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When you encounter major success at a young age in the music industry, you’re forced to grow up fast and make major decisions that could drastically affect your life. Colby O’Donis rose to stardom when he was a teenager, made some smart decisions and he’s still a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.

I was lucky enough to have time to chat with him in Philly after he killed his set at World Cafe Live back in 2013.

Get comfortable and check out the interview below.

What made you want to pursue music as a career?
I’ve always sang since I was a kid. As far back as I can remember, like there’s never been a moment that I can think of that I didn’t sing. My family supported me at a really young age, you know they gave me nudge in that right direction and I never stopped going that way.

So who would you cite as some of your main musical influences?
Michael Jackson for one. Then I would say Stevie Wonder after him; those are my top 2.

You’ve taken a bit of a hiatus for a couple of years, have you noticed any change in the amount of fan support and reception?
Now that I’ve been coming back and doing my thing again,  I’m definitely getting a good response from the places I’ve been performing at. I did go on a 4 year hiatus due to like, life happening *laughs*. I was young when I came out with “Just Dance” with Gaga; I was only 18 and I came out with “What You Got” when I was 17. I started really really young, so when the amount of stuff that happened to me happens at such a young age, it can do things to your psyche, so I kinda needed to take a step back. I did that for the past 4 years, but now I’m in a place in my life where everything feels right again and I’m happy again so I’m definitely coming back into the music. I understand it’s a grind and I know it’s gonna be a long grind, but I’m willing do it because I enjoy doing it; it’s not like work to me.

One thing that really sets you apart from some other artists is that you always make sure you interact with your fans, which is awesome. How do you balance maintaining your schedule and interacting with everyone?
Every second I have down time I go on Twitter *laughs*. Like if I’m not on stage, I’m not in the studio, or everytime I have a few minutes, I go on Twitter and I go on Instagram to try to connect with my fans. I look at them as my friends, like my squad more than anything *laughs*.

Awesome. Your new material that I’ve heard sounds a little more edgy to me, but you still manage to make sure you show off your vocal ability.
Yeah, yeah. I’m still trying to keep that edge a little bit with showing people I can sing as well. My older stuff was very maintained vocally, so it didn’t really show my vocals as much as I wanted to. I wanna give you that edge and that stuff that’ll make you wanna move, but give you vocals at the same time so it’s kinda mixing things up.

I know Erin Yvonne and Candice Craig were in the video for your single “Lean”, I love them both *laughs*. So what was shooting that video like?
It was amazing; I had a great time! Erin Yvonne is an amazing woman, she’s beautiful, she’s a great performer as well and she inspires me in like, every way. I had a great time shooting that video, it was the first video I shot in a really long time so it was definitely a playing field for me and it was interesting in a lot of ways. It was definitely a way for me to kinda get myself back into the swing of things.

What would you say inspired you the most while working on your upcoming album?
Life. The older I get, the more life I live, the more I wanna write about real life experiences versus writing a song just to write a song. You know I’d rather just not go into a studio at all if I’m not inspired by life. I’d rather just sit back and wait until something hits me; something that I wanna sing about or talk about, you know something conversational. My song “Start Over” is one of my favorite songs because it was a song I wrote to somebody in my life, in the past, that I had a falling out with. I kinda sang what I wanted to say to them and to me, that’s as real as music should be.

Are there any artists that are out now that inspire you?
Definitely Tori Kelly for one; she’s amazing. Travis Garland is an amazing artist too, like he inspires me everytime I see him perform. Real vocalists that are doing their thing is refreshing to me. I think everyone has kinda outdone the autotune now, so I look forward to singers that can give me chills without using effects on their voice.

Being as though you’ve already experienced being signed to a label, what your thoughts now as far as major labels vs being independent?
I’ve been in the major label system already and I’m doing everything independent right now with my team; I’m with Steve Zap (Z-Entertainment). We’re independent and we’re just grinding and it’s better that way because you have no control when you’re signed to a label. I feel like I’d rather build up on my own independently, that way we can make the rules, we can call the shots. A lot of times labels call the shots because their just trying to make a quick buck and they aren’t thinking about longevity. I feel like a lot of independent artists are winning. They’re just doing them, they aren’t worried about just making a quick buck; they’re thinking about what they can deliver that people will remember and make them want more.

How would you describe your song writing process? Would you say it’s more hectic or therapeutic?
If it’s a song from my heart, it’s therapeutic, but if it’s a song that I’m trying to write just for the sake of writing a song, it’s hectic. I don’t enjoy writing songs just for the sake of writing songs, I enjoy writing songs for reasons that touch my heart. The older I get, I’d rather just write one song a month that’s perfect in the sense of touching on how I really feel versus writing 20 songs that really mean nothing to me and that could be forgotten in 6 months. I’d rather write 1 song that would be remembered forever instead of writing 100 songs that everyone would forget by the end of the year.

Are there any artists that you would like to write for?
Tori Kelly, I’d like to work with her and Ariana Grande, she has a beautiful voice. Travis Garland too, that’s my boy right there. We’ve been doing shows since we were 15 so we go back like 10 years. He’s a talented dude and I’m blessed to be on this tour with him. We’re both singing our asses off every night *laughs* so it’s fun, I’m definitely blessed.

In closing, what advice would you give artists who are aspiring to get into the industry?
I would say just focus on building your own fan base. Don’t worry about the mainstream shit and don’t worry about the radio shit; it’s stupid to worry about that because stuff like that isn’t forever. What’s forever are you fans; if you give them good content and you give them real content, they’ll never go astray. If you go radio and what you think people wanna hear, you won’t be around 3 years from now, people will forget you. You’ll make quick money, but that’ll be gone too. I was one of those people that really cared about what the radio wanted to hear and I was chasing that for so long and it messed my head up. Now I’m at the place where I’m gonna do what I wanna do and I’m gonna build up my fan base and go from there.

Head over to iTunes and pick up his two recent singles: “Lean” and “Turn This Night Around”, be sure to follow Colby on Twitter and head over to ColbyODonis.com to see when he’ll be in a city near you.