When the COVID-19 pandemic ground the world to a halt in March of 2020, singer-songwriter LØLØ, born Lauren Mandel, was undaunted. Locked down at home in Toronto, LØLØ kept herself busy by posting short dance videos to TikTok. It was there that she spotted a video of a young woman performing a version of the song “Hey There Delilah” by The Plain White Ts, inverting the narrative to tell the story from Delilah’s point-of-view. Intrigued,  LØLØ wrote her own version, quickly generating a strong following on the platform with her pared-down acoustic performance.

“It got more streams than my dancing videos,” she laughs. “I was, like, ‘Wait a minute – this makes sense!” Realizing the creative potential in writing covers from new perspectives, she began generating lots of original content on the social media platform. Her version of country duo Dan and Shay’s “Tequila” got radio play, while her cover of Taylor Swift’s “Betty” generated buzz on a Reddit page run by Swift’s fans. Before long, LØLØ had also attracted the attention of Mike Caren of the APG Publishing Group, who, in December of 2020, signed her as a writer.

“I’m now getting access to other amazing artists and other songwriters and producers I wouldn’t have had access to,” she says, still giddy from a recent trip to Los Angeles, where she had the chance to pitch for artists like BTS and Gwen Stefani. “I love writing for other people, coming into a room and hearing them say ‘I want to write about this…’ It’s like a therapy session, and I turn it into lyrics.”

But LØLØ wasn’t always so keen on becoming on songwriter. As a child, she idolized Shirley Temple, studied tap dancing, and dreamed of being on Broadway. In Grade 9, however, when she started taking guitar lessons to keep up with her younger sister, her teacher suggested she try singing, and encouraged her to write her first song. Though young LØLØ was accustomed to writing out her feelings in her diary, she was terrified at the notion of having people hear her innermost thoughts. It was only when her teacher threatened not to come back unless she did, that she buckled down and got to work.

 “I think my younger self would be freaking out”

“I sat down with my guitar and wrote a song – and it came super-naturally,” she recalls. “I was like ‘Oh, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’” From that day on, she wrote hundreds of songs, and still credits her teacher, Elliott Bernstein, for charting her career path.

With no connections to the music industry, however, LØLØ – who cites Avril Lavigne, Green Day, and Hilary Duff as early influences – began performing at open mics in Toronto, in a bid to meet people. After joining forces with a couple of music producers, she put out her first single in the Fall of 2018, quickly finding success as an IHeartRadio Future Star, which in turn resulted in widespread radio play.

“It was a blessing and a curse that I got on the radio [right away],” she says, admitting that she soon felt pressure to tone down her punky, guitar-driven sound for something more “straight down the middle” – but she wasn’t happy with the result. “It didn’t work not being myself,” she says.

Stepping back, LØLØ spent the next year working on her writing, staying true to her desire to craft “weird or quirky lyrics.” Since then, she’s released a number of new songs and videos that are truer to her roots, including 2021’s “Die without U” and “Lonely and Pathetic.” “I like trying to say things that nobody has ever said before,” she says.

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift, LØLØ has her eyes set firmly on the future, including touring with Simple Plan in the late summer, releasing a new EP, and then heading back to Los Angeles for another writing stint.

She admits she’s surprised to see how far she’s been able to come in a short time, but loves where the journey is taking her. “I always wanted to do this, but I didn’t know if I actually could,” she says. “And now I feel like I’m actually doing it. I think my younger self would be freaking out.”