“This is not a moment; it’s the movement.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda
Since the 1960s, what has been a key factor in elevating a “moment” to a “movement”? What validates protests, makes them indelible and contemporary? What can turn a sea of persons into a sea of people? The answer, of course, is music. Today’s blowin’ wind carries debris from years past, a spirit of awareness with a goal towards unity. Hoping to provide the soundtrack to the issues that today’s teenagers and young adults face is Caroline Roman, a 16-year-old singer/songwriter from a small town outside of Atlanta, GA. Her upcoming single, “Do it for You,” was written in response to the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, but the message continues to be a plea for action as these tragedies refuse to abate.
“It’s very important to me,” Roman said, “because I’m in high school as well, and hearing about everything that’s been going on in high schools…” She trailed off as she recalled, “I just got off a tour (the High School Nation tour), and we wound up not performing at one of the schools because there was a gun threat. It was super intense and scary, and sad, what’s going on everywhere around the country.” That tour included performing on the day of the nationwide walkout on April 20th.
Roman writes her own songs, rarely with a co-writer. When asked if she has a preference between writing and performing, she said that she believes she will always write regardless of where her performance career takes her. “I’m always going to have that part of me that needs to get my expressions out, my feelings down on a piece of paper, or play a melody that’s been in my head for weeks.”
Her debut EP, Gold, which was released last December, features lush arrangements with sparse beats, led by her smooth, honest voice. Like other singers for whom message is key, the delivery and conviction of the lyrics is critical. “I love the feeling of performing and affecting people in a way that I can’t by just writing. There’s a special moment whenever I perform ‘Gold’ – there’s always one or two groups of people in the crowd where I can see that it affects their day, and I think the world needs more of that.” A fortunate by-product of that approach to one’s own songs is that it ensures that they accomplish their goals whether backed by a band of ten or just a guitar.
“[‘Gold’] is about suicide awareness and suicide prevention. I wrote it because in the year that we started brainstorming, we realized that teen suicide had tripled just in that year alone. I thought it would be important to talk about how people are perfect the way they are, how they don’t need to rely on social media norms because it’s all fake.” Her wish is for her fans to “be true to themselves” and “realize that they are gold.” Roman is optimistic, however, as she sees more people in her own generation speaking out against things like Photoshopping pictures, and being “more comfortable with who they are.”
There are plenty of pop songs about partying, but Roman feels that today’s music is due for more socially conscious yet positive messages. “You can sing about having fun all day long, but people aren’t talking about mental health as much as they should be. Our teenagers are broken, and they need to be okay with themselves and who they are and how they’re feeling… They don’t have to be a size zero and have no acne and be this impossible thing.”
Other powerful female musicians inspired her, especially Demi Lovato, not only for her inspirational messages of mental health awareness, but also for her relationship with her fans. Roman spoke about how she took Lovato’s objectives and applied them to her first EP, and continues to use that approach in her future projects.
Roman has two new songs coming out soon: the aforementioned upbeat “Do it for You” and “Enough,” with Silentó (“Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)”). She is also getting ready to release another EP as a follow-up to Gold.
Roman does have a local connection: her sister was born in Philadelphia, and she was here when she was little, but she’s looking forward to visiting on a tour soon. “I’d love to come to Philly. Philly rocks!” Be sure to watch for her and join the movement when she comes through town.