Originally from Houston, but now calling Nashville home, singer-songwriter Olivia Lane is doing things her way. Last year, the independent artist released a thirteen song acoustic mix-tape titled Heart Unlocked, and gave it to her fans....for free! Garnering accolades from Rolling Stone Country, People and Entertainment Weekly, her new single, "Make My Own Sunshine" was selected for iHeartRadio's Digital Integration program in January. With a personality as big and bright as her voice, Lane graciously took the time to chat about the single, her roots and more.
You went to college for theater, then started songwriting and moved to Nashville. Where does singing fit in, was it something you were doing all along or was the initial goal to be a songwriter?
I think I have had a really interesting journey as an artist. I was an artistic kid from the time I was six years old: singing, dancing, acting, and playing piano and guitar. I was in the church choir and my Mom, who was a regional Texas country singer, would take me to the studio and karaoke bars to get me involved. Then when Taylor [Swift] came out I was like ‘Wait you can do this as a career?!’ I knew I needed to move out of Houston and either wanted to go to LA, New York or Nashville. So I moved to LA my last year of high school because I was conflicted as to what art to do, and in LA, I figured that I could try acting and music. I majored in theater in college, but freshman year I took a songwriting class and the lightbulb went off. I would continue school and spend my summers during college in Nashville interning and meeting people. It’s crazy that it’s only been two and a half years; I feel like it’s been an exponential process, and I am really blessed to be surrounded by good people who taught, and continue to teach, me lessons as an artist.
One of those people is your producer Ilya Toshinsky. Is he both friend and mentor?
Ilya was in a country band in Russia called the Bering Strait Kids. They came to the U.S., but didn’t quite take off; he became a session player and has played with everyone from Luke Bryan to Kacey Musgraves. I wanted to find a producer who would grow with me and get to know me personally, not someone who would just come in, I’d pay him money, and he’d hand me a product. Ilya was interested, so we did a couple demos and it worked. I love his ideas and I love that we have this cool collaboration going on. I’ve also been working a lot with Aaron Scherz [“Girl In A Country Song”]. We have sort of a tripod of co-producing madness going on (laughing).
Patsy Cline, Linda Ronstadt and Elvis have been cited as your influences, but you mix pop sensibilities in your music as well. Where do you draw from there?
I grew up in the 90’s and 2000’s, so all of the pop sensibilities are influenced by artists like Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Max Martin, he’s the guy. When I think about my journey, I fell in love with storytelling because of acting, and when country music came into my life it just felt like the right fit for me. What I love about country music is the stories; it’s one of the last standing genres that really rip into your heart and tug it out. Pop music is great – you get a high sugar rush that’s really, really fun, but then you’re done. Country music is where you could listen to a song for years. And that’s one of my goals - I want to make music people will listen to for years.
Your current song “Make My Own Sunshine” is a positive, make you feel good tune that could be around for years. What’s the story behind that song?
I wrote that song with Ilya and Jim Beavers and when we came to write I said ‘Guys, I need something up-tempo, about me, like my anthem.’ We were just sitting, catching up and Jim said: “You’re really sunshiny.” So we landed on this phrase and after about three hours we had this cute little three-minute song. It’s so much fun to sing and I find so much joy in singing it, but on a deeper level it’s kind of like we need to remind ourselves that days can go badly and be stressful, but we need to remember to try to find the humor in life – to make ourselves smile. I hope this song helps people remember that we can always change our day around.
The stop motion video is so original and cheerful. Was the concept your idea?
I was doing so many shows last year, but didn’t have any music out there, so last year, we released a mixtape [Heart Unlocked] as a free download on my website. We then put out five videos just to have out there on YouTube for people to hear the music, see my personality, and keep the fans engaged. Three of us made this video and it took forever! (laughing) We spent all day making it so now I know all about it, but I’d probably hire someone next time! We did an official video for the song which I have been sharing live mentions of on Facebook, and I’m excited about premiering in the next few weeks.
In addition to keeping the fans engaged and growing a fan base, you’ve received accolades from Rolling Stone, EW, iTunes, and CMT which must be so exciting, but is there a pressure element as well?
It’s definitely amazing, like ‘Ok, this is crazy,’ especially the Rolling Stone article. Honestly though, it was a reassuring thing, like ‘Ok, I’m on the right track and should keep doing what I’m doing.’ There are so many people in the industry who will tell you something is really hot right now and you should do that, but I’m just like ‘No, I’m going to just do what I do and if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, I’ve tried my best.’ You know, I’m only one brain and I can only write about what I’m feeling - and really be adamant about that – so for Rolling Stone to reach out it’s reassuring, like I belong here, which is something you’re always just constantly questioning as an artist. At the end of the day I’m not going to make everybody happy or have everyone be my fan, but if I’m giving 100%, then I’m okay with it.
That’s an incredibly mature and positive outlook.
You are incredibly active on every aspect of social media; you can tell that interacting with the fans is important to you.
It’s very important to be engaged on social media. If you don’t use social media you’re missing an opportunity to connect with your fans and let them know who you are. Its crazy people would want to get to know me, but personally, I want the fans to get to know me and know every single thing about me; I’m an open book. I have a crazy all-over-the-place personality and I hope fans get a glimpse of that [through social media].
Do you have plans to release any new music?
I am constantly writing and have about twelve or so new songs I am really excited about. It’s a vicious cycle (laughing), every time I am in town I want to be on the road and every time I am on the road I want to write. I’m continuing to hone my writing, and am thinking creative wise what I would like to do next, but there will definitely be new music this summer for sure.
And how about touring? What’s in the cards for the summer?
Starting next week, we are basically out for a month, then summer will be absolutely psycho and I am so excited! We’re trying to get to the areas where the radio stations that believe in me and play me about three times a year. For me, it’s all about getting out there, talking with and performing for the fans. All I want to do is get face time with the people who are coming to see me.
You really wear so many hats and seem to be involved in every aspect of the business.
I feel blessed to be an independent artist right now because I’ve been forced to learn some things. I know I have to keep the artist and the business woman separate because otherwise my brain is fried! I love to learn about this business that is so illogical, yet everyone tries to make logical. I’m driving the ship with ideas and everyone is trying to help me implement what I’m thinking in my brain. It’s crazy to think about the past two and a half years, but I’m figuring it out one day at a time.
You’ve done more in a little over two years than many get to do in ten.
So finally, I always love to know - is there any recent release that you can’t stop listening to?
I’m obsessed with Kacey Musgraves, I love her. I’m also digging the new Billy Currington single, I love him and I don’t know why he’s not a mega superstar. I’m also an old soul, like right now I’m listening to Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall or I’ll listen to The Bridge on Sirius and be like ‘Oohhh what’s that? I need to listen to that.’ Oh! And the new Elle King record! Her entire record is amazing, she’s super talented and so unapologetically her, I love it.
For more information, and to download Heart Unlocked, visit her official website
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