Singer Savannah Outen Discusses Finding Herself & The Importance of Authenticity (Exclusive Q&A)

One of the first people to use YouTube as a platform for sharing music, singer Savannah Outen began posting covers on the platform when she was just 15 years old. Her career quickly took off as she became the first independent artist to have a song reach #5 on Disney’s Top 30 Countdown. Since then, Savannah’s popularity has only grown. She has a huge following of dedicated fans and a brand new song, “Sad in the Summer.”

Savannah is as authentic as they come, focusing on sharing her true self with her fans rather than a curated or filtered version. What Savannah’s fans see is exactly who she is—from her vintage style to her unique, soulful sound. Her Campus sat down to talk with her about her days with Disney, the break she took in order to find herself, where she finds inspiration for her music and the advice she has for aspiring songwriters.

HC: When did you first get into music and how did you know it was something that you wanted to pursue?

Savannah Outen: I started posting videos on YouTube when I was 15 years old. Music has always been a big part of my life, but it wasn’t until I was about 13-14 that I started taking it seriously and pursuing it. I posted that first cover video and ever since then I have been taking it seriously and making it into a career. I have been releasing original music and just taking the steps forward, and it’s been really fun to get [positive] feedback, especially from the team of fans and followers that have been with me from the start. Just having them grow with me has been really great.

HC: What was it like starting a YouTube channel at such a young age?

SO: It was weird. I actually really didn’t want to do it at first because I didn’t want my friends knowing that I liked to sing. So that’s why we put [my YouTube channel] under “savannah7448” because I was like “maybe my friends won’t know that it’s me.”

I was a little nervous at first, but I also was excited because not a lot of people were doing music on YouTube. Justin Bieber, me, and this girl Esmée Denters were really the only people posting music-related content, and so that was exciting and different for the platform at the time. I’m really glad that I did it because it was such a great platform for me to reach people all over the world and share my music.

HC: Obviously it worked. You found a lot of success early on, even becoming the first unsigned artist to reach #5 on Radio Disney’s Top 30—which was definitely something huge for someone so young. What was that like?

SO: It was so cool. I was such a Disney-lover and I still am. It was great to have their support with my original music. The song that charted, and the one that I released, was the first song I ever wrote. So I was super nervous to even put that out into the world because I didn’t know what it was like to write a song. I was really scared, but I was super happy that it got that response. It kind of gave me a boost to continue writing and put more original music out there.

HC: From there, what came next for you?

SO: From there I released a few more originals with Radio Disney and then I kind of took a break. I needed time to figure out who I was as an artist. I had a lot of people at that time telling me who to be, and what to do, and how to sing, and how to dress, and what my hair color should be and I just needed to take a minute for self-discovery and to figure out who I was, not only as a 17-year-old kid, but also as an artist.

So I took a few years to figure that out, but I was still doing covers in the meantime to just keep that support system that I had and make sure that they were still on Team Savannah. Also, I really loved covering people’s songs and realizing “I like this about that one, and this thing about that one.” I took a few years off I guess you could say, and then these last couple of years I’ve really lived life and experienced things that I can write about now. I know what I want to say, and I know what I want the music to sound like. That time was super necessary for me to grow up and figure out who I was.

HC: After having all the time to figure yourself out, you say now that you really value authenticity and portraying your true self to your fans. How do you go about doing that?

SO: For me I think the biggest thing is just being true to myself and hope that it rubs off on my followers to be true to themselves. It’s kind of a crazy world and time right now, especially in this industry. You kind of find yourself comparing yourself to other people, and that’s what I was doing when I was younger. But then something clicked one day and I was like, “you know what, the only person that I can be is myself. I don’t have to have this crazy hairdo, I don’t have to have a gimmick, I can just be me because there’s no other Savannah out there.” I found a sense of freedom. It’s been great and so freeing to just be myself and now I can send that message to everyone else.

HC: You have a huge following on social media, so is it more difficult being surrounded by people who use filters and Photoshop to really stand out as yourself?

SO: Honestly, I’ve always been really open and I love sharing my personal life with my followers. I don’t feel like I necessarily need to filter anything, and I don’t do Photoshop or anything like that. I try to stay as organic and me as possible, and relatable because I just want people to see my socials and listen to my songs and think “oh she’s going through that too” or “she does funny things like this.” Or “she’s just a chill girl I want to be best friends with her.” I just try to be as chill as possible and not be too outrageous or use any crazy filters.

HC: That organic version of you definitely comes across. Specifically, your personal style is really unique, it’s very vintage and super interesting, and you share that a lot on your social media. Is fashion something you’re really interested in?

SO: Oh my god, I love fashion. I’m super inspired by people like Audrey Hepburn and Twiggy. I love really cool, unique pieces. I love the '70s era and I try to incorporate that with my modern style. If it’s a really cute Twiggy-type a-line dress I would pair it with some high over-the-knee boots to funk it up a little bit. I’m super into fashion and it’s definitely a problem.


I don't want diamonds. I want cheesy fries & a cute plant.

A post shared by Savannah Outen (@therealsavannah) on

HC: Going back to your music. Since you took a break when you were younger, you’ve since been able to cultivate your own unique sound. Can you talk a little bit about what your unique style of music is?

SO: It took awhile for me to find that style and sound. I went through a lot of different producers and just figuring it out and getting down to the nitty-gritty of what sounds I wanted to use. So now it’s very rhythmic, R&B and pop. I'm really inspired by big drums, cool harmonies, and really big choruses where I can belt. I just try to blend all of those things together.

I really love Jon Bellion, he’s this amazing artist that is doing super well now. But he’s been writing for the past 10 years, but I love his story and I love him as an artist, his production and writing. He really inspired a lot of my music. I also really love Adele and Christina Aguilera and big voices like that. So this new music was inspired by them. My music is still growing and I’m still growing as an artist, but right now I’m super happy with the music that I’m releasing.

HC: Your new single is called “Sad in the Summer,” can you tell us what it’s about and, other than from the few singers that you just mentioned, where inspiration for the song came from?

SO: “Sad in the Summer” is a song about a relationship that I was in that was definitely not right for me. I knew it was something that wasn’t going to move forward, but he just kept coming back and forth into the picture and I kept allowing it to happen. I feel like a lot of people can relate to that kind of situation and it’s only a matter of time before you find the exit sign and run. So “Sad in the Summer” is kind of me, in that moment, realizing “this isn’t right for me” and thinking back on those good times that we had, but also realizing that I’m better off without him and I need to move on and find somebody else.

I think also in writing the song I found a sense of freedom. I went out on a new date that night and was like, “yeah I’m getting him out of my life. This is good.” It was very therapeutic to write this song.


Sad In The Summer available on @spotify, @itunes and all the goods ✨

A post shared by Savannah Outen (@therealsavannah) on

HC: So you write most of your songs from personal experiences?

SO: I’d say every single one is about my life. There might be a few songs that I’ve written that are about friend’s relationships that were just too juicy not to write about, but I love writing about relationships. I am just super fascinated with love and the dating world. And it’s free therapy for me, so I really enjoy it.

HC: What advice do you have for aspiring songwriters regarding the writing process, where to find inspo, how to be successful?

SO: Well, I would like some advice (Laughs). But really, for songwriters, I would say write, write, write. Never stop writing, even if it’s not that great. Just constantly write because that’s how you’re going to grow. For artists, I would say to be super persistent because it’s a pretty crazy [industry] and you can hear "no" a lot of the time. But if you stay persistent and don’t give up, you’re always going to find success and your dreams are absolutely going to come true. If you’re putting in all of the effort and putting it out into the universe you’re only going to succeed at that point. I’d say just be persistent, and I’d say that goes for any career that you choose.

HC: What can we expect next from you? More videos, YouTube covers, maybe a concert tour?

SO: I’m releasing the music video for “Sad in the Summer” very soon. I just saw the final cut so I’m super stoked about that. It’s very '70s-inspired, very classic summer, and I couldn’t be more excited. And we’re releasing another single as well in the next couple of months. It’s all happening and I’m really, really excited.