Lauren Jauregui has already been in the spotlight for six years as a member of Fifth Harmony, but today (Oct. 24) marks the beginning of a new chapter for the 22-year-old singer. With her group on on hiatus, Jauregui is officially launching her solo career with “Expectations,” a sultry single that shows how far she’s come since auditioning for X Factor at 16.
The feisty track finds Jauregui confronting a lover for his lack of communication late at night: “Respect for my time, respect for my space, respect for my energy/ ‘Cause I’ve been waiting here all night for you to warm me up/ And you haven’t once thought of me,” she sings. If Jauregui’s vocals sound impassioned, that’s because she says the song drew directly from her relationship with ?Ty Dolla $ign.
“Sometimes when you’re a little bit of a crazy bitch and you’ve been working for a lot of hours, you just want to cuddle with your boyfriend — and they have to do work,” Jauregui says with a laugh about the song’s inspiration. “He had an appearance he had to do at the club, and I didn’t want to go to the club because I’m a grandma. He said he was going to come home, so I waited up, expecting him to come home, and then I didn’t get any answers for a while about where he was.”
Fans need not fear — Ty ended up hitting the studio with Future and couldn’t answer his phone. Jauregui jokes that she was “still a little Latina mad about it” but says channeling her frustrations into song helped. “I purged the emotion in it,” she explains. “I got all of the feelings out in the song, and then I called him right after and I was like, ‘Hey, I’m not mad anymore. I realized it was total bullshit, my bad. I love you.’ … If I can get my emotions out in songs instead of acting crazy, that’s fantastic.”
Jauregui credits Ty with helping her find her confidence in the studio, and now she’s more than ready for fans to get a taste of what she’s been cooking up. Ahead of the release of “Expectations,” Jauregui chatted with Billboard about life after Fifth Harmony, the strides she’s made as solo artist and how she overcame her fears about songwriting.
How would you compare your vision for your solo career now to your vision when you first auditioned for X Factor at 16?
I would not have ever been able to get to the place I did, to become what I am right now, if I hadn’t gone through what I did. It shaped me in so many different ways — from business to emotional to mental. Physically, even, dealing with the physical demands of this industry. The girl I was when I stepped on that stage was young, from a very sheltered, very bubble life and hadn’t really experienced too much of the world yet. She couldn’t have been able to create what I’ve created now, unless she would have gone through some shit.
The growth from 16 to 22 is a lot. And then [being] in the public eye and having to be a grown up and having to be a business woman at that age — and having to think about things that most 16 to 21-year-olds have never begun to think about — was a lot. It was definitely life-changing.
You auditioned with Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” and you have similar soulful vibes on “Expectations.” Is this the kind of music you thought you’d be making?
It’s coming to fruition more than anything. It surpasses what I could have imagined back then for sure. Music-wise, I’m still influenced by the same people I was listening to then. I actually was listening to way more music back then than I am now. It’s all of the different influences for who I am. That was then, this is now — but all of them were me.
Is there an artist or genre that’s particularly inspired you?
I have so many different influences. I go from soul and R&B to pop to rock. I’m mostly inspired by songwriters. The string that goes through all I listen to is that they’re incredible songwriters, and they’re saying things from their souls. If I’m talking people I’ve been listening to the past year, definitely SZA, Kali Uchis, Kehlani. Very confessional. They’re making such bomb shit right now. Tierra Whack is super cool — very different, avant-garde energy. I love seeing this emergence of truth and authenticity coming from so many girls’ hearts. That’s really inspiring me a lot.
You’ve said that you were really self-conscious about your songwriting at first, but mentioned that songwriter Khaled Rohaim of Twice As Nice Productions helped you turn a corner with your confidence. What else helped you?
[Khaled] was definitely one of the turning points. He was one of the first people to really tell me, “You can do that. Get out of your head and stop trying to be perfect.”
My boyfriend, Ty, is also super supportive. Watching him work also is incredibly inspiring to me, [especially] seeing the way he makes tracks come to life with his musical brain. I’m more of a lyricist — when I listen to a song, the first thing that I listen to is the lyrics. When he listens to the song, the first thing he listens to is the beat. We taught each other stuff about how to get better at what we do. He was a huge part of it, too.
As you got more comfortable with the process, did anything about your songwriting surprise you?
I keep surprising myself, to be honest. I like that I can continue to grow and get better. I never feel too comfortable in thinking that I’m at my best, because it’s a constant evolution forward for me, as far as lyrically what I can get out of my heart.
Art is therapy. It’s getting that shit that you’re contemplating and feeling alone in out. You can talk about literally whatever you want, but formulating it in a way that communicates a concept and allows somebody to enter a little world for three minutes — that’s such a cool job to have, and it’s cool when a world is receptive to it.
How long have you been working on your solo stuff?
I had written two songs, maybe, in the beginning of the year, but May was really when I started writing. I was doing two weeks of writing sessions, working with producers and a couple of songwriters. Then I had the tour with Halsey, so I had to pick three of those songs that I had just written. They were demos, but I got to test out material and see what people gravitate toward.
After tour, I went [into the studio] for a month. I was working on music in like July and August. I’ve just been in the studio almost every day, just working. It doesn’t even feel like work. I’m walking in and fucking purging my soul. It’s fun.
Did working with Halsey on “Strangers” help you open up in your own music?
Ash is an amazing friend, and she’s been so supportive. And anytime girls are supportive of each other, that’s something that makes my heart glow. I didn’t write my verse [on that song], but the reason I didn’t write my verse is because I respect her so much as a female songwriter. I wanted to respect her artistry and what she wrote to keep the integrity of the song from her perspective. I’m just honored that I got to work with her and that we got to make such an important piece of art for the time.
When Fifth Harmony announced its hiatus in March, were you scared? Was that a period of uncertainty for you?
No. I had my uncertainty period when [Camila Cabello left the group]. That was my moment where I was like, “What the fuck am I going to do with my life if this all falls through the cracks? Everything that I’d been working for the past five years, what if all of that literally means shit and I wasted my time and I get shelved? What do I do?” That’s when I had my panic attacks and waves of, “Who am I? Where am I going to go with my life? Am I even going to do music? Should I just become a fucking teacher? Should I just go to school?” I went through a kind of chrysalis process with that, just unraveling who it was that I even wanted to be.
The last year that the four of us did stuff, I was checked in [to the group] but at the same time working on me. Working on me emotionally, mentally, physically — focusing on self-love and getting to a place where I trusted myself again. And trying things, especially in writing. I hadn’t let myself write a song, because I’d been so discouraged by so many different forces around me. I was scared I was going to be bad at it. That was detrimental to me as an artist because I had always, my whole life, known that I wanted to make art. When you think you’re not going to be good at the one thing you want to be good at, that shit just messes with your head.
I got to a really amazing place in January. I went on a trip to Egypt and Thailand and really connected with myself spiritually. That’s really what also changed my life, connecting again with God. That really helped me: feeling this higher power and feeling connected to it in a very real way. And safe — safe in who I am and who I was created to be. I realigned my brain to be “pro-me.” Like, “Do you. Go out and try writing. Even if you suck at it at first, you are going to suck first, and then you get better.” I keep proving that to myself. Every time I got into the studio, I’d write a better song. I really have been like a little lotus flower, just peeling away layers of myself.
What made “Expectations” stand out as the song to launch your solo career?
Out of the three I premiered on tour, it got the most ravenous reaction. [Fans] were really excited, and by the end of the song, they were singing the lyrics to it. I was in Sao Paolo when I first premiered it. No one had ever heard it. And they don’t even speak English! The fact that they were singing the chorus by the end of the song, that was the first moment where I was like, “You can do this, Lauren.”
I knew there was a special magic about it, just because of what it made me feel — which is what I try to go by. If my songs can make me feel something, hopefully they can make someone else feel something. It’s cool that it actually did that. [“Expectations”] had always had a special place in my heart. That confirmed it for me.
Is there anything in particular you hope fans take away from your solo music?
I hope they just resonate with the music. I hope they can connect with it, find a little piece of themselves in it. My favorite thing about music is that it narrates people’s lives, whether it’s their wedding, their car rides, their dance moments, their mornings or whatever it is. If I could be one of the artists that narrates people’s lives, that’s just a win.
So how many songs do you have ready to go, and do you have a release plan in place?
I have a bunch of songs. I got a whole-ass plan. People really be underestimating me, but it’s okay — underestimate away.