Gary James' Interview With
Olivia Lane

She's an up and coming singer who's opened for the likes of Wynonna Judd and Frankie Ballard. A graduate of USC, she draws her inspiration for song writing from a wide array of contemporary singer / song writers. We are talking about Olivia Lane.

Q - Usually, I'll start off a conversation with a Country stinger by making the observation that Country music sounds more like Rock 'n' Roll to me these days. But, I'm not gong to do that in this interview. The best song writers seem to be coming out of Nashville now. It's because Rap and Hip Hop are being passed off as Rock 'n' Roll and people don't necessarily agree. What do you think of that observation?

A - So, you're saying that Rap and Hip Hop are being taken as Rock 'n' Roll today?

Q - That's what I'm saying and a lot of people do not like that. They would prefer listening to music they can understand and relate to.

A - Right. I mean, I guess my take on it, really just coming from Country music, growing up basically being in the millennial generation, we've gotten to make our own play lists. We've gotten to pick our own songs. So that means artists who are my age, and really artists nowadays if they're sort of correct with what's happening in technology, every single influence is influencing each other. I'm not just listening to Country music. Back then you listened to the radio and if you liked Country, all you heard was Country on your favorite radio station or if you liked Rock 'n' Roll, all they would play is Rock 'n' Roll on Top 40. Now, all genres seem to kind of be merging together which is a really cool thing for me as an artist. I was a '90s Pop kid. I heard Britney Spears and 'N Sync, but then my Mom also introduced me to Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra and all of the Country greats, Linda Ronstadt, Trisha Yearwood. So, my melting pot of artistry is a complete mess. (laughs) A complete mess if you would say of so many different influences. But, I was just talking about this to a couple of friends the other day. When you go to an Eric Church show or a Brantly Gilbert show, these are Country guys, but they're Rock shows. They're for sure Rock shows and to me just a good song is a good song. I mean, a lot of Rock 'n' Roll artists that I love, I love the lyrics. So maybe that's where the natural songwriter really shines.

Q - And the melodies are good too!

A - Right. Yeah.

Q - Where do you draw your song writing inspiration from? Is it maybe something you heard in a conversation? Something you've seen or heard on TV or in the movies?

A - I think it's honestly all of the above. That's what the magic still is always going to be behind music. When you ask a songwriter, "Where'd you get that idea?" Some ideas are very specific like I was at this place at this time. I got hit with this idea and this is how it happened. But sometimes I'm gonna write and I don't have a specific idea. I'm like I want to write a happy song or I'm feeling this way today. Then it comes from the conversations I have with any trusted song writers that I love to write with. But it's so dynamic I can't give you a straight forward answer other than the fact that it's totally random. It's all of the above. I try to live a creative, inspired life. So hopefully if I keep my heart and my mind open throughout life then ideas will hit me any time.

Q - You went to USC and started song writing. That sounds like you were taught how to write songs in college, but that's not the way it happened, was it?

A - It's interesting because when I first got to USC the Pop music program was relatively new, so I guess my first song writing class was my sophomore year of college Basically we just studied the ins and outs of hit songs. We studied why it works, what could have been done differently, why they did what they did and maybe the reasoning behind it. We watched a lot of videos about songwriters and artists. Then we were really thrown in there to write our own song. We had to write our own song every couple weeks. Then we'd sort of be graded on it and asked why we did what we did.

Q - You actually had a professor grading you on an original song you'd write?

A - Yeah. It was actually intense. These were songwriters. Have you heard of NSA in Nashville?

Q - I'm sorry, I have not.

A - It's the National Songwriters Association. They have song writing boot camps and I did those every single Summer when I was in Nashville, when I was in college. Basically, it's a bunch of songwriters that come together and they critique your songs and they ask you why you did what you did and how you could've made it better from their prospective. So really, again, it's just a bunch of artists trying to figure out this art form because there really are no set rules, but as a young, green songwriter there are certain cliches. For example, like you could make better or stronger or dive deeper and so basically my first two years of song writing, that was that. Then my third year was performance. So, you write you own songs then you perform them.

Q - What songs were you dissecting in your college class?

A - We picked apart The Beatles. We picked apart James Taylor. We picked apart David Bowie. We picked apart basically the greats.

Q - I never realized they taught a course like that.

A - Oh, yeah. That's the beauty of being one of the first students to experience this class. We got to be, "Hey, can we analyze Stevie Wonder?" And the teacher would be like, "Yeah. Sure. Why not?" It was like at the class we got to collaboratively say, "Can we analyze this artist and maybe this week be a Pop song or a Country song or really focus on this part of the song. We would always have a challenge. One time we had to write a duet and we all got partnered together, which was great. So yeah, it was a very interesting class to take, a very experimental class which I wish more of my classes would've been like at college.

Q - When you were in college, you received internships in Tennessee. Where would those have been? A record company? A management company? A publishing company>

A - I actually found these internships on my own. I got school credit for them. I got to Nashville and e-mailed a bunch of people. I basically got a call back from a publishing company. So I said okay. I should learn about publishing because everybody said that's where the money's going. I got an internship at a publishing house, an independent publishing house. It doesn't exist anymore. This was like five years ago. I learned all about the publishing world, about the splits and everything pretty much boils down to pennies and pennies and pennies. You're just going, "What is going on?" But I learned the basics of how a publishing house works. So, that was super beneficial 'cause I have a publishing deal and now I have a lot more knowledge versus the kid who didn't really learn about the publishing world and the artist who doesn't know about the publishing world. There's a lot of interesting things in the publishing world that I got to learn and then I interned at an agency, a talent agency the next Summer.

Q - What talent agency?

A - It was a very small agency, BNA Talent. They basically supplied talent for music videos for commercials and all of the above. So, I got to see how that works. That internship gave me knowledge that I didn't want to get involved in the agency side. (laughs) But it made me learn how as an artist to deal with your agent.

Q - You have a publishing deal. Are you also signed to a record deal at this time?

A - I am signed to an independent record label. It's called Big Spark Music, but it's sort of a vehicle to get to a bigger label like SONY or Warner, something like that.

Q - Some of the artists I've been talking to of late say it's better to remain an independent artist today. The majors want your masters of course, and your publishing and your merchandising.

A - Exactly. It's kind of a Catch 22 because if you're signed to a label and you're not their priority, they'll just shuffle you to the back and hold on to you so you can't do anything. So in my position right now it's better for me not to be signed because I'm getting to develop myself and I'm getting to make fans and make music without being penalized for it. But if I was a priority at a label, that's the only time I would want to be signed because that's when they really work for you. I honestly do want to be at a label someday because I love the sense of family you have at a label. But again, at the end of the day it's a business. That's the hard thing about being an artist. You just gotta remember it's a business. There's no hard feelings, it's just a business.

Q - Had your mother not encouraged you to sing, would you have pursued singing as a career?

A - You know, that's a really interesting question. I feel like I was always an artist kid from Day One. I never really... I just figured out all these things that I'm doing like sports, that usually a normal kid would do, I was drawn to the artist stuff. I was drawn to guitar lessons, theatre, vocal lessons and going to the studio. So when my Mom saw that she really, really nurtured it, but I think I definitely would've ended up somewhere in the artist vain. Not sure when, but I'm really glad my Mom did support me. I'm very lucky.

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