If I had to pick one shining quality about Aly Michalka, it would be her genuine kindness. Despite her endless successes, (starring in a Disney show in her early teens, selling over a million records with her sister AJ and working on so many movies/tv shows that it would take this entire intro to list them) the girl has remained one of the most down to earth people I know. Which, here in Hollywood, is about as rare as snow on Christmas Day. She’s loyal, supportive, and full of heart, and I’m excited for you to get to know her. And for the record, no, she doesn’t actually smoke.
Amanda Crew: I have known you for, I think, maybe four or five years and in that time I've seen your whole style and look change completely. Even the way you do your hair and makeup, you went from blonde to brunette. You have such a cool, unique style. I don’t know anyone who dresses like you, and I mean that in a good way. Have you always been into fashion?
Aly Michalka: I think so, yeah. I mean I don’t think that my fashion has always been on point over the years. I like mixing stuff. It always bugs me when people are highly obsessed with labels or designers. I'm like, “why are you just wearing Gucci, Givenchy, Tom Ford glasses?” That’s not fun because anybody could easily get that. It's just about if they can afford it. There's something great about one-of-a-kind pieces that nobody else has. I like mixing in a lot of vintage pieces. I have quite a few pieces from there One of a Few. I really like Reformation, too, which obviously doesn’t always have one-of-a-kind stuff, but I think their cuts are really cute and classic. But I'm super casual; almost to a fault. I really don’t like getting dressed up.
AC: I don’t find you casual at all. I always find you so put together. I think you make some really cool, bold choices with your clothes.
AM: Thanks. I wear a lot of shirts backwards, which is always an interesting choice. Sometimes it doesn't totally work.
AC: That takes confidence! So what was your first acting job?
AM: My first acting job was the television show that I feel like people think me and AJ were both on together even though we weren’t and that was Phil of the Future. That was the Disney Channel show. That only went two seasons and it was around the era when Lizzie McGuire, I think, was just finishing or just finished. It was our show and That's So Raven. I think Even Stevens was still on at that time. So I mean I was around the age where it was cool to be on a show on that channel.
AC: That must have been such a dream come true at that age.
AM: It totally was. It was cool just because we got the perks of being on a Disney show so we could go to Disneyland for free and they would take us on tours underground that were away from crowds and stuff. I remember one time, AJ and I went to the Pirates of the Caribbean premiere or something and we were like 15 and 16. They put us in one of these suites at the Grand California Hotel. And they were like, "Johnny Depp was just here two weeks ago with his children." Me and AJ were like, "What?" We were freaking out. We were like, "Johnny Depp sat on this toilet!", and "Johnny Depp touched this and then he touched this." We were so weird. So it was definitely cool as a kid to experience that and we were super grateful to be a part of it. But then I think at a certain point too it then becomes not as cool. So then you want to change your taste and all of a sudden MTV is the thing or whatever it is.
AC: That's what I was going to ask, was that hard to go through? It’s such a specific transition being on a Disney show and then growing up and having to tell your fans, 'I'm not a kid anymore. I'm an adult'.
AM: Right. And “I need to prove myself.”
AC: Yeah, and figure out your new identity. Was that a hard transition for you?
AM: I mean kind of. It wasn’t super difficult because it helped having AJ and the two of us being together, but I definitely felt like there was a pressure on us to break out of the mould that we felt like we were in because of the perception of being a part of the Disney family. I think that was what part of us changing our band name and leaving our record label was. I think all of those things were a part of that.
AC: That must have been scary. Was it hard to leave your label?
AM: It definitely was. It's funny now because I think we look back on it and there's definitely certain things that we would do differently or we would say, "Who cares? Screw that person if they're going to think that about us". But I think it was always based on what we felt like at the moment and it was very important to us to stay true to whatever kind of artistry we wanted to make at that moment. I think for us musically, that was the hugest change, that we didn’t feel like we were really being listened to for the kind of artists we were on the kind of label that we were on. I think we're the only artists on Hollywood (Records) that wrote their own stuff, I mean besides Plain White T's who were on with us, and Jesse McCartney. But besides, them no other real female artist was making their own music in the way that we were. So we felt like we wanted to be respected for that and we didn’t feel like we were. The hardest part was that we felt like we always had to keep proving ourselves to the company over and over again when we already had done it the first time. So it was hard.
AC: I’m sure part of going through that transition was discovering your new voice. What’s that process like?
AM: It can be difficult. I mean some bands obviously don’t make it until their seventh album. U2 had so many records before Joshua Tree. I think we're at a good place now where we feel like as long as we're making music that we're happy to be performing and making, then we're fine with whatever the outcome is supposed to be; whether it's with a major label or an independent label.
AC: You played me some sneak peeks of what you guys are doing right now and I am obsessed with it. How are you feeling about where everything is at with that?
AM: We feel really good. I think a huge part of us making this music and feeling like it's on the right track was teaming up with co-writers who we really felt connected to and we felt really safe with. Just opening up the door to collaborating with people that we never would have maybe originally collaborated with, or just being open to listening to new bands that maybe we had never heard of. And not copying anybody by any means, but, being inspired by some of the music that we loved growing up and saying: why do we respond so greatly to this type of music?
AC: I really admire that you guys are not just singers. You play instruments and write your own stuff. I feel like it could be really easy for you guys to just hire some writers and do their songs and do whatever is hot right now. But I love that you guys are really working hard to find your new sound.
AM: Yeah. There is something that I think is special and there's something that makes us extra proud to put out this new music just because we know that we were there every single step of the way. I understand that not everybody is going to write and I would almost prefer somebody who knows that writing isn’t their forte because they're like, "Hey, I need to hire great writers." But there is a special thing when someone is writing the music that they're performing and singing and playing for people live. There’s just a different connection.
AC: That's amazing. So we worked together on a film, Weepah Way For Now, which your husband, Stephen Ringer, wrote and directed. What's it like working with your husband? Well, at the time you guys weren’t married.
AM: We weren’t even engaged. It was really great. AJ and I definitely had moments where we were stressed during the movie, but then we also had these days that were really great and went super easy. We would wrap early and we would just be happy that the day went smoothly. But Stephen is super calm so we never felt like he was ever stressed because he's good at being a bit like a monk on set. His big thing on this movie was keeping the set quiet, which is interesting because I'm almost never on really quiet sets.
AC: I remember the first time I saw the movie, that opening scene with you and AJ, my jaw was on the floor because you had this natural banter and liberated energy between you two. It was such a great opening. You got so much information about your relationship and dynamic. I've seen you in lots of things but I really felt like in the movie I saw you in a whole new light and you really were shining.
AM: Well, it's interesting, too, because I think we didn’t really know how hard it was going to be to play a version of ourselves. We just thought "Oh, this would be easy. I can just be me." It almost was harder because Stephen could easily stop rolling and be like, “No, when you get mad at AJ, you don’t say it like that and you're doing this actor habit thing that’s hiding this, that and whatever.” And it was good. I mean it's really hard to hear.
AC: Especially from your boyfriend.
AM: Your boyfriend! You're like, "Fuck, damn! Wait, do other directors think that? You can tell I'm acting? Dammit!" But I think for us it was really therapeutic because we were able to make a movie that obviously had this storyline that was fictional but all of the elements within the storyline were very real and very personal. So it was nice that we had the freedom to just say, “Okay, we're in this fictional world, yes, but this is our house and we are sisters that are from a divorced family.” So there are these great elements within it that were very true.
AC: I felt that was so brave of you guys, too, because anyone watching it knows that it is loosely based on your life and to expose things of that nature, especially because you guys have these fans who have been with you since you're 15. They might question which parts are based on your real life. It was a very raw, honest film. You guys talk about sex, masturbation, divorce.
AC: Possible cancer scares, drug use, OCD. It really felt like you guys went there. What kind of response have you seen to the film?
AM: We've definitely seen some really amazing comments on message boards and reviews that I think just talk about how this is the sisterhood that they wish they had or how it brings them back to their childhood.
AC: The sisterhood thing. I've never met two sisters closer than you and AJ. I envy your guys' relationship. I think it's so beautiful how close you two are and how much you really love each other, full-heartedly. I think it’s one of your greatest qualities: your incredible loyalty to friendship and family. Is that just how you were raised?
AM: I think yeah. I mean it's funny because we don’t have a huge extended family but we were all very close growing up where we went on family trips and we always ate dinner together. There's just that sense of: we're all we have and let's all stick by each other. So I think as we grew up, we obviously carried that with us. AJ and I are each other's longest friendship. It is a really special relationship.
AC: The last thing I was going to ask is about growing up on such popular show. You had this huge fan base at such a young age and you've grown with them too. Is there any misinterpretations that you feel maybe people, not even your fans but just a public perception, that you get frustrated that people see you as?
AM: That's a good question. I think that for a while we didn’t want to be seen as goody two shoes even though we just happened to be kids that really didn’t get in trouble. We didn’t do drugs or drink at a young age. We were invited to clubs when we were obviously underage but we knew the owners and they knew that they could trust us because we just wanted to go there and dance. And I think we also felt like we had a responsibility to not just be fuck-ups because there were young kids that were looking up to us. It always bugs me when people are like, “I didn’t ask to be a role model.” Who doesn’t want to be a role model? It's not a bad thing for somebody to look up to you. We always felt like there was something cool about a younger kid aspiring to be like us or wanting to be successful or whatever. So I think that we struggled with that for a little bit but then we also at the end of the day were like, “You know what? Who cares?” At this point, if we want to be happy living our life and if somebody is going to have this completely false perception of who we are, then they're just going to have it. And I think also trying to make everybody like you is so impossible and probably the worst thing to strive for. So we got to that point where we just said, look, we're not hurting anybody. We're living our life.
AM: What are you going to do? I mean every single thing these days offends somebody. So it's like you can't even post a photo. I also think a lot of people think that I'm not as friendly as AJ. AJ definitely comes off as the more bubbly, outgoing.
AC: That's so interesting.
AM: Which is really funny and people always comment, "Smile more in your photos. Smile." I'm always like, "No!" This younger girl who's on a Disney show, Rowan Blanchard, she recently said, "Look, I just don’t like smiling in photos. This isn’t who I am. This is me. You wouldn’t be asking a guy to smile in photos.” Which is true. You never see a comment that's like, "He needs to smile more." It's always the girl. Why? Is there some weird perception that we need to be happy and therefore, if we are, we're smiling?
AC: That is a double standard for sure.
AM: It's really weird. But I definitely feel like more people maybe are intimidated by the energy that I give off, not a purposeful energy, just like me in public places I'm a little bit more shy than AJ is. We'll both be together and we're fine. But if I'm by myself, I’m more shy.
AC: I love that you own that and don’t try and force something that you aren’t. That’s a victory in itself.
// aly's favorite songs at the moment \\
all images by amanda crew except the scans of aly's personal polaroids.
interview edited & condensed.