YouTube Star Tiffany Alvord On Her New EP & The Heartbreaking Fan Interaction That Inspired Her Advice Column (Exclusive Q&A)

Singer and songwriter Tiffany Alvord found success posting covers on YouTube at only 15 years old. Her following has since grown to 3.1 million subscribers, with over 642 million views on her channel—and she isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Now 25 years old, Tiffany has released three original albums, starred in the film School Spirits and the AT&T Hello Lab series Guilty Party, and was nominated for “Favorite Viral Music Artist” at the 2017 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards. Her Campus sat down with Tiffany to talk about her musical inspirations, the importance of connecting with her fans, and her advice for other aspiring artists.

Her Campus: How did you know you wanted to pursue music?

Tiffany: Originally I actually loved acting, and I wanted to be an actress. I found community theater, and growing up I always sang in church and in musicals. When I was 10, I realized one of my biggest passions was writing. I loved writing songs, and to write songs I had to sing songs—but I never really thought of myself as a singer. So, basically, it was a transition where I wanted to do acting, but then I found YouTube and thought, “Hey, I like to sing. I could put my songs up here.” So I more consider myself a songwriter, and singing is just part of it.

HC: What was it like finding so much success singing covers on YouTube, and then finally being able to record and release your own original music?

Tiffany: When I first started on YouTube, I would put covers out so that I could gain a new audience and get more exposure. But after every two or three covers I would upload an original—it would be an acoustic in my room of a song that I had written. After a couple of originals, people would say, “oh I want to buy this” or “oh I want to get this”, and so there was a demand. Which is kind of backwards because usually artists will be like here’s my original music, this is who I am. But I kind of built my fanbase, and then they were the ones that were like, “hey, I want to buy your original music,” which was really cool.

The first album I did I flew back to Ohio and a production company helped put it together. But it was so exciting releasing songs because it was a process start to finish to actually get my originals produced, and it was great for people to be like, “yay! I’ve been listening to this for however long and now I finally get to have a CD.”

HC: What was it like to be so successful on YouTube at such a young age, and have so many people wanting to listen to and buy your music?

Tiffany: It was very surreal because I feel like for so many years, every week, I’d just be in my room by myself uploading a video. So I would be like, okay I’m going to film, and I’m in front of the camera talking to an inanimate object and it’s not responding. But when you upload it’s like, oh cool here are these people, and these comments and these users. But I feel like it didn’t really hit me until I started touring and traveling and I was like, oh wait, these are real people. Online they’re numbers, and I hadn’t met these people, so it didn’t seem real. But then I realized that my music actually makes a difference, and this person was crying when they met me but I didn’t actually know them. It was just a surreal experience. It makes me feel so humbled and honored that people actually listen to my music and care about what I want to say.

HC: It’s so cool to be able to have such an impact on people’s lives. You have your column, “Ask Anny,” where you answer questions from your fans. Can you talk a little bit about that and why it’s so important to be able to have that type of interaction with them, too?

Tiffany: In this day and age there’s such a need for connection and having someone who you trust who can listen and give advice, even if it’s just someone who hears you and listens to what you’re saying. For Ask Anny, early on in my YouTube career, someone had messaged me and said, “I was wanting to commit suicide and I was going to do it. I was going to jump off this bridge, but then I decided to listen to music and one of your songs came on. It made me so happy and I realized I couldn’t do it.”

So realizing that there’s so many issues and so many people going through challenging times, I wanted people to have a place where they could ask a question, be vulnerable, and just be heard. I don't necessarily have all the answers, but I’ve been through enough life experiences where I can give my feedback and my opinion, or at least just be a friend. I think everyone just needs a friend and a listening ear.

HC: Who is your biggest musical influence?

Tiffany: There’s so much good music right now. But I know for my first few albums, Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift were my go-tos for who I loved and who I listened to all the time. I always blank on this question because there’s so many people I love and I feel like I just go on Spotify and I’ll do Radio or listen to New Music Friday. And I’ll save all these people to my favorites that I don’t actually know... But more recently, I love Selena Gomez and what’s she’s been doing. And Ella Vos, I love her music. James TW is a really good singer/songwriter, and Sabrina Carpenter and Phoebe Ryan, too.

HC: If you could make the choice, out of your favorite singers, who would you collaborate on a song with?

Tiffany: Sara Bareilles. I’d probably want to collab with her because I think we could write an awesome song, and she’s got the singer/songwriter vibe. I love her style.

HC: What’s next for you with your music, acting or anything else you have planned?

Tiffany: I’m so pumped because I did a web series last year called Guilty Party and it’s going for a second season, so next month I’ll be filming that which I’m super excited about. That’s with YouTube and AT&T Hello Lab.

Then as far as music goes, I’m wrapping up my EP.  I’ll have an EP of five new original songs coming out, so I’ll have new music videos and I’ll be touring. Just working on getting that in motion so I can meet fans and sing new music because it’s been a sec. In the meantime, I’m taking acting classes and trying to keep up with posting YouTube videos and consistently posting content to keep the fans happy.

HC: If you could give a piece of advice to any of your fans that want to pursue music or acting, what would you tell them?

Tiffany: My biggest piece of advice is to know why you’re doing what you do. I think a lot of the time, especially in this day and age, people think they want to be a YouTuber because everyone else is doing it, or they get free stuff, or because they make money. But you have to be passionate about what you’re doing. I think having the “why” behind what you’re doing will help guide you, especially when things get hard. Because it is hard and it is a lot of work, and I think people don’t realize that.

Be happy and enjoy what you’re doing and have fun. I think a lot of the time it’s easy to get caught up in feeling like, “I need to do this because it’s my dream,” instead of really enjoying what you’re doing. Love what you do, have fun, and make sure you’re always doing it because you’re passionate about it. Dream big, but also enjoy it!

Find Tiffany’s YouTube channel here, and check out her “Ask Anny” column here.