Allie Gonino has been our go-to girl since her days as the loveable Laurel Mercer on ABC Family’s The Lying Game (we’re still reeling over the unexpected cancellation of one of our favorite shows here at NoWhiteNoise, btw). And let’s face it, we have to give credit where credit is due– if it weren’t for The Lying Game, we might not have realized what a multi-talented beauty this gal really is. Gonino, who performed with her real-life band The Good Mad on an episode of the teen drama, not only showed off her acting, but her musical chops as well. She took the stage and fans around the world fell in love with a unique sound that will live on in our iPods for years to come.
Let’s get real, the Hollywood starlet is no stranger to the limelight and has held roles in countless shows such as 10 Things I Hate About You and The Red Road. But acting is just a small piece to an overall intricate puzzle… and although Gonino shines on screen, she shared with NWN that she feels way more in her element when it comes to music. That may reign true for the musician, producer, and actor extraordinaire, but one things for sure– we can’t get enough of this talented lady, no matter what she’s doing!
The violin-playing powerhouse recently released “Hollywood High,” her solo EP, and we’re loving what we’re hearing. Gonino says that her EP is “a complete representation” of her personality and that her album’s lead single “Vamp” is very honest and empowering.
We chatted about her decision to venture off and do her own thing in the music industry, her new movie “The Preacher’s Confession” as well as her involvement in an organization called the Thirst Project, which in short is a socially-aware group of young people who are working to end the global water crisis.
So, let’s dive in.
MCKENZIE MORRELL: To start off, let’s talk about the early years, I imagine you showed an interest in the entertainment industry at a very young age, at that time did you have a clear idea of which path you wanted to take? Whether it be acting or music?
ALLIE GONINO: I discovered my talent for performing when I started singing and dancing on stage. When realized I could be an entertainer as a career, I made a conscious decision to pursue it. Meeting the Dixie Chicks when I was four years-old inspired me to start playing the violin, and I always loved watching and acting out movies growing up, so once I moved to L.A. I took acting classes and started auditioning for projects.
MM: Music is often used as an escape for people who might be having a rough time, when you were growing up what artists did you draw strength and inspiration from?
AG: I did not really start using music as an emotional support when feeling down until I started going through puberty. There were a couple different guys I had crushes on who did not return the feelings, and I remember listening to Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head” album, and Billy Joel’s “Vienna” on many occasions.
MM: What’s your songwriting process like? Do you jot down ideas when you’re out and about or is it more of a “sit down, and get it done” thing?
AG: It happens differently every time. Sometimes I will have a melody and then write words to the melody. Other times I will start with a chord progression and write something to that. I used to write a lot with full ideas in mind, or just start singing and the words would flow naturally, but more recently I have been in a pattern of coming up with simple phrases and writing them down. I am excited to piece some together and create something new without a complete idea of what I am doing ahead of time.
MM: The Good Mad released another album this year, if you were to explain the band’s style to someone who might be unfamiliar with it, how would you describe it?
AG: I think our most recent EP release, ‘Face Your Feels’, would best be described as Cali-folk. Our focus is on songwriting, poetry, and mostly live instrumentation, but we also used some synthetic production elements on this last recording. I say “Cali-folk” because we live in California and recorded the EP here.
MM: Let’s talk about “Hollywood High,” your first solo EP, how did you know it was time to do something on your own?
AG: It was more of a necessity than anything else. I needed an outlet in which I could exercise more of my power as a musician, producer, and songwriter. It’s a complete representation of my personality, and I was able to express some deeply emotional sentiments without too many boundaries. I wrote all of those songs while filming on location away from The Good Mad, so it made sense to let those songs stand as their own entity, since they are very personal to me.
MM: I know this is kind of like asking a parent who their favorite child is, but do you have a favorite song from your EP?
AG: Ha! I really do love them all for different reasons, and I am sure my taste will change at some point, but I think my favorite may have to be “Vamp” right now. I just love the energy and the horn section, and the personality of the voice of that song. It is very honest and empowering.
MM: Did you have any reservations about going out on your own? Were you nervous… excited… all of the above?
AG: All the above. I’m getting ready to give my official EP release performance this week with a killer group of local musicians. I can not wait to play these songs live for people. And I am a perfectionist in the studio, (which I will say, a huge part of what I think makes something really great are actually the imperfections), so I am not terribly “fun” when producing or recording, but I am hoping as I become more experienced, I will become more relaxed too.
MM: I love all of the music on your new album, but “Vamp” is definitely a favorite of mine– how did you know that would be your lead single?
AG: Thank you! Always good to hear when someone appreciates my art. I chose “Vamp” to be the lead single for the reasons I stated why it is my current favorite. It represents my personality very well, so I wanted to open with that one so people could get a sense for who I am as a person and artist.
MM: How is the Hollywood High EP different from music you’ve done in the past with The Good Mad?
AG: The songs on Hollywood High were all written solely by me, whereas with The Good Mad, I have help from Adam [Brooks] and Andy [Fischer-Price]. In the beginning of The Good Mad, we had a very traditional folk sound, but now we are trying to push the boundaries and evolve our sound a bit. I would say The Good Mad’s music in general is a bit more laid back and folky, whereas my solo project is, dare I say it, a bit more theatrical.
MM: You wear many hats, actress and singer-songwriter for starters, do you feel a pull to one more than the other?
AG: On a gut level, I feel way more in my element when making music. It is an inherent gift for me, even though I am not a wiz when it comes to music theory. Acting is something I enjoy doing, but I really would like to continue to study it and take more classes to feel more empowered and confident as an actress. I just hope to be able to continue to do both for as long as I receive fulfillment.
MM: You’re pretty talented all around, but do you have any hidden talents your fans might not know about?
AG: If it is a hidden talent, I probably do not know about it.
MM: What’s your fashion style like? Do you tend to go for more comfy or intricately thought out?
AG: It depends on the day! I really try to balance the two. Look cute, take risks every now and then, but feel comfortable too.
MM: On top of acting and your music career, you’re also an activist for various organizations… can you talk a little bit about the projects you’re involved in?
AG: The organization I most actively support is called Thirst Project, which is a youth based non-profit org that builds wells in the developing parts of the world. There are nearly 700 million people in the world who lack access to clean water, and Thirst Project is one of many organizations working towards ending the global water crisis. The focus is mostly to empower students in America to raise awareness and take action to get involved and help to raise funds for these wells. Additionally, I am on the Young Professionals Council for the L.A. LGBT Homeless Youth Center, which helps aid those who have been displaced due to their sexual orientation. It’s quite astonishing how many young kids leave a toxic home environment because of their sexuality to go live on the streets, where they end up prostituting themselves just to get a meal or a place to sleep for a night. The Youth Center provides education, food, housing, medical care, and resources to empower these people to become independent and create a better life for themselves.
MM: Any plans to go on tour?
AG: That is my dream and all I want at this point. The Good Mad is playing a show in Tunisia this summer at the International Noise Fest. It is our first time traveling out of the country to play, so we are pretty excited about it. Hopefully more touring opportunities will follow.
MM: Lastly, are there any other projects we can look forward to this year?
AG: A movie I starred in called “The Preacher’s Confession” will air on TV in September, and the music videos for “Vamp” as well as The Good Mad’s video for “No Time to Talk” will be out in the next couple weeks. Other than that, if I don’t tour, I will continue to work on my first screenplay, and I would like to record more music with The Good Mad, as well as other side projects.
Purchase “Hollywood High” EP on iTunes