Starting her entertainment career as an actress, Issie Swickle spent twenty months on tour in America as the lead role of Annie and since her time in the musical, has set up her own campaign BraveHat helping with confidence-building. Now a performing artist, Issie writes and records original music with her latest single, Mirror being launched at her recent release party. Taking time to speak to us, Issie chats about playing Annie on tour, her BraveHat campaign and her new single, Mirror.
What was the experience like playing Annie on tour?
It was AMAZING!! Annie is such an iconic role and everyone knows who Annie is, so I had a lot to live up to. I wanted to make sure I did the role justice and worked really hard. At the time, the producer and creator of Annie, Martin Charnin, had me cut my hair really short and dye it red. The purpose was, if you look like Annie, you become Annie. That’s what happened for me. It doesn’t get any better or bigger in the theatre world as a little girl than having the privilege to play Annie!!!!
How did you find touring for the first time?
I was nine years old when I started and I was lucky enough to have six other girls on tour with me. We all hung out together, worked together, played together and experienced this together. So most of it was being able to do something I loved every night and do it with friends. Doesn’t get any better than that. Plus I got to see the country which was really cool.
Do you have plans for more theatre work?
Right now I’m really focused on my music career. I love theatre, it will always be home for me but I’ve found that writing music and performing my songs on stage is really awesome.
Can you tell us about the BraveHat Campaign and what inspired you to start it?
BraveHat, or the beginning of it, started when I was on tour in San Antonio, Texas. After a show, like all of them, fans come to the stage door and ask for pictures and signing of the Playbills. I did that for many little girls that evening. After we left, I received an email from a little girl’s father thanking me for being so kind to his daughter. It was a lovely email. When the tour was over, I received another email from that same father who explained to me that his daughter had a very bad experience on stage for her recital and was refusing to return. He asked me if I would be so kind to send her a quick video, that it would make her day and make her feel so much better. I said of course. I sent her a three minute video of what I do when I get nervous on stage and how I get my sillies out. More importantly I just told her to have fun. Once I’d sent her the video, her father sent me back an email telling me that the video was so inspirational and that she went back to her dance school and is so happy doing everything and it was all because I sent her the video. Throughout my time as Annie, I would always receive emails from kids asking me how do I get up on stage, how do I conquer my fears, what do I do if I make a mistake, and how did I get to where I was. I just explained that I would put on my invisible brave hat and from there, the campaign grew. I found that there are a lot of kids who just need to talk to someone to realise that even though I did a big show and was on a stage every night, I too would get nervous. That it’s all about hard work and preparation and most likely to never give up.
Do you think you’ll bring the campaign to the UK and other countries?
I would love to bring the campaign to the UK and anywhere that they would allow me or the campaign to go. It is such an important message, that it’s OK to make a mistake, it’s OK to be a little bit different, it’s OK to be nervous when you have to perform whether it’s on the stage, or on a soccer field, or on a football field. The campaign also talks about being kind and one way of wearing your BraveHat is if you see another kid struggling, you go and you help them and be there for them. It’s very inspirational. Everybody can use inspiration at any point in time in their life.
What was the response like to the BraveHat song?
The BraveHat song I think I wrote when I was eleven going on twelve years old. It was the song from my heart that was meant to just be inspirational. I think if people listen to the words then they’ll understand what I’m trying to say and the point of it. I think the people who listen to it had a great response to it and love it.
Can you say more about your recent single Mirror?
Mirror is a bit more of a mature song than BraveHat. Mirror talks about how you always have to look at yourself in the mirror, and you’ll always see everything about yourself. You’ll see the good, the bad, things you like, and things you don’t like.
How was the experience at the release party?
That was unlike anything else!!! It was about my music and hoping people would like it. I’m so used to performing other people’s works and being directed. This time, I got to decide what I was going to sing and the show I was putting on.
What’s the social media reaction been like to the release?
It’s been great!!! People are loving the song and asking for more music. It’s my first song/release so I’m hoping it continues to grow and more people hear it and like it.
Where do you get the inspiration from for songwriting?
I think really it’s about the mood I’m in that day or that moment. I’m only thirteen so I can only write about my experiences as a teenager with friends, peer pressure, school, etc., sometimes I’m just in a quirky mood and wrote a song titled “Misfits”. It’s fun and quirky and sends a message that it’s OK to be different!!!
Are you currently working on new music?
I’m always working on new music. I’m in the studio every week writing and making new songs. So far I have co-written and co-produced four originals. I think it’s important to keep writing and creating, even if they don’t get released because that’s how I will grow as an artist and a performer.
What events do you have coming up where you’ll be performing?
I’m performing at the famous Roxy Theater in Los Angeles June 2nd. It’s a fundraising show for the S.O.S. Foundation (Stand Up, Own Up, Speak Up) that has created the S.O.S. Tour that will be a national and international tour. S.O.S. Foundation advocates for at risk youth. Then on July 13th I’ll be performing at the Venice Beach Summer Showcase in Venice Beach, California. After that, I think I will be heading out on a mini tour. As soon as I know the dates and venues it will be posted on my Instagram and my website.
Where did your love of acting and music come from?
I’m not really sure. No one in my family acts or sings. But as a kid I fell in love with the Disney show, Hannah Montana and would sing along at a very young age. So for my fifth birthday party, I wanted a Hannah Montana party and my mom found a small studio that just opened up near my neighbourhood in Davie, Florida, Broadway Kids Studio. I had the BEST birthday party, I wore the outfit, the wig and got to perform on a stage. From that moment on, BKS became my second home and I never left there. I was there seven days a week, singing, dancing, learning to play the piano and performing in their Broadway shows. I got the performance bug and never looked back.
What do you enjoy about performing your original music?
It’s my music. It comes from my heart and it’s what I want to say. It is truly a reflection of who I am right now at this point in my life.
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