Johnny Orlando Opens Up About His High School Experience


Johnny Orlando is ready to start his summer.

“I’m kind of home free now,” the 17-year-old pop star told on Wednesday, a day after finishing Grade 11.

Like all Canadian students during the COVID-19 pandemic, Orlando completed his school year in isolation. Other than that, “I’ve just been going up to my cottage and chilling, laying in my backyard, and making music, of course.

“I’ve tried to pick up skateboarding again… it’s been a process for sure.”

He also shot the video for his song “See You” at his family’s home – an easy task for someone who grew up making content for YouTube. “We shot it on the camera that we use to make vlogs for our YouTube channel and we did the directing thing over Zoom,” recalled Orlando, who got to dance and throw himself around his bedroom.

“I’m never filming another music video again,” he joked. “I’m just going to do it in my room.”

“See You” is the song he performs on WE Celebrate: Class of 2020, a star-studded special airing June 6 at 8 pm.

Hosted by Lilly Singh, the show commemorates students and educators who have been making a difference throughout the school year. Also performing are Brett Kissel and JP Saxe with Julia Michaels and there will be appearances by music stars like Shawn Mendes, Selena Gomez, Tyler Shaw, Meghan Trainor and Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine.

“I’ve done a bunch of WE Days all over Canada and some in the U.S. and it’s been really fun,” said Orlando. “I love the WE organization, I love what they stand for, so it’s just a natural progression.”

Orlando, who has one more year before graduation, insists his high school experience has been positive.

“I was the new kid in Grade 9 and that was definitely an experience,” he recalled. “I was really scared because I go to a school for athletes so I did not know what to expect at all. I didn’t know if I was I going to be put into lockers, or what was going to happen. I had no idea.

“I was very nervous on the first day but the guys there were actually really cool.”

Orlando said he quickly made friends – “It was a really small grade so there was really no choice. I knew everybody at the school within weeks” – and found out that his pop star status wasn’t a big deal.

“People were curious but there wasn’t like any bullying, really. People kind of just like asked questions,” he said. “The novelty kind of wore off after a couple of weeks … nobody really cares anymore.”

Now clearly focused on building his music career, Orlando once had other ideas for his future.

“I think like every other Canadian boy, I wanted to be a hockey player,” he said. “That ate up most of my time before I started music. I was practicing all the time. I was on a team.

“I loved it and I still do. I play at my school – we have a hockey rink at the school and we have drills in the morning that we do, so I still get to go on the ice.”

What if the NHL hadn’t come calling? “I also kind of wanted to be a lawyer. I didn’t really know what I wanted,” recalled Orlando. “I wanted to be a garbage man at one point. I thought it was so sick! I just liked how the guys hung off the back. I thought it would be cool, with the wind in my hair and stuff.”

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Since being signed to Universal Music Canada two years ago, Orlando has released the EP Teenage Fever and a string of singles, including “What If” ft. Mackenzie Ziegler, “Last Summer” and “Phobias.” Last year, he headlined an 18-city tour of the U.S. and Canada and he earned more fan votes than Shawn Mendes to win Best Canadian Act at the MTV Europe Awards.

Singing during puberty, of course, meant his voice was changing in front of the world.

“I was actually really worried about that when I was 12, 13, before my voice ever really started changing because I heard stories from people who were like, ‘Yeah, I used to be able to sing when I was younger but my voice changed and now it doesn’t work anymore.’ I thought ‘Oh no, what if that happens to me?’

Orlando isn’t worried anymore. “I’ve preserved my range pretty well,” he said. “It’s just about practice, is really all it is. I did a ton of vocal lessons when I was going through that transition.”

He added: “Sometimes you can use voice cracks to your advantage but then sometimes they definitely mess you up.”

Another big life change is coming next January, when Orlando becomes a legal adult. He takes a moment to think when asked what he is most looking forward to when the day comes.

“I don’t really know. I don’t know,” he replied. “Does that much change when you turn 18? I guess I can vote, which is pretty sweet.”

What about getting tattoos? “Oh yeah, my mom won’t like that one,” said Orlando. Brace yourself, Meredith. “I’ll come home with a full sleeve one day, watch.”

WE Celebrate: Class of 2020 airs on CTV on June 6 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and then on CTV2 on June 6 at 9 p.m. ET, on MTV on June 9 at 9 p.m. ET and on MUCH on June 12 at 8 p.m. ET. All networks are part of Bell Media, parent company of this website.

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