When Justin Bieber was breaking out of YouTube into the airwaves, little did he know he was going to inspire the next generation of pop stars. One of them comes from a small town, Olanaska in Wisconsin. At 19, Carlie Hanson is living her childhood dream—but not quite, for now. She just had done solo shows in Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin before arriving in London, where she’d take a call from the other side of the world at 9:30 am.
“That was just like nothing I'd ever experienced before,” she told ABS-CBN News, no hint of weariness in her voice. Her voice perked up as she shared how one fan got up on a friend’s shoulders at her show. “I never thought I would have a concert like that. I usually I'm the one going to the concert, you know, and watching the artist, but it was my concert… my fans.”
But things are still getting more and more "surreal." Hanson is set to perform for a Filipino audience for the first time at Nickelodeon’s SlimeFest —its first-ever in Asia— on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Grounds.
“I'm excited to see the culture of the Philippines and just like what the people are like and how it differs from the US. It's gonna be life-changing… I never thought I would be going over there this early on in my life,” she said.
Three years ago, Hanson was working as a cashier at McDonald’s in her hometown. She was 16 when she caught the eye of producers after she posted a cover of "Pillowtalk" by Zayn Malik on Instagram to get a chance to watch his concert. It was her breakthrough.
Her first single "Why Did You Lie?" was then released in 2017. Her second single "Only One" climbed the Spotify Viral Charts straight to Taylor Swift’s favorite playlist. A thumbs up from Swift is already good enough, but getting two feels like a stamp of approval—it should be. When Hanson released "Back in My Arms" in April this year, Swift then added it to her “songs I’m loving right now” playlist.
Last June, Hanson finally released her debut EP titled "Junk" and embarked on her very own "The WYA Tour" after hitting the road with Troye Sivan and Yungblud. In between cities, she's focusing her energy on making new music and exploring genres.
“I'm definitely experimenting lately. I've been listening to a lot more alternative music,” Hanson said, elaborating that she’s mixing rap and alternative rock with hints of Travis Scott and The 1975 for her new music.
In a span of three years, Hanson has made a strong case for herself. But for a girl with a big vision, she still has a long way to go and a list to tick off like bringing her family with her in Los Angeles where she’s based.
"I hope to get to a point where I can have my mom and my sisters, my whole family move out to California and just be with me more often," she mused.
Of course, she also dreams of collaborating with her music influences like Post Malone and Bieber ("Before my life is over!") Then, sell out a show at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“When I was younger and obsessed with Justin Bieber, I watched his documentary and he sold out Madison Square Garden. When I was little, I was like that's exactly what I want to do. That's what I want to do. I've just grown up and that still is my dream,” she said.
At 19, Hanson has learned that she can’t have it all in an instant. She knows the value of patience and hard work to make those dreams come true.
"It's gonna be a slow rise to the top for sure. Like right now, I wouldn't even say I'm close to making it to where I want to be and it's going to take time,” she said.
“If you really, really love what you do, you have to just make sacrifices and you just have to keep practicing and getting better at what it is that you want to do and what you want to achieve... If I wasn't posting covers all the time and I wouldn't have posted the one cover that helped me get found. I don't even know if I would be talking to you on the phone right now," Hanson added.
Sure, it’s a slow rise to the top. And this pop gem is on her way.