Interview by Carol Wright | Photo Credit: Score Photograph

We got to chat with Ammon and Liahona Olayan about their time on American Idol, creating during the pandemic, and their advice for aspiring musicians.

Did music play a large role in your lives growing up?

Liahona Olay: Music is an integral part of my Hawaiian heritage so it’s been a part of my life ever since I was a baby. My mom is also very musical and ever since we were kids, she always required us to learn some type of instrument. Although I didn’t like it at the time, I’m really grateful for everything that she has done for me because without her helping me to develop my musical talents, I wouldn’t be in this industry.

Ammon Olayan: Growing up we always had a musical background. My mom’s side is very musical and when we were young my mom owned a music school and taught me basic music lessons which I then taught to Lia.

Have you developed a specific collaboration process?

L: When we write together, I am very organized but Ammon likes to freestyle and just go with what he’s feeling in the moment.  I call it his “creative trash”.  I take his trash and turn it into treasure when I organize it into a beautiful song.  

A: Lia is more musically trained and knows how to organize things so when we write I usually throw out a bunch of ideas and tunes and then she grabs them and puts them where they are supposed to go.

What did you learn during your time on American Idol?

L: I learned a lot of technicalities like camera angles, acting, song choices, lighting, social media, and much more. All these things I am going to remember for the rest of my life. It was able to open my eyes to see what life would be like in a celebrity point of view and let me tell you, most of it isn’t fun and games. There are many things celebs need to do that require a lot of mental strength.  But it’s something I’m willing to do for the career I love.

A: I learned how important it is to remember why I am doing music. If you can stay grounded in your purpose for doing this and have fun then you’ll be able to succeed and overcome the obstacles in this business. If you aren’t committed to your own vision and the idea of what you want to be, you cannot succeed in this industry.

You’ve dropped a steady stream of singles “With or Without It,” “Always Gonna Be Us,” and “Make Me Forget It.” Did the pandemic give you both more time to work on your music?

L: Absolutely. It was a time where we were able to reflect and ponder on a lot of things and we had that time to write music and express what was inside of us. That time definitely helped us to write those songs and get further into our music career.

A: Yes, the pandemic definitely gave us more time, but I feel like it also gave us a chance to reflect on our experiences and how we want to affect the world we live in today.

Tell our readers about your song “Make Me Forget It.” What inspired the lyrics?

L: We are all going places all the time. Whether it be work, school, vacation, etc. There are many times where we feel we don’t want to be there or the day seems unbearably heavy and we don’t know if we can make it through. Life has a way of making us feel like this when times get hard. But when we come back home to the ones we love or to a place where we feel safe and peaceful, those are the moments we live for. Those are the times where we forget how much suffering we’ve been through because we’re surrounded by people that make us forget it.

A: It’s a combo of me and Lia’s ideas. She doesn’t like to write about love or relationships but I tend to like to write about that more. So this song blends the two worlds and it is explaining or talking about being in those moments where you are with someone you care about. Whether it is family or maybe a special someone. But explaining the feeling of peace and safety when you are with them and how it makes you forget all your worries.

What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?

L: Don’t give up. This industry has so many and it may seem impossible to get through. Take a step back, reevaluate, and keep showing up. Because sometimes perfection isn’t the key to success. Discipline and consistency are.

A: Many people have said don’t give up and keep pushing, but it really is true. It’s not easy and it’s going to require a change from the way you live and the way you think. But also remember that you got this! Have fun and when you do run into those hard times brush it off because you got another day to become better.