‘The X Factor’ may have ‘skyrocketed’ Drew Ryn into the music industry at just 14. But the ‘Orchestra’ singer reveals how TikTok was the game-changer for her career nearly a decade later — and how it can be for other artists, too.
In today’s social media landscape, the normal trajectory to fame is going viral on a platform like YouTube or TikTok and then launching one’s music career. Now, take that order and flip it: that was Drew Ryn’s path. The singer-songwriter was just 14 years old when she finished in sixth place on The X Factor in 2011, which immediately put her in front of crowds and big names like Babyface.
Fast forward to the end of 2019, and Drew was still riding on the success that The X Factor introduced her to all those years ago. But thanks to the push of “friends and fans,” Drew decided to give TikTok — then mostly thought of as an app to copy 15-second dances — a try. The app turned out to build a whole new community of fans for Drew’s music (1.7 million total) and “changed” Drew’s life, which the 23-year-old music artist EXCLUSIVELY told HollywoodLife. In fact, Drew’s now even inviting her TikTok fan base to write her next single with her — more on that below!
TikTok also led to the creation of Drew’s most streamed song on Spotify, “Orchestra,” which began with three randomly generated words and a 30-minute brainstorming session. The result was a song that blew away 2.9 million people, who “liked” the original TikTok version of “Orchestra.” Clearly, anything can happen on the app, which Drew touches on more — in addition to the future of the platform — in our interview!
HL: Your path is unique in that you were a finalist on The X factor, and then found viral fame on TikTok. Can you tell us a little more about what was happening between that?
Drew: I was on The X Factor at 14, which skyrocketed me straight into writing music and performing! I had never written a song before The X Factor, but I quickly found myself with some of the biggest stars and songwriters in the world, like Babyface! I’ve been blessed to work with so many accomplished artists since then and have enjoyed great success with them! As my fandom has grown into the millions I’ve been able to meet hundreds of thousands of them at shows over the years. I continue to release music for them and have a lot more on the way!
HL: Did you expect to blow up the way you did on TikTok? What were your initial goals when you first joined the app at the end of 2019?
Drew: Not at all! I honestly never considered TikTok until I was encouraged by friends and fans to jump on, and sure enough I ended up having my first viral video at almost 14 million views!! I wanted my fans to be able to enjoy the real me. I really hoped it would become a platform where I could write original music and share it with the world, and that’s exactly what happened! It’s been an amazing journey!
HL: It’s incredible that your song, “Orchestra,” was based on three randomly generated words. How long did it take you to come up with all the verses for the original viral TikTok?
Drew: The original TikTok took me 30 minutes haha. I was going to look at houses with some family members and said “I need to post something, hang on.” I truly didn’t think it would be the one to blow up, but people really enjoy its vibe and meaning! It’s pushing a million streams on platforms already. The support has been amazing!
HL: You’ve done many more “Random Word Challenges” on TikTok! What made you start doing this challenge?
Drew: It’s really hard for songwriters to “show off” the aspect of songwriting. It’s easy to sing a cover song that everyone knows, but I knew there had to be a way to show people my love for writing music. I really love what this has become!
HL: You now have a new song out, “Old School.” What was the inspiration behind this track?
Drew: Well I think it’s safe to say everyone wishes they could go back to before this pandemic, so it seems fitting for the time, but I actually wrote it about the longing we all have for being young and wildly in love with someone. It’s an amazing song and SO well produced. I get compliment after compliment about that. Grateful for the amazing team I worked with to bring it to life!
HL: Where was the music video for “Old School” filmed? The retro vibes fit the song so perfectly!
Drew: I filmed it here in Nashville at a retro motel. We searched high and low for the perfect throwback-ish kind of place! It really is an amazing little spot!
HL: Turning our attention back to TikTok a bit more, how do you think this app will change within the next year? Do you believe it’ll be harder for creators to grow as fast as you did on the platform?
Drew: I think every day it becomes harder to stay up in the algorithm. You hardly meet a person who doesn’t watch or upload on the app anymore, and the good part of the algorithm is it favors “discovery,” so there will always be that chance of over-saturation. I have to constantly evolve my challenges and content to keep my viewers happy.
HL: How do you think TikTok has changed the landscape for music artists, especially since it has birthed viral tracks that otherwise wouldn’t have been made?
Drew: TikTok (and social media) has definitely confused all of us who have been in the music industry who have been doing things a certain way all these years. A lot of musicians are finding the ability to use social media as their “label.” Social media has given us a platform that allows the audience to determine the success of a song rather than labels. If you connect with your fans, they will reward you. They demanded I release “Orchestra” and they put it on the charts! It’s all deeply connected to social media now.
HL: And, as a music artist, how has TikTok personally affected your career?
Drew: It changed my life to be honest. I have been able to grow my following there, and draw that following to live shows, draw that following to other platforms, and create music my way as an independent artist. I’ve collaborated with huge artists and DJs around the world as a result. My team and I always looked for a new platform that would let the world hear my voice. I’m grateful for it!
HL: There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding TikTok, given Donald Trump’s constant threats to ban the app. Do you think the app will last regardless, or is it on shaky grounds?
Drew: I think it will last, and if it doesn’t there will always be another app on its way up, not to replace it, but to add to what we all love about it! I’ve been working with Triller as well and engaging my followers on my other platforms just to be safe. I’m confident TikTok will be around for a long time and that the correct steps will be taken to keep us safe as well.
HL: Last question! Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to tease?
Drew: I just shared a video on my account asking my TikTok followers to write my next single with me. Check it out and vote for what you’d like to hear in the song! I have a few songs we’re getting ready for release as well!