It's one thing to dream big, but to be able to accomplish those dreams is a whole other story. But, for Lillian Hepler, it comes as a second nature. Ever since she was little, she knew her future was within music. Writing, performing, producing, and doing anything she could do to make an impact in the industry, Hepler simply knew creating music was the one and only goal.
Hepler may have been born with the talent, but more importantly she was born with the drive to put that talent to good use. With a positive mindset, and one of the most down-to-earth attitudes around, we were privileged enough to sit down with Hepler and hear her story. To hear what it's taken for her to get from the very beginning all the way up until her most recent release, "Used to That."
OTW: Take us through this past year and how it shaped your music and process.
Lillian: Honestly, I feel like quarantine helped me hone in more on my craft and writing, because, during quarantine, you weren’t able to do anything. It was more just a time for me to be able to take in my experiences, take in my emotions, and take in everything that was going on and be able to just put it down on paper. If anything, I feel like quarantine was better for me than it was bad. I was able to take things from the outside world and just ignore them and be able to do my own thing.
I know that a lot of people struggled, but I also know that I think it was beneficial for a lot of people, especially writers. And with zoom sessions, it’s been a lot easier to be able to work with people. At least for me, I haven’t even minded zoom sessions. It’s actually been really nice, because I can work with people from out of the country and in different states. So honestly it’s been pretty much a breeze, but I am at that point where I just want to get back to in-person, because there is that sense of feeling everybody’s energy. You just feel like what the vibe is and how things are going and are able to get everything done in one session.
What were the writing processes for "Easy" and "I Only Love You When I'm Sad" like? How did those songs come about?
So, I had just gone through a breakup at the end of 2020. I knew that the relationship wasn’t good for me, but in a sense, I’m a person who tends to feel bad, and I don’t want to hurt that other person’s feelings. So I’ll tend to stay in something that’s toxic for me, as long as like the other person is good. When I ended things with him, I was hoping that he would almost fight for me. And I was hoping that he’d almost be like, "wait, like let’s make this work."
But when I tell you it was the most supportive breakup ever, and it was also my first, I took it really hard. He was very, "yeah, like whatever you need." It was just, like, do you even care about me? Do you care that I’m breaking up with you right now? Because I’m taking this a little harder than you are. And this is weird because I’m the one at the end there. That's where "Easy" came from. Why is it so easy for you to leave me? You didn’t try to make this work. And even though it was bad for me, I felt like I would've wanted you if you would’ve said, "let’s make this work." I honestly think I would’ve allowed myself to stay in that. So I do think it was a blessing that he was like, "you know, I support you".
Anyways, so after that, I was kind of in that head space. "I Only Love You When I’m Sad" was written while I was dating him. I actually had the opportunity to be able to go out to LA for about a month, and that is where I worked with Peter Fenn and a bunch of other great people. I wanted to write a song about what it’s like after a relationship has ended, what that process looks like, and how the healing process is. I know that a lot of people tend to reach out to others to try to get over their ex. I’ve never personally been like that, but I felt like it was something that people would relate to. So that's why I thought of the idea in the first place. I got a little bit of crap for it too. They were like, "oh, you’re such a horrible person to use somebody else." But everybody does this. They always try to find someone else to compensate for what they just lost.
There's a notable shift from the tracks leading up to your latest single, "Used to That." Can you take us through the thought process behind your latest track?
"Used to That" is about having gone through all these hard relationships. I personally feel that it’s hard for me to allow myself to be in another relationship with someone after having gone through horrible experiences with people in the past. And so for me, when someone shows that they genuinely care about me, especially when they use the words "I love you," I kind of take a step back. I’m not used to that. Even if I feel the same way, and those feelings are reciprocated, I almost can’t allow myself to express that towards them, because I can’t really trust that it's really how they feel. I can’t really believe them because of the past. And although you shouldn’t let your past relationships affect your future ones, I feel like it does subconsciously. It's all different and weird. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to like it or back off a bit. I'm just not used to it. So that's where that comes in to play!
When did you realize that music was going to be your forever thing?
I’ve been doing music since I was little, ever since I can remember. I remember very vividly meeting this awesome vocal coach. I had never really done vocal lessons until about 13 years old. He was so awesome. I remember my parents were in the room with me and he just goes, "this is something that she wants to pursue." And honestly, when you’re younger, I feel like I took it seriously, but my parents didn’t take it as seriously as I wanted them to. Even though they’re very, very, very supportive. It was just more like, yeah we’ll see. I know that it’s hard to allow one of your children to put themselves out into the world for people to judge and for them to make comments about. And honestly, that’s been one of my biggest trials is trying to get over all of the comments.
He asked them, "are you going to support her through this? Are you going to be there for her every step of the way? Cause if she does this, you gotta be all in." It was so nice to have someone else ask that to my parents, because that was what I needed for them, to be all in. From there I started releasing covers and that was kind of what I was directed to do. I started posting on YouTube and that’s when I first got into the whole recording side of things. After that, I was 15 when I started writing my original music with the same producer I’ve worked with since I was 13.
Throughout high school, I kind of fell into like a little bit of a dark place, in the sense that I started to question myself and whether I was going to actually be successful. It didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. I remember my seventh tell me I'm not going to be successful in life.
I took up writing, and I wrote for the newspaper and all that good stuff. It was really fun. It was really great, but I’m like, why am I doing this? I’m doing this because I like writing. And I like writing songs. So this makes no sense for me to even be here. During all of this, I’m still writing. I’m still releasing music. I never once stopped. As soon as I ended that semester is when my music actually took off for me. It’s like at that moment that I realized this is all I want to do, and this is what I’m going to put my full focus in.
Now that you’ve established yourself a little more and grown into the artists you really want to be, or at least you see yourself going in that direction, what would you want your message to be? Who do you want to be perceived as?
Yeah, I’ve thought about this a lot. I'm always thinking about what is it that I have to offer others? What would set me aside from everybody else and that people would recognize me for? Billie Eilish has style, and she’s like very much like her own person, right? And I’m like, I don’t see that for myself. What do I have to offer? So my thing is, and this might sound silly, but just being real. That’s how I want to represent myself, as someone who was literally just like your nextdoor neighbor. I want to be as real as possible with people. That’s why I’m okay with rolling out of bed and singing a song and posting it. I don’t care to put on this picture-perfect human being. I’m more than willing to show my flaws.
I never had the fancy camera and like the fancy set up to do videos. I never had the equipment to record from the top down, especially in the beginning stages of things. So, when I started writing and really putting out videos on TikTok, or just anywhere, I'd just put my phone up in front of the piano. It was nothing crazy. I know that what I have to offer and who I am is good enough. Honestly, it’s better than good enough, because that’s real. It's who I am.
And that's why we love you. To wrap things up, what’s next for Lillian Hepler?
So that’s a great question and it's kind of hard to tell right now with the whole pandemic thing. My goal is to go on tour. I have big goals for the future. I hope one day I can obtain Grammys and all that good stuff. I have big goals, and I know I want to accomplish those. I have no doubt that it’ll happen. I want to take my career to the next level. Right now, that’s what’s on my mind. Oh, and seeing Justin Bieber live next year. And maybe Post Malone, of course.