This article originally appeared in Jungle Magazine: Issue 7
“I’ve got a new found respect for models, this is harder than it looks!” a comment in passing from the diminutive Olivia Louise, as she is led away from the cameras for another outfit change. Although she seems slightly taken aback by the demands of the photo shoot, it may be something that she will have to acclimatise to if she continues her rapid progress of the past twelve months.
Olivia, still in the infancy of her solo career, has emerged from an evaporating music scene in her home city of Chester to rubbing shoulders in London with some of the biggest names in UK music, and all in the space of approximately two years. Despite the many challenges that you would expect a new artist to come up against, Olivia explained, “Surprisingly, it really wasn’t that difficult [to bring my music to people’s attention]. I thought it was going to be so hard. I put [two demo singles] up on Soundcloud and within a few months of them being up, Terror Danjah contacted me”. This initial contact with the aforementioned, reputable producer culminated in Olivia making a featured appearance on the Terror Danjah & Zed Bias track, ‘Telepathy’. The attention that the song gained certainly aided the singer’s rise, but we have to rewind almost 20 years to discover the true origins of Olivia’s talents.
At as young as 7 years old, a highly expressive Olivia Louise began to compose her own poetry, which eventually progressed into songwriting. Although she possessed an obvious gift for putting words together, it wasn’t until her early twenties that she combined that with performance and singing, “My friend, who was an MC, asked me to come – he heard me singing in the kitchen – and sing for them [‘P3’]”. This moment began her journey as part of the group ‘P3’, formed of both MC’s and Olivia as the sole singer, but who only existed for a couple of years. Recognition proved difficult to come by due to the alienated urban scene in the north west of England at the time, but this did not discourage a determined Olivia. “It was great [being a part of ‘P3’], I learned so much from being with them. Just being around a group of MC’s, their flows – I still use that in my singing”.
Olivia’s influences are moulded from both her parent’s tastes and the impact of Hip Hop & R&B during her lifespan, as her ethereal, yet soulful vocals link the two generations beautifully. As a child, Olivia was exposed to a lot of Soul music due to her parent’s preference, which eventually lead to her sourcing her own personal favourites, “I think I was 10 or 11 when I got Lauryn Hill’s album [‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’], and that was it, I was obsessed”. She names Lauryn Hill, among other artists such as Aaliyah & Jhene Aiko, as those who have affected her musical style the most. When questioned about her songwriting process, Olivia identified that “A lot of it’s just freestyling, really. Just put the beat on, press record, [and it’s] usually the first melody that comes out, [I] just go with that”. She went on to elaborate; “I very rarely have a subject in mind [when writing songs]. I just like to see what’s floating around in my subconscious [mind]. It’s surprising sometimes because I’ll just press play, I’ll start singing and not even realise I was feeling that way”.
It is often these feelings that Olivia conveys through her music, using the songwriting abilities that she possesses as a way of cleansing her mind, “I literally have to write [songs] to keep sane. I have so much inside me [that] if I don’t write… It’s the only outlet, really. It’s dead cathartic”. Her colloquial use of the term “dead” only intensifies how strongly Olivia feels about the therapeutic nature of the exercise. In addition to her familiarity with R&B, Olivia also incorporates other genres into her musical repertoire, expanding her sound across to UK Garage and House. “I don’t think so,” says Olivia, when speaking on whether she would concentrate on one particular genre in the future, “…because it’s boring. I get bored just doing the same genre all the time”. She understands that she has people who appreciate her versatility, “I’ve got people who just like the R’n’B stuff, I’ve got people who just like the Garage stuff and I’ve got people who like both. So, I feel like everybody’s getting satisfied somewhere”.
Such has been her recent busy schedule, Olivia has admitted that she has not been able to listen to music like she used to or would like to, as she’s been preoccupied with making her own music. Aside from making various guest appearances for other artists, Olivia has almost completed work on her forthcoming EP entitled, ‘Star Stuff’, with producer Gautier. “I met him [Gautier] on Twitter. I did a track with him and an American singer called Jeffrey De Soul, and he really liked what I did for him, so he said he wanted to do a whole project with me”. The first single from the EP (‘Mourning’) was released last year and the full project is expected in the near future, with a delay being caused by Olivia’s desire to include a particular feature, “I want Ghetts on it [The ‘Star Stuff’ EP]. I need to ask him. I don’t know what he’s going to say, but I’m going to ask him because I asked Bonkaz and I asked Scrufizzer to do music with me and they both said, “Yes” straight away”. Ghetts (formerly known as Ghetto), Bonkas and Scrufizzer are all UK rappers, with the latter two working with Olivia in the past. She went on to reiterate her wish to have Ghetts a part of her forthcoming project, saying, “There’s a song that I’ve got on there [The ‘Star Stuff’ EP] which I wrote about my daughter and I know he’s got a little girl, that’s the reason. It wasn’t just, “Oh, I want Ghetts on it”, I know he’s got a little girl as well, so I think it’s something that may appeal to him”. Much like her songwriting, Olivia’s reasoning toward all aspects of her music is meticulous.
Olivia also spoke on another future project she is planning with frequent collaborator, Moteleola, a producer from London. “I love him. I call him my “soul twin” in music because everything he sends [to] me I can write to. We just get each other completely, he’s great to work with”. They are set to work on an EP later this year, despite the mishap (on Olivia’s part) that occurred when they met for the first time, “He came to one of my gigs, I was like, “Hi”, went to give him a hug and spilt his drink all over him!” Olivia acknowledged that might not have given Moteleola the best first impression, but it’s these relatable stories that she communicates via conversation as well as her music that make her so captivating. People within the music industry must think so too, as she’s already writing songs for other artists, saying, “I love songwriting – one of my favourite parts is the writing of the song. I still want to develop my own career but I want to do that as well”.
Though Olivia has her sights set on working with the many artists she respects in both the UK and the US, she has a particular eagerness to connect with other female artists, she explained, “I feel like there’s so much love and support for male artists toward other male artists, but there’s nothing like that for females. I feel like they’re all against each other. I feel like we need to bring it together a bit”. She specified UK acts Flava D (a DJ/Producer) and Little Simz (a rapper) as people she would like to work with, as well as lyricist Chelsea Reject and vocalist T’nah Apex, both from the US.
For now, Olivia is concentrating on the release of her EP, in addition to the continuation of the ‘I Luv Live Tour’, on which she is featured. She will be playing in Manchester, Brighton and Bristol following her performance in London last month. Olivia expressed, “I’m really new to live performing because I’ve been so busy creating all my music and my networks. Now we’ve got so many people supporting on radio – I feel like I know more industry people than I have got fans – so this is why it’s time to gig”. It can only be a matter of time before her fan base grows further, with the consistent quality of music presented combined with her infectious personality that only adds to her magnetism. It’s difficult not to envisage Olivia Louise becoming a household name in the years to come.