By Alicia Urrea | December 12 2023
A mere two weeks ago, I was able to sit down and chat with the talented singer-songwriter Olivia Mae. She’s a 19-year-old aspiring musician from Orange County, California, as well as a full-time student attending the University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music. Having officially released three songs, she is eager to do far more within the next year, hoping to release more songs, perform headlining shows, and possibly even release an EP.
The News Stan(d): Okay, so let’s start with the classic: tell me about yourself; anything that helps us get to know you a bit better.
Olivia Mae: “I’m Olivia, I’m 19 years old, and I’m from Orange County, California. I’ve been doing musical theater since I was four – that’s where my love for music and singing came from in the first place. I’ve been doing that for almost 15 years now… which is insane. I started learning the guitar in third grade, but I gave up because it was too hard. I started learning it again during COVID, because obviously I had a lot of free time during that time. I also taught myself how to play piano by ear, and now I’m actually in a piano class so I can understand music theory a bit better.”
TNS: What made you want to become a musician?
OM: “I think the reason why is probably because of Michael Bublé… like honestly. I would like, run on the treadmill and give performances to my family to Michael Bublé songs when I was a kid. I just liked seeing everyone’s expressions from my singing and I loved the feeling.”
TNS: So I take it you love performing?
OM: “Yeah, yeah. I definitely do.”
TNS: I love that. I also would like to say that I hear a range of genres in your music, so I’m curious to segway into knowing who some of your musical inspirations are.
OM: “So vocal wise I would probably have to say like Alicia Keys. I really like Alicia Keys. I also draw a lot of inspiration from classics like Aretha Franklin. When it comes to music, I really want to try and be like Charlie Burg – he’s one of my favorite artists and he has like the funkiest songs… he has blues songs, soft singer-songwriter songs, and he’s got pop music as well – and he kinda just bounces around genres, and I kinda wanna do that. I don’t want to have to be one specific genre. I want to just do my own thing.”
TNS: Do you have any general inspirations that are unrelated to music?
OM: “Ooooh, probably Viola Davis. I just love her as a person, and she’s also very inspirational too. She’s just an amazing woman to follow and look up to, so I’d definitely say Viola Davis. Another inspiration is my mom for sure, I’ve called her like four times today [laughs]. She’s just such a powerful woman through balancing a job and having kids, especially with all of us being in college and stuff like that. It’s a lot to take on. She’s killing the game… she’s killing it.”
TNS: When you finish a song, who’s the first person you play it for?
OM: “Oh wow, well the first person I show my music to is definitely my mom. But also – and I haven’t reached out to this person in a while – but it used to be my best friend Mo. He was always the first person that I would send all of my music to – he was kinda the one that got me into writing in the first place, because I had gone through a really funky situationship and he told me I should try writing a song about it. Then, I wrote “Your Friend & My Ex,” but I couldn’t exactly show it to him because obviously it was about him. It wasn’t until like a year later that I finally told him, “Oh yeah, I wrote a song about you.” I used to send him stuff but I haven’t recently. So, either him or my roommate.”
TNS: That’s so funny because my next question is, do the people you wrote “Your Friend & My Ex” know the song is about them? Do you keep that in mind when writing songs and does it stop you from releasing or posting material?
OM: “For “Your Friend & My Ex” I didn’t tell one of them that it was about them until way later. I also didn’t tell my ex-situationship until the song was released, like “Hey..this song is about you!” But yeah, I do keep it in mind when I’m writing because I don’t necessarily want to put too much detail in them enough for the person to know it’s about them, or for them to have enough room to sort of speculate that it’s about them. I also never want people to think I’m using them for material or that I’m bashing them, so overall I would definitely say I keep it in mind.”
TNS: Walk me through your creative process.
OM: “So sometimes I’ll get my ideas just by scrolling through Tik Tok – like I’ll see a person ranting about some sort of issue that they have and I think, “This should be a song.” I’ll take words from what they’re saying and be like “Okay, this could be lyrics somehow,” whether it’s a verse, or a chorus. My song “One Day” was literally inspired by a video I saw on Tik Tok of a person basically ranting about how she felt like she was never going to be enough for someone, and how she’s always just the “friend” and never the person the guy actually chooses. She says, “One day I’ll be that person.” I was like… that’s definitely a line. I heard it as a chorus, and I turned it into one. I basically turned the entire story into a song, where eventually you’re going to be that person to someone even when it hurts not being that person right now. Because I’ve been that person in situationships, and it sucks.”
TNS: You post a lot of original songs on your Instagram and TikTok. Do these songs ever get fully finished? How do you decide which ones to potentially release and which ones to put on the backburner?
OM: “Okay, one song I really like is called “I’m Delusional.” I’m talking to a producer right now to work on it, and I love him and he’s so cool. But I don’t blame him for how busy he’s been because he just had a baby so… I’m just like, whenever you’re settled let me know! But that’s one that I really want to put out, it’s just hard because of the timing right now. I also just listen to the songs over and over, and will send voice memos to people and get their vibe with it to see if it’s something worth releasing. It’s also just something you know deep down, so it’s overall a mix of intuition and others’ opinions.”
TNS: What part of your identity do you feel shines through the most in your music? Who do you hope can relate to your music?
OM: “I would say my authenticity and my willingness to be vulnerable, because the topics and the songs that I have released are very “what’s going on” in my life. I didn’t need to tell everybody that I liked my ex-situationship’s best friend [laughs]. Like I don’t need to tell everyone what happened. But I know there’s other people out there that have gone through many situationships, been taken advantage of, and wanting to go back to better times and I want to connect with them as much as I can. I feel like it shows in the songs that I write. I feel like the people that it connects with the most are definitely people that are around my age, because obviously there’s that college experience concept with hook-up culture and the desire to be in a relationship. I feel like writing about those topics will definitely strike a chord within my music.”
TNS: What do you want people to take away when they listen to Olivia Mae?
OM: “It’s kinda like how the song “Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack came about. She was at some sort of club and some guy was performing, and she felt like he basically read her mind and his performance really got to her. She wrote her feelings down on a napkin or something, and took it home and wrote a song about it. And so I kinda want people to feel “Oh yeah, I’ve been in that situation,” or “How is she reading my mind right now?” when they listen to my music. I want the takeaway to be “At least I’m not alone in this moment of chaos,” whether it be college or just trying to figure things out in life.”
As someone who considers themselves a fan of lyricists like Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, and Maisie Peters, Olivia Mae is definitely the kind of artist that will have you second guessing whether or not she was able to crawl into the nooks of your brain to read your thoughts and sing them aloud. Though she’s young, she’s been able to encompass the ache of growing pains and the hardships that come with being a hopeless romantic in a world full of rocky situationships. Despite her busy schedule as a full-time student, she’s always writing songs and is working toward releasing an EP with the new-coming year. With a pool of genres under her belt, her artistry will definitely reach listeners who are fans of R&B, pop, and indie.