How did you teach yourself guitar? Were you just locked in your bedroom?

Basically! I took guitar lessons when I was 13, and I was really not interested because all the teacher wanted me to do was play music from books. I didn’t get to play anything that I connected with or sing while I was playing. It was really structured and I wasn’t really happy with that, so I stopped those lessons. I decided to teach myself by watching videos—the internet again, yeah—and some of my friends play guitar. So I was watching them, just watching my favorite artists play live. Being around music helped me get used to the feel of the guitar. Since I’ve been playing for a long time it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that I taught myself. It’s weird, but I somehow picked it up.

Was it at all hard to stay the course? Were you always aware “Oh, I am getting better” or “Yes, this is actually working”? Or were there moments when you doubted your progress?

I still have those moments all the time! I will play a song and then someone will ask me what the chords are and I’ll have no idea what they’re called. I don’t even know what I’m playing half the time. I started writing a lot this past year, really getting into originals, and stopped covering songs, and once I started doing that, I really challenged myself and really tried to make getting better at guitar a priority.

Why did you write the song “Sweet 17”?

I dated a guy who was older than me, only by, like, a year. I’m 16, but I’m almost 17, so that’s the title of the song. He’s 18. The age gap was a big thing in the relationship. Even though it wasn’t that big, I still felt there were times when the relationship would be condescending or that he had the upper hand because he’s older and felt that I was naive. It’s not that being naive is a bad thing, I just felt like there was a difference and that caused a problem. It was just something that stuck out to me, so I decided to write about it.

Relationships are hard, I totally agree.

It’s impossible! It’s hard! Getting close to someone is a really sensitive thing and I really cherish that type of connection. Coming out of every relationship that I’ve had there’s definitely certain things I’ve learned that I’m careful about in the next one. It’s basically just a learning process. It’s a huge thing to write about, just to help me figure out what I have to learn from each relationship.

Is this also part of figuring out who you are?

Definitely. I’ve learned a lot about myself while being in relationships. I’ve learned that certain things I like and certain things I don’t like within a relationship, and that what’s important to me might not be important to other people. I’ve definitely learned about how I should be treated. There have been times where I’ve felt I wasn’t being treated the right way and I’ve now figured out exactly the ways I should and shouldn’t be talked to, or the things that should and shouldn’t be said to me.

It’s definitely a coming of age event when you realize “I’m not okay with that” or “that’s not going to fly in future relationships.”

I think it’s important for every woman to be aware of how they’re being treated. Everything that’s been going on, with women’s rights and feminism becoming huge—I’m so happy about it—has definitely sculpted my thoughts and my friends’ thoughts about what is and isn’t OK. It’s the most important thing—to make sure that you are being treated exactly how you want to be, and not letting some person control you in any way.

And when you realize “Hmmm, I’m not okay with that,” taking action on that.

Oh yeah, of course, that’s a huge thing! I’ll find problems early on, but then stay in the relationship because I think it could get better later on. But it’s important that every girl follow her gut no matter what. When I’ve ignored what my gut was telling me I’ve ended up in weird situations. If I had just listened to myself a little bit more and put aside the fact that they might be nice or charming or cute! If they’re not treating me the way they should be, I just need to get out of there, even if they’re the sweetest person. That’s the main thing I’ve struggled with. Figuring out what I’m okay with and what I need, what I can and can’t compromise on. It’s definitely the hardest thing in a relationship.

You reposted a song by Avey Tare on your SoundCloud. Are you an Animal Collective fan?

Oh my god, yeah! I love Animal Collective so much! Avey Tare is just so brilliant, so is Noah Lennox. I’m seeing Panda Bear at Pitchfork [Music Festival] this year which I’m super psyched about. I love them so much purely for the fact that they invented a type of music.

They don’t fit into any genre. You cannot explain them without actually playing a song of theirs. They sound like nothing else in this world.

All of their music is such an experience, and all of my friends love them. They’re just so ahead of their time and they always have been and Sung Tongs is probably one of my favorite albums ever. They have reinvented so many things. It’s crazy to see them do so well because they deserve it more than anybody. I admire them so much for not compromising their beliefs about what their music should sound like.

You mentioned Sung Tongs being your favorite album. What are some of your favorite songs on that album?

Winter’s Love,” “Who Could Win a Rabbit,” and “Leaf House.” But everything on that entire album makes me really happy. And that was like 2004. That’s crazy because it sounds like it could have been made yesterday and still would be really cool and up and coming.

Do you get into their lyrics too or are you more into their sounds?

I’m into both. Avey is really incredible and I think their sound is really important, but I think that their lyrics are super specific. They’re making sound in a room, but it’s very put together. It may not seem like it’s super precise, but it is. You can tell a lot of thought goes into it. All of their music is just so beautiful and they deserve all of the recognition because I don’t know any other band like them. They’re the greatest. ♦