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Olivia Barton: Opening for Lizzy McAlpine 2023

Interview & Photos by Hannah Vaccaro | May 13, 2023 | Fox Theater in Oakland, CA

Q: How would you introduce yourself in one sentence?

Hi, I’m Olivia, and I care a lot about everything!

Q: How did you get started in music?

I started in choir in middle school and then started doing musical theater. So, I mostly did choir, musical theater, and a cappella in middle school and high school. After that, I went to Berkeley College of Music. So, I really just started with school stuff.

Q: Did you have a good support system in those communities?

Oh my gosh, yes, huge! In a lot of my songs, my mentor at the time, sort of like makes an appearance and was really the first person to give me solos and push me to the front.

Q: Who or what are your biggest inspirations when you are writing new songs?

Well, when I am writing a song, I am trying to figure out how I feel about something. So, my favorite way to write is to just let the process of figuring that out be in the song. Rather than explain something I understand, I am trying to work through it in real time. So that’s really my inspiration. The end goal is to try to understand how I am feeling a little better. That’s the motivation for when I am writing: to make sense of what is happening.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your upcoming album: This is a Good Sign - Extended Edition. Any hints on what we should expect?

When I recorded the album, I just had such differing tastes in music. As far as genre goes, I definitely am making more music that is stripped down than some others. Even still, the way we produce the album is definitely more produced than the way I initially wrote it – which was just me and my guitar. So, I always sort of had this idea of wanting people to hear how the song started: just me and my guitar. So, we recorded for acoustic live versions, just in my bedroom. Three have come out and there’s one more. So, next Friday, all four should be out! It’s just a re-imagining of them.

Q: I love that. I am a big fan of stripped down versions of songs. It’s just so much more intimate and you really get to know the person singing.

I agree! I feel like it’s also how I play them live. You wouldn’t hear that unless you were able to come to a show.

Q: Do you have a favorite song off your 2022 album that resonates with you the most or that you enjoyed creating the most?

That’s how I introduce one of the songs I play as my favorite: “Control Freak.” I think it’s my favorite because it doesn’t really follow a traditional form. I didn't know what I was writing about when I wrote it and I still don’t really know what it’s about. I let the song be a total stream of consciousness. And, like, my writing in general already has an element of that in all the songs, but I felt like that song really just came out that way. It’s short and to the point and really emotional for me.

Q: What is one thing you hope your listeners or fans take away from your music?

I guess I would preface my answer by saying that I don’t really write with other people in mind. Like, I often write about such heavy topics. I guess what I should say is that it would make sense for my music to be categorized in some sort of “self help” area. I guess I like to reiterate that I really don’t need anyone to get anything out of them. I wrote them because I needed to write them, and I think it’s really just an absolutely wonderful byproduct that I get to connect with people who have felt the same way.

When I think of it retroactively, I would say that it’s really hard work to understand yourself in the way that you show up in the world, and that can be really heavy and difficult. The whole point in doing that is to enjoy life more and to have better relationships and to have more ease and joy and beauty in your life. So, I hope that people get that: working through the heavy to find the lightness rather than just one or the other.

Q: Who are your dream artists you hope to collaborate with in the future?

I already collaborated with one of my dream songwriters. It was an insane thing to come up in the last year. One of my favorite bands of all time is Pinegrove, an indie rock band. So, he and I met and wrote a song together and it was amazing. But, my dream collaborator which I have no connection to at all is The Japanese House. It’s like the moniker of an artist named Amber Bain. It’s sort of electronic pop, in the vein of Moona and stuff like that. It doesn’t sound anything like my music, but I just love it so much!

Q: Being it’s your last show, how has this tour and experience been for you? How did you kind of get this opportunity?

So, Lizzy and I have some mutual friends. We had never met until her last tour where one of our friends was opening for her, Carol Ades. So, I met her then. We had those mutual friends and that’s how she found my album. So, her team reached out to me saying that she wanted me to go on tour with her. It wasn’t any sort of industry connection; it was really just that she loved my music and asked me to come. It’s so flattering because she’s obviously incredible!

This is my first tour, really. I went on a tour in the fall, it was just shorter. It’s been such a whirlwind to say the least. I’ve never done this many shows in this amount of time. 18 shows. And I can’t believe I just played the last one. I am completely exhausted and I can’t wait to sleep in my bed with my partner and my dog. At the same time, I know I’ll be looking back at photos of this and being like “No, it’s over!” It’s been one of the most special things I’ve ever done.

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