariel on this project?
Gray: I definitely wanted a woman to direct the video because this song is such a female-empowering song, so that was really important to me. Her vision was exactly what I wanted and it came out amazing. This music video was a big deal for me, as it was for Ariel, so it was a really special experience.
TRL: And with yours and Ariel’s visions combined, what do you hope your fans feel when they watch the “Queen” video and listen to the song?
Gray: I hope they feel empowered! I mean, that’s why I wrote the song. I wrote it at a time when I needed a boost of confidence and the video’s a kind of fantasy, right? It’s not realistic, but it’s very empowering.
A lot of people have even tweeted me saying “This is my anthem!” or realizing “This boy is treating me not how I should be treated.” It can open people’s eyes to how they do deserve respect in a relationship. In any kind of relationship or friendship, you deserve the most respect – and deserve to be treated like a queen!
TRL: Of course! I know you also posted behind-the-scenes footage of how you had to sing at double the speed while filming the slow motion scenes. Was that a difficult thing to get right on set?
Gray: Actually, I was surprised at how well I did with that! It was crazy, it was so fast. At first, they wanted me to do it at one-and-a-half speed, and then they asked, do you think you could do it double speed? I was like, um, let me hear it! They played it, and I gave it a try and it worked out!
I love the way that Ariel had that idea to contrast the slow-mo and the real-time footage. It was really dope and I love the way it came out.
TRL: It looks like “Queen” has now become your most-viewed music video to date! How have you felt about the reception to it thus far?
Gray: It was so amazing, because I put so much work into this video and so did everyone else on set. It’s truly the first music video that I’ve done that I was so, so excited for. I did another music video and I was excited for that one, but this one was on another level because it meant a lot to me.
I’m so glad that everyone’s enjoying it as much as I did when I first saw the video. I was actually in the studio with the producers who helped make “Queen” when we first all watched it together, and we were all blown away. It was exactly what I wanted, and everyone’s been tweeting me about it. The fact that it’s still growing is insane.
TRL: You’ve also said – and your fans have said – that this is your year. What else do you have in store for 2019?
Gray: Well, I definitely have quite a few songs dropping before March. There are some projects that I’ve been working on for a while, so I’m super excited for that. And an album at some point this year is the goal!
You know, music kind of works in a funny way where you just go with the flow. Whatever happens, happens. Sometimes you don’t have good music to put out and sometimes you do. And right now, I’m at the point where I have so much amazing music and I’ve worked with so many amazing people! I have so many things coming out that I’m so excited for.
TRL: Before you embark on the rest of your 2019, if you could go back five years, what would you tell 11-year-old Loren about what’s in store for her future?
Gray: Oh my gosh. I would tell myself to keep doing what I’m doing, because I’m exactly where I need to be. I think five years ago, especially, I wanted everything now, and didn’t want to wait for anything. I also was going through a lot with bullying and being in school, so I think that perseverance is a big lesson I would teach myself.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.