When Halsey asks you to open up for her on tour, you do it...and then you proceed to freak out a little bit. This is, after all, the same Halsey who’s hit the stage with Justin Bieber. The same Halsey who just released one of the—if not the
—song of the summer with The Chainsmokers. The same Halsey who’s paved the way for fellow women in music dealing with sexism, mental health, and race issues enthusiastically and candidly.
A few months ago, that’s exactly what happened to Lani Renaldo
. On July 15, the 20-year-old USC student got the chance of a lifetime to open up for the pixie-haired pop star at the Shrine Auditorium in LA. I’ve known Lani for a few years now, and seeing her grow in the industry has been incredibly inspiring. Just before the show, I caught up with her about the Halsey gig and how she balances a music career and college classes.
How did you become interested in music?
Growing up, my family always had music in the house. My mom recently told me that I started playing the conga drums at the age of one as soon as I could stand (my dad was a percussionist). My paternal grandma is from Detroit, while my other is from Mississippi. This within itself led to a very interesting musical background and really shaped my love of soul and blues music. I started playing drums at three years old and picked the guitar up at 12; it wasn’t until I was about 13 that I started writing songs.
I was involved in musical theater starting around age five. I grew up around the boy pop group B2K. My older brother was also in a music group for a short period of time so when he started producing, I often had a chance to sing a few tracks to demo a song with him. I watched very attentively as my sister Krissy and Jhene Aiko developed Jhene’s career before she got signed to her most recent record label. I wrote and released my first song in 2014 after my experience volunteering at Teen Line in Los Angeles.
Can you explain what GRAMMY U is and how has this program has influenced your music career?
GRAMMY U is a networking organization that connects students with the music industry and their peers. I went to GRAMMY Camp in 2012 in New York as a songwriter. That in many ways prepared me to be a better songwriter. I also learned how to pitch business ideas during that session. I made a lot of friends, many of whom I remain in contact with to this day. We get together and write whenever we can.
Tell us about how Halsey and you met. How did you get the gig to open up for her?
Samsung has a really innovative project called the Samsung Level Music Lab, where they connect creative individuals with musical artists. My friend told me Samsung was looking for musicians and offered my name. I didn’t really know what to expect, but after two days and a lot of surprises, I got to meet Halsey. We had a wonderful day filming together and at the end of our studio session, she surprised me and gave me the incredible opportunity to open for her!
What’s next for you?
I'll be putting out an EP and setting out on some tour dates this year, all while continuing my studies as a music business major at USC!
Lastly, what would you tell yourself a year ago?
I would have said to keep reaching for your dreams. There’s always a way, so keep pushing and have as much fun as you can. I had faith a year ago that I could reach my goals and dreams, even if they were far-fetched. I told myself a year ago that I was smart, a good person, humble, hardworking and a believer. I also had faith that someone would be there to help me in some way. I believe in paying things forward, in addition to fate.