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Interview: Olivia Lane on new single Hey 3AM, UK tour and songwriting

We chat to the rising country star ahead of her trip to the UK next month.

Olivia Lane
Credit: Big Spark Music Group

Originally from Texas, Olivia Lane began singing and writing songs aged 16, with the encouragement of her mum who was also a singer locally.

She released her debut EP in 2016 and has since amassed nearly 20 million streams, with her most recent single You Got Me featuring on Spotify’s Wild Country playlist. With Rolling Stone naming her as one of their ‘Country Artists You Need To Know’ and praise from Entertainment Weekly and iHeart Radio, 2019 is shaping up to be a breakthrough year for her.

Ahead of her first ever UK live shows next month, I caught up with Olivia to talk about what audiences here can expect, her brand new single Hey 3AM and her approach to songwriting.

How would you describe your music?

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I love this question because I never know how to answer it. The new music sounds a little bit more emotional and vulnerable than my previous music, but I’m such a melting pot as a musician. I love everything from Carole King all the way to choral music. So I love everything and I think that my sound is an influence of all the musicians I love. Anywhere from one song can have the energy of a Michael Jackson track and then the other song can have a Frank Sinatra vibe to it, and then it’s all the way to singer-songwriter Carole King. So I think my sound is just an influence of all my favourite musicians, but there’s always that universal songwriting leaning underneath it. I hope that answers your question! [laughs]

You’re coming over to the UK next month for your first shows here. What can people coming to see you expect?

I am so excited for the first time coming over to play music. I think what I’m most excited about and what I’m most curious about too is getting feedback from all the people at the show. But I’ll be playing so much new music that not a lot of people have heard. So I’m really, really excited and I’m so open for people to come and be like, ‘we love this! We hate this!’ I’m just really excited to meet the people and get your feedback

You’ve just released your new single Hey 3AM – can you tell us a bit more about that?

Absolutely. I am so thrilled that Hey 3AM is coming out. This song is a really, really personal one for me. I had this song idea for a really, really long time and I pitched it probably two or three years ago. No-one wanted to write it with me, so I kind of put it on the back burner in my phone notes and never thought about it again until last year. Then I was so mad at myself for being up at 3AM one night. I was like, ‘I can’t believe I just let me be up til these hours! What am I doing, why am I letting my brain go to these crazy places, why am I on my phone? Nothing is happening at 3AM’, whatever. I just really feel like it was kind of a God moment. And I thought back to my notes and I just felt something being like, ‘you need to write this song. You have to write this song.

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And so the next day I brought it in to my co-writer Aaron Scherz. I explained the idea to him and he completely got it, and about an hour and a half later we wrote this song. I thought it was a little bit too personal, and actually the more I played it out the more people resonated with it. They told me their story of why they’re up at 3AM all the time and what their thoughts are that are keeping them up at night. It started this really beautiful conversation with people being honest about what keeps up them at night, and as a person and as a songwriter those are the kind of moments I live for. So I’m just really thrilled and I hope that the conversation grows bigger. I hope that the song does really good things because it’s important to acknowledge what stresses you out at night.

You’ve taken a slightly different approach with your new music of releasing songs one by one. What made you decide to do that rather than release an EP?

I think that it’s from an artistic purpose and also a business purpose. From the business side it’s just kind of a singles market right now. It’s a very interesting time where you can have low cost but high return when you just put one song out. You don’t have to go and make an entire album and spend all the money and la la la. So that’s one factor. But also I think people’s attention spans are so short now that as a creative and as an artist you want to give them a little piece of you at a time. There are definitely the record lovers but for an artist just trying to start telling their story, which I felt like that’s where I was at coming out with this music, I wanted to give my new fans and my fans already some pieces of me to start piecing the story together – who I am and what I want to say. So I think with both of those determining factors it was the right path for me. It’s been making people want more, which is what we always try to do. Hey 3AM will be leading up to an EP in April which I’m very excited about. That will probably be six to eight songs.

Can you tell us any more about the EP?

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Yeah, so there’ll probably be six songs, six to seven songs. I have enough music right now for an album, but I’m so excited about all this brand new music. But I definitely think that it will be an EP about all of the work I’ve been doing on myself this last year. I feel like this year was all about learning how to self-love, in a very rocky time of my life, and I feel like a lot of people can relate. I feel like 2018 was kind of a weird year [laughs] and everyone was just trying to get by. But I think this EP will be about self-love and all of the moments I had during that time of self-love. I learned how to grow, learned how to fall in love again. There were so many things that I learned as I was learning about myself that my songwriting was blessed. So I’m really excited to hopefully aid someone else who’s looking for a little bit of self-love too with this new music.

Do you have a typical approach to your songwriting?

That’s an interesting question. I feel like having a non-typical approach is a typical approach [laughs]. I’ve never met someone who says, ‘this is how you songwrite, this is the only way’. I feel like every single person’s approach is so wildly different, and that’s what makes it normal weirdly enough. But for me I feel like at the end of the day, even if you’re tired, if you just show up sometimes magical things can really happen. I do feel like there’s a discipline behind songwriting, you do have to show up. It’s not like, ‘oh I can only write when I feel’. Sometimes when you feel empty that’s when you write your best songs. So there really is no rhyme or reason.

But for me personally, I think the basis of when I write an idea, I have to be emotionally and heart-connected to it. I don’t know what the right word is but my heart has to be really in it if I’m a) gonna write it and b) if I’m gonna cut it as an artist. Sometimes I write things and it’s not really right for me at that time in my life, or it’s not right for me at all. But the basis for me is that my heart has to be in it.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with that.

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Yeah. I think it’s normal to deal with. I don’t categorise it myself as writer’s block because I think there’s always inspiration around me. I think that I’m just fatigued sometimes. I’m just like, ‘oh my goodness, my brain is so fatigued, I don’t have any awesome beautiful idea that I really wanna write but I just can’t emotionally tap into it now’. I get inspired from the moment I wake up. Like, ‘I’m so inspired by my coffee this morning, that makes me think of different ideas and blah blah blah’. But then it’s like, ‘I don’t have enough information yet for what this means to me emotionally for me to write it, but I’m just gonna write this idea down anyway.’ Sometimes I’ll have a title or a melody and it won’t feel inspired until I bring somebody who’ll give it their infusion of why they’re inspired by it. That’s why I love the co-writing process because so many brains on one idea can bring something really beautiful to an idea.

Do you have any favourite co-writers, and is there anyone you’d like to co-write with in future?

I really love writing with my co-writer and my good friend Aaron Scherz. He’s incredible. He’s who I wrote You Got Me and Hey 3AM with, those two songs I’ve come out with. He just gets me on like a deeper level. He wrote Girl In A Country Song on Maddie & Tae’s first album, and I think he has some sort of kindred spirit with the female spirit. I write with him a lot. He’s also Texan, so we get along in that realm too. We had similar upbringings. But I would love one day to write with people like Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic. I’d love to write with Ryan Tedder one day. He’s such a cool guy. I just love my team right now in Nashville and I’m excited to see where that goes and how it grows.

How did growing up in Texas and the Texas country scene influence your music?

I’m not sure. I think being surrounded by music and the rodeo and also with my mom who was a local Texas singer was such a blessing for me. But there’s just something about the lifestyle of Texas, growing up there, that influenced me a lot as a kid. I’m not exactly sure what it is but when I meet Texans here in Nashville there’s just something that we connect on. Something in the water down there, I guess. I’m not exactly sure.

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What have you learnt from touring and being on the road?

I think the lesson that I’ve learnt and that humbles me a lot is I am a small part of someone’s night. I don’t know where I’m at when people come and see me. Maybe they’ve stumbled in accidentally – who knows why some people come to my shows. The best thing I can do is invite them into my story and into my life. And hopefully if I take them on a journey and I feel what I’m feeling in my songs, it’ll hopefully open up their hearts to feel what they need to feel and come and feel better after my show. That’s really my only goal, to hopefully make people feel something and make them feel a little bit lighter after they leave my show. It helps me to be like, ‘I might be the smallest thing on someone’s mind tonight, but hopefully after I leave here I can be one of the bigger things on their mind.’

How did you first get into music, and what made you decide to pursue it as a career?

So I think my mom was definitely my first big influence. She saw the little artist in me. She saw that I really loved music, she saw that I really loved acting and playing guitar. And so she really nurtured that. She would buy me all the records I wanted, any theatre and things that made me feel good and feel alive. So I’m really thankful that she was supportive of me being an artist. And honestly, my whole life I never really was good at anything else. I never really enjoyed sports, I never really enjoyed maths. My calling was very clear from the get-go. I think my parents saw that from a very young age and were like, ‘OK, I guess that’s all she’ll do, so we’d better support her.’ And I’m very thankful that my parents do support me and did support me.

You’ve been heavily involved in setting up Diva Jam at the CMA Festival in Nashville and championing women in music. Can you tell us more about that?

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I think it’s really the time of the woman right now. There’s such a lack of females at country radio in America – it’s been kind of comical – and I don’t know why. It’s very strange. But I think that there’s been a big movement, especially with Time’s Up and everything that’s happened in Hollywood and the entertainment world. I think it’s a really important time for females to be supportive of one another.

I actually started Diva Jam before all of that started, because ever since I’ve been in the industry there’s always been a lack of females and I’m not exactly sure why. But regardless we’re always stronger in numbers. People are always stronger in numbers, and I think as a female we’re all sort of realising ‘why are we against each other? It’s so weird, this is dumb. Let’s unite and let’s start a community where we can be honest with each other or at least try to cultivate that.’ And maybe we can at least find a support team we can talk about it with.

That’s really where Diva Jam started. I just wanted to lift other females up and showcase their talent, and it turned into such an amazing event. People showed up and it was lovely. We’ve taken a few years break on it but I hope to invigorate it again, hopefully soon.

You’ve posted quite a few cover versions on social media. Do you have a favourite song that you cover? And who would you love to cover one of your songs?

Oooh! Well my go-to song for covering is Desperado by the Eagles. I feel a very kindred spirit to that song and I love the songwriting in it. So I love covering that song. But I also do a Kiss Me mashup by Sixpence None The Richer, and I love that song. That song is so universal and I feel like everyone all over the world knows that song. So it’s fun to infuse my music with other songs, especially because it helps a new audience categorise – ‘oh that’s cool that she did that’, because if maybe they weren’t able to access my songs from my songwriting maybe they can enter by the backdoor of another song.

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What does the rest of 2019 look like for you?

[The UK tour and EP] are the main focuses, yeah. I’m getting back out on touring – I’m doing a bunch of college shows here in America, so that’ll be really, really fun. It’s kind of a balance between putting out new music, touring, and just continuing that snowball. It’s a little snowball now but hopefully it’ll keep growing and growing, and growing my fanbase and hopefully I’ll have a song that sort of pops off and see what happens. The world is my oyster at this point, so who knows? All I can do at this point is do my best and let God handle the rest.

Olivia Lane’s latest single, Hey 3AM, is out now.

Catch Olivia on tour in the UK this February:

Tuesday 5 February – The Castle, Manchester
Wednesday 6 February – The Slaughtered Lamb, London
Thursday 7 February – Colonel Fawcett, London (The Round Up with Two Ways Home, Jake Morrell and Foreign Affairs)

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