Olivia Lane keeps a diary. “Who doesn’t?” you ask.
Ah, but Olivia’s is different. Unlike practically everyone else you know, each entry is a song. She records each of these with a rare conviction — sometimes sexy, sometimes defiant, sometimes vulnerably intimate.
And then she invites the world to listen. Which is probably the best offer the world has had in recent memory.
“That’s what music is to me,” says the ebullient Houston-born singer/songwriter/entertainer. “It’s how I categorize my life.”
Not only that; rather than follow traditional strategy by packaging her most recent performances as a single EP release, Olivia is letting them loose one at a time. Like seeds planted individually and then nurtured to bloom, each song teases the listener’s imagination and makes them hungry for more.
Olivia laughs delightedly at that imagery. “That’s right but, you know, the world is changing,” she says. “It’s not like how things were when I was growing up, when you’d turn on the radio and have to listen to some song over and over again. I want to bring my music direct to my fans. Why wouldn’t I?”
Good question, especially music of this caliber and variety. She began sowing this crop of new songs with “Devil and You,” whose synthesizer-meets-banjo intro establishes the theme of resistance to temptation. In Olivia’s case, the winner is a foregone conclusion, as she asks “What’s a good girl supposed to do when she’s caught up in between and Devil and you?” Inevitably she sings “I’m about to be a soul that needs to be saved,” though she doesn’t seem to feel bad about that at all. By the time we get to “Wrong Girl” she’s cast hesitation aside, proclaiming to a barfly trying to pick her up, “Boy, tonight I think you’ll like the wrong girl.”
“The messages in these songs are more adult than anything I’ve written or sung before, but still fun. If you actually look at the lyrics to ‘Wrong Girl,’ it’s about a girl standing up for herself versus a typical scenario where some guy hits on her and they go home together. This one says, ‘You know what? If you want to hang out with me, it’s gonna be my night. And if you think this is going to end typically, you’ve got the wrong girl.’”
For country music today, Olivia Lane is clearly the right girl at the right time. She’s strong, sexy, dynamic, smart and funny, whether on stage, or in person. Much of her confidence is rooted in her upbringing in Texas. Her mother was a local Texas country singer who always made sure Olivia had access to any music that inspired her. She has always been close to her older sister but also challenged by the example she set.
“I didn’t so much compare myself to her,” she clarifies. “But she was valedictorian, a soccer player and a book nerd. I was like, ‘I wish I could find something I could love as much as my sister loves soccer.’ So when my Mom put me in a theater group when I was in first grade, that became my outlet. I was bitten by the entertainer bug. When I got to do ‘Grease’ I wanted to know every part. I wanted to dive into the story. With my love for stories, it just made sense initially that I get into country music.”
Olivia started writing songs at age 16. She got so serious about it that she managed to persuade her mother to move with her to Los Angeles, which at the time seemed to be the Emerald City where all dreams might be realized. She finished her last two years of high school in Los Angeles, where she studied voice, dance, acting and guitar. Then, during her sophomore year at the University of Southern California, she signed up for a songwriting class.
“We analyzed all the great songs, beginning with a Beatles song on our first day,” she remembers. “I fell in love with it because it helped me remember how exciting the idea of telling stories through music could be. I wasn’t being fulfilled in my acting classes because I wasn’t telling my own story. As a songwriter, I could have much more creative control.”
By this time, it was becoming clear that Nashville was where Olivia needed to be. For two summers she interned there, the first with a publishing company and the second with an agency. Then, after her graduation in 2013, she impulsively joined two friends on a road trip that ended five days later at her first place in Music City. Along the way she documented their adventures, which she posted online with the title Long Way To Go. The very next day, they all headed out to Bonnaroo. And on the day she returned, Olivia went to work writing new songs. One of the first was “Long Way To Go.”
“As the months went by I got more confident and willing to stick up for myself. It got to the point where one writer called my manager after a writing session and said, ‘You know, Olivia really needs to keep her mouth shut,’” she says, whooping with delight at the memory. “Eventually I found a happy medium of trusting and learning from people who believe in you while also staying true to and believing in yourself.”
Her self-titled debut EP stirred interest throughout and beyond Music Row in 2016. She earned opening slots with Gary Allan, Easton Corbin, Kip Moore and Wynonna, and booked her own ‘She Fits’ house tour doing dates in private homes throughout the country.
From stages and writing rooms, from youthful passions for music as diverse as Blondie and Patsy Cline, Michael Jackson and Alan Jackson, Olivia Lane has already achieved an uncanny self-awareness, artistically and personally. “I’m a musical melting pot,” she declares. “If I have to categorize myself I’d have to say I’m pop country because I identify with the country lifestyle but pop music is stylistically all over the map, just like me, and that peaks my interest.”
“It’s not really a genre; it’s just what people like. It’s popular music. And I’ve played in pretty much every crevice and corner of America, doing two-hour sets and then going to the bar and talking with the customers and locals, I learned a lot that way. I learned a lot about myself from understanding what people saw when they watched me onstage.”
“So now, when people ask me who I sound like, I tell them the truth.
“I sound like myself.”
Which is a great thing. Somebody has to sound as exciting and engaging as Olivia Lane. We’re just glad it’s her.