Written by Kelly Holm
One could say that 26-year-old singer-songwriter Savannah Outen rose to popularity in a way that many young people today dream of doing. In this age of TikTok and Instagram, being an online influencer is a long-shot aspiration that motivates hordes of today’s media-oriented teens. After all, Justin Bieber found his own fame as a middle-schooler on the Internet. But before him, there was Savannah Outen.
As a teen, Outen performed the national anthem at several professional sporting events on the West Coast, and her parents suggested that she post videos of her music on the then-upstart platform YouTube, in hopes of getting recognition from the industry.
“I was so nervous my friends would see the videos, so I made my username ‘Savannah7448’ in hopes they’d never find them,” Outen recalled. She was a shy teen, who struggled with speaking up for herself and “let so many people make choices for me because I thought they knew better.” YouTube, however, offered her exposure that led to greater self-confidence and visibility.
“A couple months after my first post, a girl came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I saw you singing on YouTube! You’re kinda good!’”
Outen was soon headlining shows like Radio Disney, rubbing elbows with Taylor Swift and performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“My first show was in 2008. I headlined a Radio Disney show in Holmdel, New Jersey called the ‘Ultrasonic Super Fantastic Kids Day’… I remember feeling so lucky that I got to finally have my own show after all these years of seeing so many concerts. I peeked out at the crowd and saw hundreds of people waiting in the audience and I remember thinking, “I can’t believe I am going to be on the other side this time.”
In spite of these fulfillments of childhood dreams, though, the path to success has not always been a smooth road.
“There are experiences that seem promising at the start, but then fall through,” she said. “The industry is discouraging and you’ll hear ‘no’ every other day. That pattern continues constantly… Never forget why you started in the first place.”
Recent tracks include 2018’s “Sad in the Summer” and this year’s “The Hard Way,” but Outen teased the arrival of new music in the not-so-distant future.
“I’m rehearsing for my new live show and there’s an unreleased song that is definitely becoming my favorite to perform,” Outen said. “I am already planning the next two releases.”
“The Hard Way,” which Outen wrote with Giulio Cercato and Adam Melchor, addresses the discouraging struggles that often come with a career in the performing arts.
“The industry was really getting to me and making me feel so low, anxious, hopeless,” she said. “I could take a shortcut or be something I’m not, to fit people’s version of success, but doing it my way sounds more fun.”
She hopes that the tune empowers her fans and reminds them to “continue the hopeful fight.”
“Music is so powerful,” she says. “When you’re in love, you find a love song and it’s like the artist is talking directly to you. Or when you’re sad, something the artist sang resonates with you and makes you feel like you’re not alone. That’s what I want people to feel with my music. I want them to know that I write these songs for them… Writing songs is my cheap therapy.”
She lists among her biggest influences John Mayer and Celine Dion, as well as Justin Timberlake and Jon Bellion.
“I’m in love with his artistry,” Outen said of Bellion. “I know he loves animation, so I’d love to write us a big anthemic song for us to sing together for a movie.”
She imagines a glorious performance at the Hollywood Bowl, accompanied by a full band, strings and a choir- and of course, the aforementioned four artists somewhere in the audience.
“But they’d have to sit in the way back, or else I’d have a mini freak-out,” she joked. “The show would end with fireworks as ABBA blasts in the background.”
Above all, Outen wants her shows to provide an escape for fans from their day-to-day worries, an opportunity to live simply in the moment.
“I want to dance together, laugh, and sing at the top of our lungs,” she says. “It’s a moment I’ve dreamed of for so long.”
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