The actress and singer’s debut EP, titled ME, was released Friday
From her days on Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader to her newly released debut EP, MEthis link opens in a new tab, singer and actress Laura Marano is continuing to put herself on the map in the entertainment industry.
The 23-year-old, who is probably best known for playing Ally in Disney Channel series Austin & Ally, is furthering her music career with her first EP, out Friday.
“ME encompasses all sides of me,” Marano told PEOPLE. “ME not only shows the different sides of me, it shows that we all have different sides, and each side should be embraced and celebrated.”
The Los Angeles native describes her music as “moody pop,” and says that she has long been passionate in music.
“I loved writing songs in every single situation I was in — though I’m not sure anyone else loved it.”
Here are five things to know about Laura Marano to kick off the official release of ME.
1. She was one of the original students on Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?
Turns out, Marano has some brains too. In 2007, Marano could be found schooling adults on Fox game show Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?Prior to the game show, Marano had limited acting stints, including appearing as Kelsey Grammer‘s daughter on Back to You.
Although she only appeared during the first season for ten episodes, the middle schooler (at the time) put her winning earnings towards college. Following her leave, she appeared in small roles in shows such as Dexter and Heroes until she snagged her infamous role on Austin & Ally.
2. Her sister is also an actress
Laura isn’t the only famous member in her family. Her sister older, Vanessa Marano, is also an actress, and is best known for her role in Freeform’s Switched at Birth, which she starred in from 2011-2017.
Vanessa has also appeared in shows like Gilmore Girls and Grey’s Anatomy. Her role in Switched at Birth lasted for 104 episodes and earned her two Teen Choice Award nominations. She is among the support system, along with other family, friends and fans, that Laura describes as “fantastic” to have in her life.
“Each of those groups of people push me to be better and also are there for me through the many roller coasters of life.”
3. Her first single, “Boombox,” has over 60 million views on YouTube
Marano scored big with her very first single in 2016. “Boombox” garnered over 5 million views on YouTube within the first week, and currently has over 60 million views total.
The video featured actor and comedian Ken Jeong. Marano performed the single several times, including at the 2016 Radio Disney Music Awards, which aired on Disney Channel, and on the Today show in May 2016.
4. She had her own radio talk show on Radio Disney
In addition to acting and singing, Marano’s talents have transitioned into radio. During 2016, she had a weekly one-hour show which chronicled her journey in the music career, featuring interviews with a guest star in each episode.
5. She is currently considered an independent artist.
While she was signed to several different record labels, Marano is currently an independent artist. Flip Phone Records, as she self-named her label, is named after her still having a flip phone, rather than an iPhone.
While signing with Big Machine Records in 2015, the company dropped almost all of their pop artists, Marano included. She then signed to Warner Bros. Records in 2017, but that also fell through in 2018 when the people who signed her left the company.
Although not signed to an official label, Marano is happy to be on her own. “Honestly, I’m proud to be a young woman running my own label and in charge of my own musical destiny. It feels good.”