"I'm just a YouTube kid singing in her living room, still chasing that dream that seems oh so far away. Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Traci Hines, and I am a singer, actress, model, cosplayer and hair and makeup artist from Southern California."
Traci Hines is most known for her amazing cover (especially Katy Perry, Paramore and Disney) songs on YouTube. Currently she's also working as a model for Hot Topic as well as a Princess character performer for children's parties, events and non-profit functions. Obviously, being a struggling singer and an actress she also works random jobs here and there to make ends meet. Traci surely knows how to keep herself busy. "I'm filming for an online show this week, have quite a few official photo shoots for some new film-quality costumes in the works, and am planning for some upcoming charity events with True Enchantment Entertainment. I try to fit in song writing and videos whenever I can!"
HAND IN HAND
Traci is also known in the cosplay world because not only does she love creating costumes and dressing up as her favourite animated characters for her job, conventions and YouTube videos, she also performs at anime conventions singing Jpop and anime theme covers, sometimes even in Japanese. "I'm not even really sure when I got into cosplay, because I have always been that girl that lives to dress up. I would plan what I'd be for Halloween years in advance, just because I was so excited about getting the costume together. When I got into watching anime as a teen and realized dressing up as your favourite animated characters was an actual hobby, I was all over that!"
Traci started attending conventions always in costume and eventually got into performing Japanese music too. She saw people doing it at conventions, and heard music she loved on anime she watched, and wanted to get into it. "Now in a sense I cosplay for my job with the kid's events, but of course, it's cosplay as well as acting and singing!"
Traci was also an AX Idol Runner Up in 2008 at Anime Expo, and because of that, she's starting to get some great opportunities with con performances and other shows. "I'm also hoping to get back into voice acting soon" she says and says she used to play a character on a radio show as a kid.
"I kind of just fell into modelling too. I never thought I could model professionally since I never thought I had a good body for it, being as short as I am. Some of my family members became professional photographers, so I began to arrange photo shoots with them for my music pages and costumes, and eventually started applying for actual commercial modelling." As far as the hair and makeup styling goes, Traci says she was always that girl that just loved doing it. "My mom let me play with makeup from the time I was in preschool. I never went through that awkward phase in middle school when you're finally able to wear makeup to school but have no clue how to apply it", she says and laughs. Eventually Traci became the girl everyone went to for proms, formals, and school plays for styling help, and eventually started to get wedding and event inquiries from all the friend to friend networking. Once she started to get busy and couldn't afford to do it for free anymore, it just kind of morphed into a little freelance project.
As far as acting, Traci's been doing it since she was very young. "I started acting in school and stayed with it until college. I took some classes for different types of acting, and now use it for my job doing princess events, and hope to possibly do more in the future if any other opportunities arise. I think singing, acting and modelling tend to go hand in hand."
Traci says she feels very lucky to have experienced so much support for her music. Her family and friends have obviously always been there to support her, but she has also received such an outpouring of support from online friends. "I still feel really weird calling them fans! …but I guess you could classify them as that too. I receive fan videos, fan art, letters, and just recently got a P.O. Box at the request of some people wanting to snail mail me gifts and art. My friends on YouTube, MySpace and Facebook make me feel like a celebrity, when really I'm just a normal girl that has big dreams and high hopes for the future."
Traci thinks the craziest thing is that people are starting to recognize her on the street and ask for photos or even an autograph once in a blue moon. "I'm always like, "Are you sure you've got the right girl? You want a picture of me?" It's pretty surreal. My favorite though, is the little kids that watch my videos. They usually think I'm Ariel, or another princess character, and I've had quite a few of their parents in my area book me for events because not only do their children watch my videos and want to meet me, but they do too! I love seeing the kids' little faces light up when they meet their favourite princess, and when the parents ask me to sing because they watch my videos and like my voice too!"
STAY WITH YOU
Ever since Traci was a little kid, music was always a huge part of her life. "I felt I was meant to sing since I was 5 years old", she says. "My grandmother and my father were both musicians and they taught me from a young age to appreciate and love music, although I don't think I really needed much encouragement-it's always been such an integral part of who I am!"
Traci's grandmother Evelyn Wandell was a big band singer in the 1940's, and had a voice and talent that rivalled Ella Fitzgerald. She was also a brilliant pianist, and taught herself to play by ear at 13 after just a couple lessons. She was also a gifted artist, and even made Traci her first costumes when she was young. "Also like me, she was a redhead", Traci says and laughs. Traci names her grandmother as her biggest inspiration. "She passed away of Alzheimer's a few years ago. I miss her so much." She names Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Jodi Benson and Julie Andrews as her other idols.
Traci's father Gary Oden is also a blue's guitarist and singer, and has been with his band, Mesa Blue, for around 30 years! "I grew up watching him play, and singing with the band! I think he and my mom knew I had something special from the time I was very young. They saw how much I loved to perform, and really supported me from a very young age."
As Traci reached the beginnings of adulthood with still no luck in the music business, her dad suggested she'd try posting videos on YouTube to get her voice and music heard. "So I said, "What the heck!" and I went for it. I've never regretted that decision."
At the moment Traci is in the process of recording her first original song for her upcoming EP. She's hoping to finish it and get it up on iTunes soon. The first song is called "Stay With You", and it's inspired by the book and movie saga Twilight. "I know, I know…but don't judge the song before you hear it okay?" she says and laughs.
Traci's not quite sure who to compare herself to as a singer since she's split between a couple different styles. "I'd like my album to of course be uniquely me, but if I had to compare myself to certain artists out there right now, I would really love to be considered on par with artists like Katy Perry, Sara Bareilles, Paramore, LIGHTS or Lady Gaga… They are probably my favourite artists right now, so if I can be compared with anyone, I would expect my music to have slight similarities to theirs."
Traci's voice and persona is most often compared to Disney princesses which is not a surprise considering her sweet atmosphere and red hair like Ariel's. Traci laughs and says she doesn't really mind the princess references. "I'm a very positive, upbeat and generally happy person, so I think my joy for life probably comes across in my music", she says and adds up that her friends like to call her naïve and she wouldn't disagree, really. "Though maybe, I'd rather call myself a dreamer. I'm quite romantic, and I don't mind being someone who sees the silver lining on every cloud. I don't want to live constantly feeling burdened, and dwell on what I cannot achieve, when I can, instead, focus on the positive-what I can do right now, and be grateful I have the chance to possibly bring light into someone's life right where I'm at."
Like anyone, Traci says she does get down sometimes and at times writes some angsty stuff. "Sometimes pain helps an artist create their best art, but generally, I try to become inspired by what's around me. If I don't see anything immediately in my own life that I feel the need to write music about, I look to media, or people close to me. I just try to stay creative, and be open to ideas when they come." She gets inspired by her own life, from past experience, from film, music, art, media, her family and just anywhere or anything that touches her. "I don't think I'm much different than a lot of artists. I'll often use song-writing to work out what I'm feeling and experiencing."
Traci says she loves ballads, because a good ballad doesn't only tell a story but it makes you feel it. "A well written and well performed ballad can truly move someone. Most of my favourite songs are ballads." One of the most popular songs she performs at anime conventions is called "Endless Story", and most of it is in Japanese. "The song is so powerful and so moving that you don't need to speak the language to feel what the song is about. I think that speaks volumes about how well written that song is." Traci also loves pop songs with great hooks and songs with intelligent lyrics. "John Mayer and Sara Bareilles are two of my favourite current songwriters because their lyrics really make you think and connect with the point they're trying to get across. I also love Katy Perry for her sense of humour."
Traci names "Gravity" by Sara Bareilles, "Thinking of You" by Katy Perry, "Paparazzi" by Lady Gaga and "Ice, Pretend and Lions" by LIGHTS as her favourite songs at the moment. "I love this new artist; she is a total geek like me and writes awesome synth-pop songs that you can't not sing along with. Ice is this fun pop song about a guy that freezes over so to speak that I can't wait to cover, Lions is based on a video game and it puts the listener in this fantasy world, and Pretend is a beautiful, nostalgic and painful plea for peace. LIGHTS has this soprano voice that sounds very young-almost childish, yet skilled…she is very unique, but somehow I see a lot of myself in her", Traci says.
She thinks it's possible for someone to create maybe a fun song, or an okay song based on something that's not based on own experiences but thinks that ultimately the bond between the artwork and its creator is very important. "I do think the bond between a singer and his/her song is a powerful one, which is why most artists are so protective of their work. It symbolizes their heart and soul and it's hard to put that out there sometimes for the world to critique. I'm sure there are plenty of geniuses out there that can whip out awesome songs in minutes, but with my favourite pieces of music, I tend to believe they were an outpouring of the artist's heart."