Interview: 2012 must-know - Ariana Grande

Eighteen-year-old Ariana Grande is a bona fide triple threat, having landed her first Broadway role at the age of fifteen, and now having rose to fame as the sweetheart of the Nickelodeon TV show, 'Victorious'.

Grande has only released her debut single 'Put Your Hearts Up' so far - with the promise of an album on the way - but live performances on YouTube of another song 'Honeymoon Avenue' hint at doo-wop sensibilities, which guarantee that Ariana and her [flawless] voice will continue to out-shine and out-sing her contemporaries in every way.

COUP DE MAIN: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us in New Zealand today!
ARIANA GRANDE: Thank you for talking to me, I'm so excited.

CDM: What have you been up to today?
ARIANA: Today I had rehearsals for a new 'Victorious' episode, and then I went into the studio to help do some vocal producing, and I'm now talking to you guys.

CDM: Is that a new episode for Season Three of 'Victorious'?
ARIANA: Yeah, for Season Three.

CDM: What do you enjoy most about playing the character of Cat Valentine on 'Victorious'?
ARIANA: I love the fact that she's different and that she's kind of challenging. I don't want her to seem like the normal stupid girl at school, so it's kind of a challenge, you know? To keep her endearing at the same time, because she is a little bit flighty. So I try to channel Betty White in 'Golden Girls' a little bit and I try to make her endearing, as well as flighty, so it's a little bit of a challenge, but I love her.

CDM: Having had your first role on Broadway at the age of fifteen, do you think that's influenced your approach to acting or singing?
ARIANA: Absolutely! I learned so much. I learnt a lot from my Broadway experience, it was one of the most challenging things I will probably ever have to do in my entire life, because it was eight shows a week - live singing with really hard choreography - and the spontaneity, you don't know what's going to happen. The thrill of not knowing what's going to happen, trained me to be prepared for anything. It set me up to work really, really hard and it was very challenging. It sort of trained me, you know?

CDM: For people that haven't heard your music before, how would you describe it?
ARIANA: It's pop, but it's also soulful and a little bit of a throw-back at the same time.

CDM: What do you hope that people will take away listening to your music?
ARIANA: I hope that people can relate to my music, it's very relatable, it's very fun, it's very honest. It's very, very, honest. I know that my fans will probably learn a lot about me by listening to my music, if they really listen to the lyrics. I'm sure they'll learn about a new side to me, it's all very honest, I don't put on any... there's no fake-ness to it, it's very real and I hope my fans can relate to it and that it's enjoyable for all ages.

CDM: What does your debut single 'Put Your Hearts Up' mean to you personally?
ARIANA: It means a lot of things to me. It's very inspiring - the reason why we chose it to be the first single is because of the lyrics and because of the message that it has, I think it's very inspiring. In the beginning I didn't really like it and I kept going back to work on it more and more and more, because I didn't love it, and then finally I sort of thought about what it really meant to me - and it's about [how] one little act of kindness can really affect someone else's day, and that is like a beautiful thing to me, so that made me actually like the song. I love it now, it's one of my favourites. It's been a journey, but I'm very happy that my fans are happy with it and it has a great message, so I'm glad that it was the first single.

CDM: What's it been like working with producer Matt Squire (One Direction, Panic! At The Disco, All Time Low)?
ARIANA: It's been amazing! He's one of my favourite people on the planet. He went from being someone who I had just met - a co-worker - to one of my best friends. And I trust him, I talk to him about everything, I literally... I will gush to him about boys. It's just hilarious and I adore him and our friendship means the world to me, I would take a bullet for him, he's awesome.

CDM: And you've been working with the guys from 3OH!3, as well right?
ARIANA: Yeah! I just wrote two songs with them this past weekend, we wrote two songs in like twenty-four hours, they're fantastic.

CDM: Lyrically, apart from 'Put Your Hearts Up', what's your favourite song that you've written so far?
ARIANA: Well I haven't... not all of the song titles are out yet, so of all the titles that I've released, I think 'Honeymoon Avenue' is fantastic, I think it's my favourite. I love the way it sounds and I love the horns in it, and I love 'Pink Champagne' as well which I'm going to be performing soon, no-one's heard that yet, but my fans are going to hear it very soon and I hope they like it.

CDM: Do you think 'Honeymoon Avenue' will be your next single?
ARIANA: I don't know what my next single will be! I thought it was going to be my new single a few weeks ago, but I've been in the studio like crazy these past couple of weeks working like a mad woman and every time we do something new and every time we cut a new vocal and every time we finish a new song, I think that's going to be the next single. Which I guess is a good sign because I'm working with really great people and I love making great music. Now I'm sort of... I have a little dilemma, I'm not sure which one we are going to choose yet, but I guess it's a blessing.

CDM: For the record, I'm really looking forward to hearing a proper studio version of 'Honeymoon Avenue', it's a great song!
ARIANA: Yay, thank you! I hope we can get some real horns on it too. I want there to be like real instruments on it, we're supposed to have a horn session soon so we can cut real horns on it!

CDM: Do you think there will be any guest appearances on the album? I know that some of your fans would love Liz Gillies to sing...
ARIANA: Yeah! There will be some, but I'm not going to say anything about it yet.

CDM: When can fans expect it to be released?
ARIANA: We're releasing another single around March, sort of soon I guess, in that area - I don't want to say March for sure because if it's not March then I don't know - the album will be [out] Spring-ish? Summer/Spring! <laughs>

CDM: There's a demo of you singing 'You're My Only Shorty' floating around the Internet, a song that ended up on Demi Lovato's latest album. How did you get involved with that track?
ARIANA: Well, I helped them create it actually, which was really fun. Working with Rock Mafia was great, I was there when Iyaz recorded his part, and I love him very much, we made a beautiful friendship out of it and I'm happy that the song found a new home and it sounds great. I love her rendition of it, I think it's great.

CDM: Last year you wrote an anti-bullying article for 'The Huffington Post', do you think it's important for you to be a role-model to your fans?
ARIANA: Yeah, I think it's really important. Being a good role-model is very important to me, but at the same time I would never tell them anything that wasn't true. I would never say something [just] to be a good role-model, I try to be as honest as possible, but it is very important to me that I am inspiring to my fans. I think it's the least I could do honestly, for them - because they do a lot for me.

CDM: You seem to have a really great relationship with your fans, they're extremely devoted! Why do you think that connection with your fans is SO special?
ARIANA: Honestly, I don't have a reason! I could never properly explain the bond I have with my fans, I feel like they are my family, they are just so supportive and incredibly dedicated I could never put into words how thankful I am for them. They inspire me and I want to keep doing what I'm doing because of them, it's so amazing. And of course I love music and I love what I do, but seeing their response to my work is my favourite part of it. I love to make them happy.

CDM: What are your five favourite things in the whole wide world?
ARIANA: My five favourite things in the whole entire world?! Are you kidding? <laughs> This is really hard, okay... music! The only other thing that possibly would make me as happy as music, is my family. This is really hard! Okay, music, my family, I'm going to say art of all kinds, that covers a lot, I don't know... this is so hard! I can't answer this, can we come back to it? That was brutal!

CDM: Who is your favourite Disney princess and why?
ARIANA GRANDE: I love [Princess] Aurora! I love 'Sleeping Beauty', there's always been something special about her to me. And I love 'The Little Mermaid', because she loves to sing and has red hair.

CDM: Who are your top five girl crushes?
ARIANA GRANDE: Madonna, Audrey Hepburn - I love her so much - Marilyn Monroe, Betty White and Rihanna.

CDM: Speaking of Madonna, if you were ever asked to do the Superbowl half-time show, who would you want to have collaborate with you and why?
ARIANA: First of all, that would be ridiculous! Second of all, I would love to sing with Mariah Carey that would be a dream come true, I think Madonna had it really spot-on by having have Cee Lo [Green], he's a fantastic artist, I was definitely inspired by Madonna, so I'd have to say Cee Lo as well. These are very hard questions! Is this a fantasy? Do they have to be alive? Okay, Michael Jackson if he was still with us, and Frank Sinatra. It's the weirdest combination but I would make it work! We would figure out a way...

CDM: I recently read that you met One Direction when you visited the 'iCarly' set, what were they like?
ARIANA: Lovely, very sweet.

CDM: Do you think that boy-bands are making a comeback?
ARIANA: I don't know if boy-bands in general are making a comeback, but I think that One Direction are great!

CDM: Do you prefer singing or acting?
ARIANA: I love them both equally, it would be too hard to choose, I could never.

CDM: Do you think you'll visit New Zealand one day?
ARIANA: Yes, absolutely - I would love to visit New Zealand!

CDM: Lastly, do you have a message for your New Zealand fans?
ARIANA: I love you and thank you so much for everything you do and I hope that I can visit one day - and when I do I'm going to have a big meet and greet and give you all hugs!

Watch Ariana Grande's music video for 'Put Your Hearts Up' below...