Laura Marano is well aware the path she is on has been walked before -- the transition from Disney to pop star is a familiar one for many. Marano starred as Ally on the series Austin & Ally for the duration of its five-year run, and when the series finale aired in January, it allowed Marano to make singing -- her lifelong passion -- her No. 1 priority.
She tells Billboard pursuing a career in pop music is always something she dreamt of doing, and while she wanted to put in the work, she didn't really have the time. Soon after the show wrapped, however, her career as a singer took off full-speed ahead.
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Marano released her debut single "Boombox" in March. "It felt like a song that could really help my fans who've known me as an actress, or often Ally, and kind of transition them on this new step for me," she says. "In March I was like, 'I need to put out music, and this feels like the right song.' It really just felt right."
Toward the end of August, she rolled out another track: "La La," an infectious pop tune with an earworm of a chorus. She linked up with well-versed musician and songwriter Justin Tranter -- whose previous collaborators include Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber -- for the track and says while it was the latest start time for a session she's ever had ("We started at 7 p.m. and I'm like a grandma"), it was also one of the quickest. The two wrote and recorded the song in just four hours.
"Everything felt very easy and smooth, and I think while we were writing it, we just knew this was really special," she says.
Tranter also worked with Marano on another, currently unreleased track from the upcoming album called "Dancing Around the Truth." Marano has been performing this song live and she thinks it will give fans a taste of what the album's going to be like.
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Aside from her hectic schedule of recording and touring, Marano also hosts a radio show called For the Record on Radio Disney, which chronicles her transition into becoming a full-time artist, among other things. Though even with her crazy calendar, she says education is extremely important to her as it helps her stay grounded. She is currently enrolled part-time at the University of Southern California: "I'm a Trojan!"
"I think there's something to be said when you're surrounded by kids your age and you're in a classroom and you're learning about concepts and things that are so much bigger than yourself, and you realize there's a whole wide world out there that doesn't concern the entertainment industry," she says. "I still love being an entertainer and I can't really see myself doing anything else, I wouldn't want to do anything else, I really truly feel at home when I'm doing it -- but it's so important to remember there's a lot else out there besides this."
As Marano continues down a road that has certainly been traveled, she looks to artists such as Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Gomez as inspiration for the way they developed as artists in very different ways.
She also mentions Justin Timberlake as having the best of both worlds in terms of acting and singing and says "there really has been no other person who's done it as well." And while she looks to these stars and more, she also knows, "I really just have to go full-force and do it my way."
The moment that best illustrates this sentiment is when she was working on the music video for "Boombox." "I've been really adamant that I'm the boss and I want to be very much in control of everything surrounding my music," she says. "So with this music video, I took the reins and was like, 'This is what I want, this is my idea.'"
Though thoughts of having the video turn out horribly crept in the back of her mind, in the end, it turned out extremely well and the fan reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. "That was a really proud moment for me," she says. "I was like, 'OK, I can do this.' I'm going to make mistakes on this journey of being the boss, but I can totally do this.'"
While the album is finished and even has a title -- she won't spill its name just yet -- there is currently no release date. So until more new music from Marano arrives, check out the music video for "Boombox" below.