Wallis Shriver, who simply goes by WALLIS, knew from a young age that she wanted to be a performer. She gained worldwide acclaim last year, at the age of 15, when she released the track “Lonely Christmas” on YouTube, about the sadness of Christmas during the pandemic but tinged with hope, as well. Not expecting it to gain much success, it garnered a lot of attention on Reddit and blew up, surpassing a million+ views to date. The song was accompanied by a fun video that her father filmed in one day on his iPhone. Most recently she followed it up with her track “Another Day”, which was recorded at their Pennsylvania home and at the famed Criteria Studios in Miami with Grammy winning engineer Carlos Alvarez. “Another Day” features vocals from Maren Schriver and Soleil Schriver (together with WALLIS, the Schriver Sisters) and appearances from bassist Julio Hernandez (Barry Gibbs), trombonist Steve Sigmund (Ray Charles) and Cisco Dimas (K.C. and the Sunshine Band) on trumpet. “This is a song about coping. It’s about seeing light in the darkness and dancing through it. Growing up in a world that’s often very confusing for my generation, I have to remind myself that I have everything I need to survive, and when I feel lost I can find myself through music,” says WALLIS. “We faced so many obstacles finishing ‘Another Day’ during the pandemic,” says WALLIS, “but it was all worth it because I am incredibly proud of this song. I’m beyond excited to share it with the world.” She got her first taste of performing at the age of 2, when her parents took her to see Peter Pan the musical. She started writing songs at the age of 9 and performing in local theaters, venues, and cabarets at the age of 12. Coming from a musical family, she has been singing with her sisters as The Shriver Sisters since 2017. Her father Gene has been writing songs since he was a teenager and has become her songwriting partner. Following the success of “Lonely Christmas”, WALLIS made television appearances nationwide, was playlisted on NPR’s New Music Friday, included in Paste Magazine’s holiday sampler, featured on TODAY.com, shared by Ellen DeGeneres on social media, and has been covered by dozens of news and media outlets around the world. “Lonely Christmas” was played on dozens of terrestrial and streaming radio stations across the U.S. and Europe. With plans to keep moving forward with her music and to hopefully play some live shows this fall, it will be exciting to follow WALLIS’s career. At just 16 years old, she has already shown an immense amount of talent and drive to keep pushing forward in her music career! You can connect with WALLIS via the following links. Photo credit: Justin James Muir.
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You got your first taste of performing at the age of 2, when your parents took you to see Peter Pan the musical, you started writing songs at 9 and performing in local theaters, venues and cabarets at 12. How would you describe your journey over the years as a performer, and now a music artist? What lessons have you learned along the way that have helped you now in your career?
I started doing a lot of community theater and joined a lot of choirs and local cabarets and any sort of performance that I could join, like dance classes. From there, I continued to go down that path and I auditioned for my first professional theater show, which was Annie, and I got cast. I was very lucky to get cast. From there, I decided that is what I wanted to do, and the theater that I got cast at was actually the place where I saw Peter Pan, which was the first show that I saw at a real theater. It was sort of this crazy full circle experience. From there, I joined a performing arts school and went there for about 3 years and here I am now, writing music with my dad and recording with my sisters and him.
What can you tell me about writing songs with your dad and having him be a part of this experience with you?
So my dad has been writing music for a long time, since he was a teenager. He has a lot of the beginnings of songs in his computer, that he has already recorded. From this wide collection that he has, now we work together on taking those beginnings of projects and trying to reinvent them and write together to complete them. That’s how “Lonely Christmas” started and how “Another Day” started. They were all just beginning tracks that I added vocals on and that we wrote additional harmonies for and added more instrumentation. From there, we mixed it and shipped it to go.
You have been performing with your two sisters as The Shriver Sisters since 2017? Did the three of you know that you always wanted to sing together? Have you been singing together since you were really young?
Yeah. I mean, we grew up in a very musical environment. A lot of my parent’s friends are very musical, so we had a lot of people coming in and out of our house and would have some local jam sessions frequently. We learned a lot from those people in our lives. I think, also, that doing choir and community theater and all of those random shows we could get into, you learn a lot from each of those experiences. Since they are around me and I’ll be playing music all of the time, I’ll be like “Hey, can you sing this with me?”. We just got very lucky and got to do some super cool performances, like at the Walnut Street Theater, and even just little performances in our hometown that have helped us to learn. We’ve been singing together for a long time and now are just working on finding the right blend and improving our craft.
You released your debut track “Lonely Christmas” last year during Covid and it was the first song you had ever released out into the world. What can you tell me about the message of sadness mixed with hope and the reaction it’s gotten, which you have said you didn’t expect? I read that it has surpassed 1 million views!
Yeah! “Lonely Christmas” was incredibly unexpected. It sort of blew up on Reddit, actually. Somebody posted it and it got a lot of action there. I believe it got, like, 15k upvotes, which sent people all over the world to the YouTube video and we got a little bit of action on Spotify. But mainly, it was on YouTube. From there, there was this high demand to put out and release more music, so that’s when we worked on “Another Day” and we tried to get it done even sooner, because everyone was asking when it would come out! We intended to put it out at the very beginning of the year, but that process ended up taking a little bit longer, and here we are now (laughs)! I am very excited that we finally released it!
You just released “Another Day’, which you have said is about coping and growing up in a world that’s very confusing for your generation. What can you tell me about the message of the song and what you hope people take away from the song?
I think in this song, in the verses, it discusses a lot of, I think, not only my daily anxieties, but also other people my age and really everyone in this society. It discusses a lot of my daily anxieties and intrusive thoughts and reoccurring thoughts that I have, I guess sort of questioning “Why is it this way?” and “Why was I born and why is it like this?” but then reminding myself that I do have everything I need and more. I can acknowledge that I will be ok and I can choose to be optimistic and can choose to be thankful for everything I have and sort of dance through the day!
You recorded “Another Day” mostly in Miami at the famed Criteria Studios with Grammy-winning producer Carlos Alvarez, as well as with several acclaimed session musicians. What can you tell me about that experience, as well as turning a pre-planned holiday family trip to Miami into a recording session?
We had planned this trip before “Lonely Christmas” came out and at the time, that was when “Lonely Christmas” was getting the most attention and I was doing a lot of my first interviews. It was a very busy trip, but that was when a new song was in very high demand. My dad and I brought minimal recording equipment-what we thought we could use to create this new song. We decided that we did need some better equipment to get to the final product faster, so my dad called Criteria and wanted to see what the circumstances were and if we could record there and what the Covid regulations were and all of those details. They were very accommodating and helped us out and had wonderful session musicians. We had an insane experience! I still cannot fathom that I got to do it! There were so many rooms and we got to record in a room that the Bee Gees recorded in, which blows my mind. We also had just watched the documentary about the Bee Gees and the sibling blend and it all just felt very universal that we got to experience a similar thing.
You all faced a lot of obstacles finishing “Another Day” during the pandemic due to the assistant engineer testing positive for Covid and decided to finish the recording process back home in PA. What can you tell me about that turn of events and finishing the song at Milkboy recording studio in Philly?
Yeah. Our assistant engineer got Covid when we were at Criteria, so we all got tested and my dad and I were negative. We decided that in order to keep everyone safe, we all had to part ways and not go back because we did not want to spread Covid. When we knew that nobody had it, we returned home and finished up the last bit of our writing and recording at home and at Milkboy Studios. We worked with our musical engineer Cody, who we work with when we are home, and that was a bit of a shorter process. We did the main part of the recording in Criteria, but we worked on “Lonely Christmas” at home and basically just finished similarly to how we recorded “Lonely Christmas”.
What can you tell me about the importance to you of featuring some Spanish lyrics in “Another Day” and what inspired you to do so?
Yeah! Well, I’m not fluent in Spanish, so I was a little bit nervous to do the Spanish lines. I wanted to make sure I was pronouncing everything correctly, and it also just felt a bit strange to me at first because it’s not my first language and I wanted to make sure I was doing everything correctly. But, my grandmother speaks fluent Spanish and I have a lot of family members who are from Argentina. Since we were recording with Carlos Alvarez, the engineer that we worked with in Criteria, he has produced a lot of Latin music and has won several Latin Grammys and was like “You’ve got to keep the Spanish!”. After I was thinking about how I have all of these family members who speak Spanish, and a lot of my loved ones and friends and Carlos, they all were like “You’ve got to keep this”. So I was like “Alright. I’ll keep this” (laughs)!
Do you think you will include Spanish lyrics in future songs?
Sure! If they fit in and we feel like that’s what enhances the song in the best way, then yeah, totally!
You made a music video for “Lonely Christmas”, which your dad filmed in one day on his iPhone. What was that experience like and do you have plans to make a music video for “Another Day”?
Yes, we do have plans to make a music video for “Another Day”! That one will be a surprise! We are still working on it currently. But, in terms of the “Lonely Christmas” video, that happened so quickly. We recorded most of it all in one day on my dad’s phone. It was raining outside, which rain in December was interesting. I was very cold in that video (laughs)! It wasn’t a lot of fun to film! I was dancing outside a lot and was walking around and we visited our grandparents while filming the video. They only live a mile away from us, so we are very lucky that it was convenient in that way. It was quick but it was fun.
How would you describe your local music scene where you live? It is a thriving and lively scene?
With the pandemic, it’s been a little bit less lively, but I’ve been noticing a lot of music is coming back and there are going to be a lot more live performances coming up. Philly has a very fun music scene and I’m still getting to know it. I just turned 16 this past year, so I’m only really just getting out into the world (laughs)! This is just my beginning of experiencing everything. I’ve met a lot of really great musicians throughout this process and am learning more about the Philly music scene every day. It seems pretty fun so far!
You have talked about how you attended the Center for Performing and Fine Arts in PA. What was that experience like for you and what did you study? Are you hoping to do music and theatre after you finish school or mainly focus on your music?
Yeah. So I went there for about 3 years and now I am finishing my junior and senior year at a public school, but a cyber school version of that. But, while I was at the Center for Performing and Fine Arts, I studied acting and choral music and musical theater and took some piano classes. It was very nice experience where I got to learn all of those categories…that feels like the wrong word to use here but that’s just what’s coming to mind (laughs)! I had some really great teachers who are very knowledgeable in each of those subjects. I feel like with performing music, it is important to learn how to do musical theatre and learn how to act because that’s a big part of it. Your stage presence and all of that, as much as understanding music is good and important, that plays a huge role in it, as well. I don’t know if I’m going to study musical theater or acting in the future, but I do hope I will get to incorporate it, because I really do enjoy it a lot. I think I will probably mainly focus on music.
What can you tell me about exploring your sound as an artist? Are there certain genres or sounds you want to focus on or are you just leaving it open to whatever inspires you?
Usually when we write, we don’t have an intention of staying in one genre or category. We usually just add in whatever we think enhances the song in the best way in whatever we write. I think in “Another Day”, it really reflects how we enjoy so many different genres, because of the dramatic changes in the instrumentation and voicing throughout the song. Each of our songs sort of, well not all of them, but specifically in “Another Day”, we do have a lot of change in the genres we incorporate. When I speak the Spanish lyrics, that’s a little bit like rap, and then we have a sort of jazzy, pop section and a more dramatic bass section and the beginning is a little more eerie and dystopian. So, we like to blend whatever feels right to us.
What’s next for you? What are your hopes and goals going forward? Do you have any live shows planned?
We don’t have any live shows planned yet, but I am hoping to do some live shows this fall!