VIDEO PREMIERE: SINGER/SONGWRITER OLIVIA GRACE EXPLORES INTIMACY & HEARTBREAK IN DREAMY MUSIC VIDEO FOR ‘SAFE’
When I met with alt-pop singer-songwriter Olivia Grace, I had just turned 27. Literally, about an hour before.
Though I have mixed feelings about nearing 30, I like to think I still have the energy of my 23-year-old self, fresh-faced and ready to take on the world. After meeting Olivia, I know I am sorely mistaken. Perhaps that’s just life, or perhaps it’s because New York City ages people at twice the normal rate.
Olivia herself is very familiar with NYC’s many, unyielding stressors. She moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles a year ago, after finishing her senior year at Columbia College in Chicago (where she studied music) remotely from her Bushwick apartment.
“I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be,” she says of her time in city. “I had this moment in New York where I had this day to do nothing. And I was going to the train to explore the city and I felt myself running and everything around me was running to catch this train and I was like ‘Why am I running right now? Why am I so stressed out?’ I felt like I was stressed all the time even when I didn’t have to be and it wasn’t helping my productivity.”
Even still, she sparkles from across the table – due to both her contagious energy and her Iconic London liquid highlight – as she tells me about her career thus far and hopes for the future.
For Olivia, a creative life was somewhat inevitable. She grew up in small-town Maryland, a self-described “loner” who hung out at a local record shop and received her first keyboard as a gift from her parents.
After college and her stint in New York City, Olivia fell comfortably into the music scene in Los Angeles. “When I moved to LA I had all the stereotypes in my head,” she tells me. “But then I actually got to experience different neighborhoods and met a lot of people and it’s been really nice. I found it was so easy to become a part of the music community. I can go out to a show or an event along and I’ll see like five, 10 people I know. And when I went out in New York that didn’t happen.”
The welcome change in her environment inevitably impacted her songwriting as well. “[The songwriting process] has changed a lot since being in LA. I’ve started doing sessions almost every day. With ‘Safe’, I co-wrote that with Josh Wood and then produced that with Dave Burris so it’s been a lot more collaborative.”
Since 2016, Olivia has released three singles: “Shoestrings”, “Blackbird”, and most recently, “Safe”. The music video for “Safe”, shot on Super 8 film and edited by Olivia herself, premieres exclusively on LADYGUNN today.
Though her songs tend to focus on her experiences as a young woman, there’s also a darker, mysterious undercurrent present. Upon my first listen to “Safe”, I was immediately reminded of Lana Del Rey. When I mention this to her, she laughs knowingly.
“It’s a huge compliment when people say that. When I was getting ready to put out ‘Safe’ I had a couple people tell me it was really similar to Lana Del Rey and I was like ‘Oh no how can I change this? What can I do?’, but then I was like you know, I can’t change it. I’ve actually gotten back into her now.”
Despite any influence she may have had, the video for “Safe” is entirely her own. And as the first real visual representation of her artistry, it was important to Olivia to get it right.
“Sometimes I like playing with characters in songs and I have songs that are not even about me, it’s about a story that I created,” Olivia explains. “But ‘Safe’ is very much based on my own experiences. I wrote that during the high stages of a past relationship when everything was going great, but I didn’t record it until after we broke up. So I wanted to honor those original feelings.”
The dreamy, wistfully nostalgic video was shot in the San Bernardino mountains in California and was produced by Olivia herself.
She tells me about all the obstacles that came along with putting together her own video shoot; from the director dropping out at the last minute to injuring her foot during filming. But despite any bumps in the road (and the fact that video production is not her forte), Olivia was determined to create a meaningful product.
“I knew I wanted to do it on Super 8 film because I felt like film would help it to feel more cinematic and nostalgic and warm. The whole video is based on this loose narrative of loneliness. At the same time, it’s very intimate,” she explains.
With the help of cinematographers Madeline Kann and Celeste Barbosa and her own persistence, Olivia was able to make her vision a reality.
But as an independent artist, Olivia is no stranger to the hustle.
“I’m a psycho,” she says with a laugh. “I have like spreadsheets upon spreadsheets of blogs, people who write for them, remixers, labels, Spotify playlists, everything. I make it a point to keep notes and I do all my pitching and whatnot.”
She also notes social media as a major player in her success. “Honestly, I think social media in the music industry today is really great because it allows for me as an artist to connect with so many types of people. [Social media] really helps artists to be independent. If I didn’t have that access, I don’t know if I’d be able to do it the way I am right now.”
Persistence, Olivia says, is the name of the game. “If you keep showing up, people are going to notice.” At the same time, self-doubt occasionally, inevitably, rears its ugly head.
“I definitely have a lot of anxiety,” she continues.
“But at the same time, what is the alternative option? There’s no alternative because this is what I love doing, so that kind of gives me the motivation. I don’t think it’s healthy to depend on outside validation but sometimes there are moments, like signs that I’m doing the right thing. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
photos / Dolly Avenue
story / Catherine Santino
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