Ally Brooke is an astonishing talent. Following her time in Fifth Harmony (described by Billboard as the biggest girl group of the 2010s’), the multiplatinum singer-songwriter kicked off her solo career with back-to-back Top 40 charting singles and an impressive resume of collaborations including “All Night” with Afrojack which marked her first #1 as a solo artist on US Dance Radio. A life-long entertainer, Ally competed on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars before embarking on her debut headline Time To Shine Tour in early 2020 with scheduled stops including a sold out show at New York’s Gramercy Theatre. She also appears in numerous Nickelodeon shows including Blue’s Clues & You and The Casagrandes, for which she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title for an Animated Program and plays the role of “Alissa.” With total career streams already in the billions, Ally is only just getting started.
In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Ally Brooke about her incredible career in music, following her dreams, what we can all learn from her journey, and why she decided to chronicle her life in her fantastic new book Finding Your Harmony: Dream Big, Have Faith, & Achieve More than You Can Imagine.
Q: How does music move people?
[Ally Brooke]: Music physically and emotionally moves people. In our low moments, music is our therapy, it helps us to cry, to breathe, or gives us the encouragement we need… it’s our therapy. In our moments of happiness, music is our celebration… it’s extraordinary.
In these strange times we’re in, people are consuming music more than ever. The arts and each other are really all we have right now.
More than most artforms, music is the one that can’t be beaten, tamed or matched. It just impacts your soul. I love producing music that gives people hope, makes them feel good, and gets them dancing and moving. It means everything to me when my fans tell me that my music is helping them get through a hard time, making them feel great or giving them confidence.
Q: How did you find your purpose in life?
[Ally Brooke]: One of the reasons I wrote this book was to help people find that ability within themselves to find their dream, and to pursue it. I try to share my journey and use these stories as a way of helping and guiding the reader on theirs.
My third-grade teacher told my Mom that I had a gift and asked if I could sing in chapel. My Mom agreed and after my parents saw me sing, they were amazed. She told me that they were like, ‘…oh my gosh, our daughter has a gift, we have to do something with her voice!’ Before then, I’d always gone around the house singing, but my parents didn’t think too much about it- they saw me as just singing as prettily as any other child. But it was that third-grade teacher who changed my life. My parents put me into a local organization called Network for Young Artists in San Antonio which helps kids perform, and I was 9 years old when I had my first ‘real’ performance. I’ll never forget that day, before I sang I was super-shy, I had a stomach ache, I didn’t want to go on stage… the moment I sang and I saw the audience loved it, I felt this powerful electricity all over me, it was like falling in love and knowing my purpose right there and then. I didn’t know what journey my dreams would take, but I knew singing filled me up like nothing else could. It felt like a superpower.
I have to thank my parents and give them all the credit. They poured so much love and support into me and believed in me at times when I didn’t even believe in myself, and at times when I didn’t feel confidence in my own abilities. They were cheering me on to reach this dream and that was just so beautiful to have. They made so many sacrifices for me, and I’m so happy that I can tell their story and shine a light on them. My parents are the best people in the whole world.
Q: What has been the role of faith in your life?
[Ally Brooke]: My faith in God is the most important thing in my life. I have relied on my faith through everything, through those dark days when I didn’t believe things would get better or that doors would open. Through everything, God was there to carry me through.
I was born premature, just 1lb 14oz, and my parents were told that survival chances for babies born so premature were low, and that it was likely I would grow up with disabilities if I survived. Praise God I survived, and I’m here today to live out my dreams.
I hope that being able to share each and every story of all the highs and lows of how God was there will inspire other people’s faith and will touch other people’s hearts and just bless people. That’s my prayer.
Q: How did you find your voice as an artist?
[Ally Brooke]: As I’ve moved through my career, I’ve developed an understanding of the music I want to make, the lyrics I want to sing about, and the kind of videos and images I want to produce. When I went solo, it was imperative that I had the right people around me who saw the same things I saw, and who believed in my vision. The process took time, I interviewed lots of different managers, songwriters and producers, but once I found Charles Chavez, and my manager Will Bracey, things started to click. The process wasn’t easy, I had to be patient, persistent, and have a belief and prayer that one day the right team would come along. You have to push on, you have to keep going and have faith that things will work out.
Q: How do you cope with the pressure of public profile?
[Ally Brooke]: Before Fifth Harmony, I had been working hard for 6 years in LA pursuing the dream writing, working in the studio, performing…. And then with Fifth Harmony we had a huge amount of success really quickly, and the online and social-media aspects of this were hard. When my audition aired, they edited it to make me look shallow, and to give me a different ‘persona’ on screen – the comments I got were devastating, people were so, so cruel and it was a knife to the stomach. It was such an awful way to be introduced to ‘success’ and the spotlight, especially as I’d worked so hard to get that chance.
As the group went on, I finally proved who I really was, not the crazy edited version and thank God people loved that. It took a long time though, I was very insecure, self-conscious and watched every word I said, and every facial expression I made. As we grew more successful, it was amazing, but also challenging because people started to have opinions about me that went viral. There was one instance where people body shamed me after a music video where I was in a bathing suit. They were calling me horrible names, calling me fat, and it was really rough – I was already insecure and that shattered my heart and my confidence.
Coping with success is a learning curve- there are good and bad things- and it takes time to learn to focus on the positive, as the negatives can be really bad. The beautiful thing for me was having friends, family and fans who fought for me and helped me through the bad patches, but celebrate me in the good.
Q: What does success mean to you?
[Ally Brooke]: With Fifth Harmony, we basically had it all, but it was a very different journey for each of us, and when you’re in a group it’s all kind of ‘smoke and mirrors’ – there are lots of personalities, factors, and people on the outside like labels and management who control everything. Honestly, it’s very hard to be truly happy in that kind of situation.
Even though we’d achieved so much success, going solo felt like a clean slate that I could pursue on my own. I’m travelling the world, making music from my heart, making the videos of my dreams and working with a team who believe in me. It’s been liberating! I’ve got my own fans, my own music, my own videos and my own brand that means I can dive into endorsements and the business world. These are all things which are part of success for me, but I have a huge list of goals that I’m working through, and I’m thankful to have been able to achieve so many goals, in such a short time.
I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, but I’ll always keep fighting every day, being hungry and working to do what I love, there are endless possibilities and making music that resonates with people, moves them and uplifts them? …that’s the best feeling in the world.
Q: What are your views on how music has been hyper-sexualized?
[Ally Brooke]: For my eighteenth birthday I asked my parents for a very special ring, which they were happy to give me. It reads true love waits. It symbolizes the choice I’ve made to save myself for marriage, a commitment I have maintained to this day, even in an industry where such values are not generally celebrated, and I’ve sometimes been judged and made fun of. But I’ve just held my head high and remained true to who I am and what I believe in.
Looking back at my time in Fifth Harmony, I definitely wish I could have changed some of the lyrics- at the time I was honestly so nervous to speak-up to the writers… every time I did, it was met with opposition… I just tried to avoid conflict and carry on doing what they wanted me to do. Going solo meant I could find the right team to empower me to be who I wanted to be, and to sing authentically without anyone trying to create anything out of me. I just want to be who I am as an artist and a person.
I can still be sexy and flirty but wear what I want to wear and maintain my own personal values. As women, we should be empowered to express ourselves – we can be flirty, smart, sexy and in control while having our own voices and values.
I would never judge anybody for their own personal choices, and it feels good that I can write about mine and have people be so supportive and not judgmental. We all need to share our truth, and love people for sharing theirs.
Q: What can we all learn from your life, for our own lives?
[Ally Brooke]: I just want to inspire people to have faith that your dreams are possible. You will always have people who may never believe in you… you will have doors shut in your face… you won’t always get the answers you want… but you can overcome, and you are so much stronger than you think. You have to hold on to that belief inside you that there is something greater. Even when things are devastating, or triumphant, you have to keep that in your heart.
To live the fullest lives we can, we have to remember there is hope, there is light, and we have to keep that light shining even when times are at their darkest.