Olivia O. makes music because she has to.
A songwriter whose creativity doesn't have an 'off' switch, the Atlanta based artist continually pushes herself to accept fresh challenges.
One half of Dirty Hit signed duo Lowertown - she formed the group with Avsha Weinberg following a discussion in their math class - the pair travelled to London recently to focus on recording sessions.
While there, Olivia O. found that music kept exploding from her, so she began to sketch it down, recording fragments at first, and then full songs.
New EP 'Great Big Nothing' is out now, and it's directly linked to her experiences in London.
She comments: “It was the first time I lived on my own without my parents. Being there during quarantine was very isolating. It was our first time recording in a studio setting. It felt like a lot of life changes were happening in one really concentrated period.”
Olivia adds: “The stuff that I make for my solo project is more spur of the moment, less methodical. I’ll have an idea that pops into my head, and I’ll just sort of try to get it down...”
Alt-pop sketches that let the underlying frame show through, there's a lo-fi edge to her techniques that sits in opposition to the sumptuous way Olivia O. can sculpt melodies.
Clash spoke to Olivia O. about the new EP, and allowed the Atlanta songwriter to break down her sound...
- - -
- - -
The Microphones - 'My Roots Are Strong And Deep'
This song is also a part of another one of my favourite albums. I listened to 'The Glow Part 2' a lot during high school and it heavily inspired lots of my writings and musical direction over the past couple years. I was listening to this song a lot specifically and love the earthly lyricism.
A lot of the ways I process my emotions centre around how I feel them in my body and contextualize them through nature and a lot of Phil’s writings do those same things, so I find them extremely relatable and comforting.
This song specifically inspired the lyrics to my song 'Mantis', which I released my senior year of high school. It’s still one of my favourite songs I have dropped for my solo project. 'My Roots Are Strong And Deep' is about longing for connection to another being or consciousness and my lyrics for Mantis also share some of those ideas like the desire to feel like a part of a larger consciousness instead of feeling like an isolated disconnected being.
- - -
Modest Mouse - 'Teeth like God’s Shoeshine'
'Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine' is an absolutely brilliant opening track to 'Lonesome Crowded West', which is one of the first albums I became completely absorbed by.
I first listened to that album my freshman year of high school after my crush sent it to me. We listened to it in unison and texted each other about each of the songs during my first listening. The dynamics of this song are outstanding. It starts out so brash with unrestrained aggression then perfectly transitions to quiet, introspective, and desolate and slides smoothly back and forth between these two dichotomous moods. That tension is so engaging, and it finishes on these chaotic, roaring guitars. Just simply love everything about it. Never gets old.
The lyrics are so intensely visual and resonate with many experiences I had growing up, the endless sprawling land yet feeling suffocated, the suburbia, the homogenization of the city I grew up through the tearing down of old buildings and historic places and replacing that sacred space with fast food shops, strip malls, and ugly, cheap town homes and condos. Brock perfectly captures that icky feeling of moral and cultural decay that comes with corporate America destroying all my favorite parts of where I used to live.
- - -
Chet Baker - 'Time After Time'
'Chet Baker Sings' is one of those albums you come back to at least once every year, and when you need him, he always says exactly what you want to hear in the sweetest, softest voice possible. When I first heard 'Time After Time', I listened to it on repeat almost every day for a few months straight.
I always listen to this album when I’m lovesick, heartbroken, on an airplane, or walking around a city alone. I discovered this song my freshman year of high school, and I’ve become completely infatuated with Chet ever since. On this album, he sounds like the most heartbroken man to have ever existed, and whenever I listen it always fills me with sappy, sentimental understanding.
It’s the perfect break up record. It encapsulates every stubborn, clinging feeling and that lingering longing you have after breaking it off with a partner. When I first started making music, a lot of my singing was inspired by Chet’s.
- - -
Elliott Smith - 'Roman Candle'
'Roman Candle' is painfully beautiful. Elliott Smith is one of my biggest musical inspirations so it was really hard to choose a song, but I specifically love the album this song is on because it’s so incredibly raw. Smith recorded it in a basement on a four-track recorder. Most of my solo work up until now was also recorded alone in a basement.
I really love the tone of the lead guitar and the intensity of the lyrics on this track. The entire song is full of hopeless anger and, for me, really described the powerlessness I felt against certain forces (and people) I had in my life growing up.
I love music that can so perfectly capture intense emotion and I think that’s why I am so drawn to Elliott Smith. It’s one of the things his music is best at. I think a lot of people sometimes need that unrefined, pure emotion. It’s so much less lonely experiencing really intense emotion alongside someone who seems just as confused or overwhelmed as you are feeling in that moment.
- - -
Animal Collective - 'Winters Love'
'Winters Love' is my favourite song on one of my all-time favourite albums, 'Sung Tongs'. In my sophomore and junior year of high school, I played this song over and over countless times. Now whenever I hear it, I’m taken back to being 16 and 17.
This album is perfect from start to finish and creates such a mood that is maintained throughout all the songs. It’s such a unique and special project. My best friend and I listened to this album and 'Strawberry Jam' on repeat the summer we decided to form our band Lowertown. Animal Collective was definitely a big inspiration for both of us at the time.
We were in Canada a few years back, during the summer they toured 'Sung Tongs', and we were both so bummed we were unable to catch them play in Atlanta. We ended up watching countless videos from the tour and were really inspired that it was just the two of them performing all these parts. We ended up doing our live shows with just the two of us (my bandmate and I) for three years before adding other members because we really liked the idea of only us playing in front of everyone.
- - -
'Great Big Nothing' is out now on Dirty Hit.