Interview by: Lauren Sanchez | August 20,2022
L: What inspired you to get into music and songwriting?
Olivia: So, growing up music was always in my house and my dad would always have like concert DVDs playing back when that was a thing, and CDs playing when we were making brunch, driving me to school.
So, I was really immersed in music and he also played guitar. So when I was about 12 years old, I asked him to teach me some chords on guitar. And I basically just wrote so many songs with those same three chords. And as I got into high school, I started, you know, playing talent shows and then playing at some coffee shops. And I just fell in love with music beyond listening to it. I thought the creation of it was really cool. And as I went to more and more concerts, I was just really inspired. And, you know, seeing that it can be a career path was really cool to me. So I just kept playing shows and slowly started to put music on SoundCloud and just released kind of some demos, that weren't very good, out into the world. And eventually, by the time I was about 18, some songs that I put out were noticed by a Canadian TV show called "The Launch" and they reached out and scouted me for the show. So, that kind of took my life in a cool direction. And I went on the show and actually won the show, which was crazy and incredible and amazing.
And, through that, I got a song on Canadian radio, Top 40, and I got to open for Lionel Richie and just do some really incredible career things. Then, last year I put out my debut album and now we're here! So, you know, it's been a journey, but it's been really fun and cool so far.
L: That's really cool. You mentioned a few of your inspirations as you were saying that, so who do you think are your biggest inspirations when it comes to this sort of artistry? Like you can even talk about like just musicians in general or even songwriters.
Olivia: So growing up, I definitely listened to lots of Coldplay, Fleetwood Mac, Norah Jones. And that was my kind of first inspiration when it came to writing. And as I got older, I definitely just started to listen to so many different kinds of music, whether that's EDM or hip hop or country or classical. And I think just listening to so many different types of music and listening to different writers write different genres of music, definitely inspires an eclectic inspiration for me when I sit down to write.
L: Yeah, exactly. Because like, as you said, it's important to be well-rounded in like different styles. And especially because you can take so many like different parts [of them] and mash it all together into like some really cool songs, you know? So, how would you describe your sound to people who may not be familiar with your music?
Olivia: Because I did start writing when I was really young and, you know, my roots are kind of more folk singer-songwriter that still is a throughline in my music, but now it has more of a modern pop flare. So if you take kind of the singer-songwriter of Ed Sheeran, but then you can add some more Ariana Grande production. A fusion of those two.
L: That's a good combination though. Because they're both like really talented singer-songwriters, you know, and speaking of your writing, in your artistry, bio, it talks a lot about your love and passion for writing. Is there a specific lyric or lyrics that you have written that have been your absolute favorite?
Olivia: Oh, good question. So there's actually this one song that I wrote, it's quite a sad song, but those are always the best. And the opening line is, "Cigarette inside your hand. Wish you would hold me like that,” And I'm really proud of that lyric because it felt so natural. Like I kind of just sat down with the guitar and I played it and it came out and I was like, 'I really like this.' And I thought it just perfectly embodied what I was feeling in that moment because I couldn't describe it, but then the lyric came out and described it. So, it was a really cool kind of thing that happened.
L: No, that's a really good lyric. That's like, ugh, that hurts. Where do you find a lot of your inspiration to write songs? Cause from that lyric alone, it's a lot to do with heartbreak, you know?
Olivia: So it's been interesting. I feel like historically I've drawn from lots of heartbreak and relationships or situation shifts but as I matured and over the past few years I've been happily single and, you know, going in on this self-love journey. And I don't have tons of chaos in my life in regards to relationships. So it's been interesting to navigate because at first I had writer's block and I was like, ‘What can I write if I'm happy?’ you know? But I think the beauty of music is I'm learning you don't have to be sad to write a sad song. You don't have to be happy to write a happy song. You can put yourself in any headspace and write from any perspective. So yeah, definitely things in my life inspire me, but also just the environment I'm in, you know, in LA and it's daytime and we're writing in natural light, then maybe a happy song will come out. Or a huge studio and it's really dark, maybe like a moody kind of like song will come out. But that's I think the beauty of my writing process is it's ever-changing. It's not always positive or negative. It's kind of just, the art comes as it comes.
L: That's a good answer, especially because like this whole interview is all about your song with Bhad Bhabie, "VIBE CHECK", and from listening to it, it's very summery. It's giving like windows down, but at night, roaming through the streets of LA. And so speaking about the single "VIBE CHECK," how did the collab come to be and what was the creative process like?
Olivia: So I wrote "VIBE CHECK" with my longtime collaborator and producer AJ Healey and we, as we usually do, we sat down to write in a session and we had a beat loop that was really interesting and I started voice memoing some really cool memos. And then we actually took a break and got totally sidetracked and started googling Gen Z slang.
So we were googling it and the term "VIBE CHECK" popped up and we kind of looked at each other and we're like, " This is cool. This is a very interesting concept and theme and word, let's use it in our song." So when we came back to the song, it kind of naturally fit into the chorus and that's how that song was written. Very quickly, very effortlessly. And then after we had written it, so I've never actually collaborated on one of my own songs with another artist. And we felt that this song could really benefit from a feature because of the really kind of fun, energetic vibe. So we wanted a female on it too, because it gives off a really strong kind of feminine energy, and confidence. And I was scrolling a TikTok and I've always been familiar with Bhad Bhabie and love her music. And she popped up and I was kind of reintroduced to her and we reached out and she hopped on the song. So that's how that happened.
L: That's crazy. So what was it like to work with her? Did you gain anything new in terms of like learning how to write songs or find your own sound or just collab with people in general?
Olivia: Yeah, I think the beauty of collaboration is you really just get to see people do their own thing. And sometimes it's really similar to yours or other times, I'm not a rapper and I don't like that kind of thing, but to see their take on your song is really cool to see and to see what lyrics they write. It was just really cool to see what she came up with and the lyrics fit perfectly song. So I was really happy that she was able to be on it.
L: No, I definitely agree. So, how has “VIBE CHECK” been different from other songs you have worked on?
Olivia: I think sonically definitely, probably sounds a little different than other stuff I've been working on. And that's just because AJ and I have really been experimenting with different things and I've been listening to a bit more R&B lately. So, I think subconsciously maybe there's a bit of that kind of zest or flare in that song and lyrically, I think it's definitely just fun and upbeat and positive. And as I mentioned before in the past, I've written lots of heartbreak songs. So this song, it's just a bit of a new era for, I guess, Olivia Lenny, and it's about being confident and knowing what you want and getting it and just having fun. So hopefully people, you know, can have fun and make memories to the song.
L: I love hearing confident and female empowering songs, you know, in the media. Because a lot of the time, you don't hear that and that's totally great. I really like that! So how do you think you have grown as an artist from your debut album that came out last year to who you are as an artist right now?
Olivia: Yeah, I think, you know, it's crazy to think that was already a year ago. I feel time was truly going by so quickly. It's actually like freaking me out a bit, but I just think me growing personally has really affected me on my artist journey. You know, when I've been really prioritizing myself, and my health and my wellness and my mental health. And I'm just in a really good state right now. You know, the confidence that I've gained just within myself has really been amplified in my artist journey and it's been really cool to see that come out, even in the music that I've been making. So hopefully, you know, I can just keep blossoming, and make more music.
L: Yeah especially, I know you just released a single and I can't imagine how excited you are that it's finally out and you collaborated with such a big well-known artist, you know, but are there any new and upcoming projects that you are excited for or things you are in the works of creating as of right now?
Olivia: Yes, of course. So I'm definitely always writing, but AJ and I in January and February of this year, 2022, we got together for probably nine days and just wrote so many songs and we've still been having sessions and writing songs. So, now it's just a matter of narrowing down which ones we wanna release, and hopefully, in the fall, we'll be a bit of an EP.
L: Yay! Oh my God. Congratulations. That's so cool!
Olivia: Yeah. I'm excited to share this kind of new, the new vibe. No pun intended.
L: Oh yeah. That's what I was going to say. Like, what do you think the vibes are for the new EP are gonna sound like, feel like, what do you want your listeners to get out of it?
Olivia: Yeah for sure. Lots of, you know, upbeat, really fun songs with some really cool production, but there will still be, you know, a few of those ballads for people who have liked those in the past. And those are always, you know when you strip it all back, that's kind of me in my truest form and then all the extra production and the pop songs are just that elevated version, I guess, of me as an artist.
L: Well, that's so exciting. I can't wait to listen to it in the fall. My final question, this one's just for fun, What is your favorite song to sing in the shower? Like you’re giving like a concert. You have the opener, the main act, and your encore. What songs are you gonna choose?
Olivia: That is so hard. I do find myself singing dreams by Fleetwood math way too often. But also...I think, Someone You Loved By Lewis Capaldi. That's a good, you know, belting song in the shower if no one's home and it's just me and myself and I
L: Those are two really good ones because I've been definitely like on the Fleetwood Mac vibe, this whole summer. So like, yeah I totally understand. I get it.
Olivia: Can't go wrong with “Rumors”. I feel like that album doesn't age, you know, it's always relevant. It's always just so good. So, that's the goal to just make music that can live on forever.