As Hayley Orrantia winds down her time as Erica on season 9 of ABC’s The Goldbergs, she is taking some time for music. On May 13, she releases her single “Open Your Mouth,” a pop juggernaut that embues her country trademark with Top 40 vibrance. Ahead of the song’s debut, LA Confidential spoke with Hayley Orantia about “Open Your Mouth,” her commitment to storytelling in music and The Goldbergs season 9 finale.
“Open Your Mouth” leans more pop than a lot of your previous music. Was the genre choice an organic part of the song’s development or more intentional?
This song specifically, I wrote it three years ago with my friend Kalie Shorr and Simon Reid. Kalie, she's typically more like pop punk meets country, so it's already in the songwriting room, it was a little different than maybe what I typically put out, but I love broadening what I wanted to do sonically, so I was already open to it that way. And then three years goes by and I get back into the studio and reshape it to being a little more pop leaning. It just felt very me, but it also keeps the integrity of what we wrote that day in the songwriting room. Not only is it right for this specific single, but it's something that I've been wanting to go back toward leaning more pop in general for this next phase of music.
Can you tell us more about the songwriting process for “Open Your Mouth?”
I got into the room with Kaylee, and she had just told me about how she ran into her ex-boyfriend at the bar and it had been enough time that she didn't really remember why they broke up and he looked really good. And she was like, “Oh, maybe I was stupid for ending it.” And then they started a conversation and after him saying some pretty stupid things, she was like, “Oh right, whenever you open your mouth, I'm not really interested. She had this very interesting perspective and she's very good at writing female-empowered, sassy, pop punk songs. And so this was just another day of one of those for her, but for me, it was a very fun perspective that I had not written about before.
What do you love about pop music?
Growing up, I always listened to the Top 100 pop radio, whether that was Kiss FM or, even when I was really young, like Radio Disney and stuff. And what I love about pop music is it's typically something that's an earworm that gets in your head and it's something that you want to sing along to, you want to dance along to.
It's something that I feel like it just clicks with an overall majority of people. But the thing that I want to have as an element that is very important to me having come from a singer-songwriter and country background, is the aspect of storytelling and very lyrically-driven music. I can't speak, obviously, overall, but sometimes pop puts that on the backburner, but something that's very important to me is that I want to be able to marry the two.
Will this single be part of an EP or album?
I have been writing a ton. I think I'm just gonna try releasing a few singles. I don't have a full EP or an album ready, but we've been building out individual songs. I have another song that we're already in the studio working on that I originally wrote as a ballad. It was me and a piano, which is something I very much lean towards, but I've been trying to challenge myself to turn these songs on their head and make them upbeat. And then allowing, for one, to just have fun, upbeat songs that have a strong lyric foundation, but something that we can offer as an acoustic version after the initial release and maybe I can showcase elements of both sides of me.
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The single artwork and pre-release visuals are so fun. Is a music video on its way too?
This has been a journey of a music video. I don't know why I decided of all times to do this, but I was gonna do it now. My boyfriend, Greg Furman, who is a phenomenal writer, director, cinematographer— he does a lot of his own work for his own short films, and he's an artist as well. So he's got his own music videos, very talented. And I was like, “Hey, well, why don't you and I, since we want to eventually down the line get involved in producing our own shorts and scripted content, why don't we use this as dipping our toe into working together and let's not get anyone else involved. No lighting department, no camera department anything. Let's just do it ourselves.” And it was a really fun challenge. But one that was also very difficult because when you're putting it just on the two of you, there's a lot of different things involved in trying to make a music video. We had our good moments and our bad moments, but I'm really happy with how it all came together. It's a perfect showcasing of my personality, but the storytelling of this song. I think Greg did a great job and, again more than anything, just a fun challenge for the two of us working together in that capacity.
The season 9 finale of The Goldbergs is approaching. What can fans of the show look forward to from that?
This finale episode is going to be a really fascinating cliffhanger, I think, for fans of the show. What I loved about this script was as you're following along in the episode, you think you know what the ending is going to be. But the writers did a great job of having quite a few twists that you end up in a place where you're like, “Oh my gosh, I wasn't expecting that.” And I remember reading the script and it wasn't until I got until the very last page that I was like, “Oh my gosh, I had absolutely no idea where this was going and I can't believe that was the ending.”
You’re heading into 10 seasons of being Erica. What has been the greatest lesson you’ve learned from playing the eldest Goldberg sibling?
Erica has gone through quite a transition from season 1 until now the end of season 9 in a way that I don't think the writers or creators would have been able to wrap their head around at the time. Erica was the one character that's loosely based on the real family, but wasn't an exact depiction, so there were a lot of questions around that character.
Lesson-wise, for me, would be that life is gonna take you in so many different directions, but you have to just trust that it's gonna get you to where you need to be. Because for Erica, I know that she's gone through so many different wild transitions… She's really coming into her own, but no one ever would have been able to predict that from season 1.
What do you enjoy about acting versus making music?
For acting, typically, I'll get an audition for something that is somebody else's world they've created and a character that they felt in their mind and so I'm just hoping to be able to emulate that to the best of my ability to help the creator get their story and their point across.
Music is such a vulnerable thing for me that I get to be the one telling the story and puppeteering how that all goes and how it is showcased to the public. It's also more therapeutic for me because I'm getting to let things off my chest, but also maybe reflecting stories through what I'm seeing happen in my friends’ lives or my family's lives. For me, music is definitely more vulnerable at times because it's stemming from my own experiences, whereas acting, I would say is therapeutic because I, depending on the scene, take elements of where I am coming from in my own life and try to plug that into what maybe the character is going through and relating as close as I can.
What else are you looking forward to this year?
I have a lot of really exciting things that are going to be announced this month that I'm really looking forward to. They're all happening either this month or this summer and it's mostly music leaning, and I'm really excited to be able to lean into that part that I've loved for so long. And then of course, season 10 of The Goldbergs should be airing sometime in September of this year. Just keep an eye out and ear out.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Photography by: Brett Erickson