Blog | olivia somerlyn

  • TeenNick Top 10: Olivia Somerlyn on Songwriting

    Posted on 05/17/2013 by Lisa

    18-year-old singer/songwriter Olivia Somerlyn, the TeenNick Top 10 Fresh Artist of the Month, talks about her writing process in part two of our interview. (Read part one, in which she talks about opening up for Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice on tour this summer, here.)

    Olivia SomerlynWhat's your writing process like?
    First of all, I could really write a song anywhere, because inspiration comes at the weirdest times. Somebody says a word, and I think "Oh, that'd be great in a song." I have to write it down. I have to always be ready for that. I've even written songs on a plane, with my headphones, my notebook, and the piano app on my phone, trying to play chords and not being able to do it. The flight attendants were cracking up at me -- that's not the ideal place to write a song.

    Usually I get inspired right when I'm about to fall asleep, and I end up staying up way too late working on a song. Sometimes I think that's when the best inspiration comes, when you're winding down. You have time to think.

    It's so funny. I'm in bed, the lights are off, and my eyes are closed. I think of either a concept or a melody, but I have to wake up really early the next day... so do I work on this, or do I fall asleep? Should I record it really quick? It's hard to decide sometimes.

    Do you have a favorite place to write?
    I used to live in the Bay Area, and I had a great view from my room. I had a little keyboard set up there, and I always used to love when it rained. I wrote one of my songs, "Only in the Movies," while looking at that view in the rain. I always go back to that place in my mind. I love writing songs in the rain, there's just something about it.

    What advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing their own songs?
    I'd just say, get started as soon as you can. Just write, and don't worry about making it perfect right off the bat. I have notebooks full of songs that I wrote, I mean, complete songs -- they have lyrics, melody, everything -- that I never really recorded for real or released. But it was worth it, because I learned so much writing all those songs.

    Also, one thing that really helps me as I write songs is to amplify the emotion that I'm feeling. I think in order for a song to really move people, for it to come across as poetry, as art, because that's really what songwriting is, there needs to be an amplification of reality, rather than just conversational words as lyrics.

    What's the best advice anyone has ever given you about songwriting?
    I love this question because it makes me think about all the amazing people that I've worked with, and all the writers that I've met. When I first started co-writing, I started typing my words on a laptop, rather than writing by hand in a notebook, like I used to, when I was writing by myself. Then I worked with this really great co-writer who told me that she always uses paper and a pen -- not even pencil -- so she wouldn't be able to delete or erase the lyrics that she didn't end up using. Then she could refer back and use those words to create other songs -- flip back and see if there are other lyrics that would work for it. That really changed the way I wrote, because I ended up looking back at my old notebooks and finding little pieces that I can use in other songs.

    And this is less technical, but another piece of advice that somebody gave me that really stuck with me is "The more transparent you become, the more universal you become." It has really encouraged me to open up and be more vulnerable in my songwriting. I got that advice pretty recently, and I think it particularly shows in one of the songs on my new album.

    Have you ever heard a song and thought "I wish I'd written that"? What song was it?
    I think this all the time. My music taste is very eclectic. I listen to so many different artists. I'm always Shazamming songs on my iPhone when I go to stores and restaurants. I find a song and then I'm obsessed with it for a while. Right now it's "Just Give Me a Reason" by Pink and Nate Ruess. It reminds me of my music style -- it's piano based with a really cool beat behind it. I just wish I'd written it!

    What else do you think you'll have on your summer 2013 playlist?
    I've heard whispers that Katy Perry's new album is coming out this summer, and I don't know if that's true, but I really hope it is, because I'm really excited about it. Also, the new Big Time Rush album, which I'll get to hear all the time on tour this summer.

    The Summer Break Tour sounds like so much fun, but it also sounds like you'll be crazy busy. When you get overwhelmed, what's your favorite way to relax?
    I've never been on a tour before, so in the days leading up to the tour, I can't sleep because I'm nervous, or I can't sleep because I'm excited. I really like getting lost in a book right before bed. I read as much as I possibly can right before I fall asleep, so the last thing in my mind is what's going on in the book, with the story and the characters. I think it's even better when it's something that's very different from my life, from a different time period especially, so I can just sort of be transported.

    Since you love historical fiction, I have to ask: If you could go back in time and play a few songs for ANY historical figure, which one would you pick?
    I love this question. I read a lot of historical novels, especially about European history. I took AP European History and I just loved it so much. I wrote a research paper about Marie Antoinette for that class, so I'd probably choose her. Everyone thinks she's so frivolous, but I think she's very misunderstood.

    What's on your summer reading list?
    I'm in the middle of reading The Great Gatsby, and I really like it so far. I don't know what I'm going to read next, so I'd love suggestions from people.

    Thanks, Olivia. I hope you have a wonderful summer on tour!
    Thank you so much!

    If you see Olivia on the Summer Break Tour, say hi. She says, "It'll make my day." Catch her on TeenNick Top 10 all month long (Fridays at 10pm et, 7pm pt), and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. See her live on the Summer Break Tour, beginning June 21 in Los Angeles.

  • TeenNick Top 10: Interview with Olivia Somerlyn

    Posted on 05/10/2013 by Lisa

    18-year-old singer/songwriter Olivia Somerlyn is the TeenNick Top 10 Fresh Artist of the Month for May. I talked to her about her summer plans, which include opening up for Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice on the Summer Break Tour.

    Olivia SomerlynCongratulations on being named Fresh Artist of the Month!
    Thank you! My TeenNick Top 10 interview was my first TV interview ever, and this is my first phone interview.

    Yay! What's one thing you want everyone who reads this interview to know about you?
    For the past few years that I've been working on my music, it's been all pretty much behind the scenes work. I've been writing a lot, recording a lot, and just being a perfectionist. This is going to be my first tour, and I can't even explain how excited I am to share my music with everybody.

    What are you looking forward to most about the tour?
    I'm mostly excited about meeting everybody before and after the show. I'll try to always be outside saying hi to everyone, kind of like I am on Twitter and online. I try to respond to everyone who tweets me, because it's just so much fun talking to everyone and responding to all the questions. I also can't wait to meet Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice, because I haven't met them yet! Everyone keeps asking if I've met them, but not yet! Hopefully soon!

    What's your favorite Big Time Rush song?
    I have two. One is one of their more recent songs, called "Windows Down." I listen to it when I'm working out, and it's just so energizing and fun. It's always stuck in my head.

    I went to the kick-off party for the tour at House of Blues a few weeks ago, and Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice did a little show. Big Time Rush played an acoustic set, and they played one of their older songs, "Nothing Even Matters," and it sounded so cool acoustically. That made it one of my favorites.

    What was it like at the kick-off party?
    I was just in the audience, thinking, "I can't believe I'm going on tour with these guys!" There were people handing out flyers on the way in, and my name was on the flyer: "Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice and ME?" It was so crazy.

    So, what are you bringing with you on tour? Tell me five things you can't live without.
    Olivia and Lukie#1. I want to bring my dog, Luke, but I don't know if he'll be able to handle all that traveling. That's making me really nervous, because how am I going to get through seven weeks without my puppy?

    #2. This is my first time on tour, and my first time sleeping on a tour bus. I'll probably have to bring a really good pillow so I can get comfortable anywhere. #3. A notebook, so I can write lyrics.

    #4. I want to figure out some sort of small keyboard situation for the tour bus, because I'm always writing songs, and it'd be really hard not to have that.

    #5. Definitely my phone, because I am always taking pictures. I'm a Big Time Rush fan and a Victoria Justice fan, so I want to be able to share my backstage access. I know what it's like to be a fan, and wonder what goes on behind the scenes, so I want to be the eyes and ears of everyone who wants to follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

    You're very active on Twitter. When you communicate directly with your fans, how do you stay focused on the good stuff and avoid the haters?
    Most people have been so nice and so positive, and even when they aren't, I just focus on the positive. I either ignore it or respond with something nice. I don't believe in fighting fire with fire, not just on social media, but in my personal life. I have a song on my upcoming EP about that, about standing up for yourself without having to sink to that level.

    What's your favorite thing about performing live?
    I've performed live a little bit around Los Angeles, but since this is my first tour, I'm looking forward to figuring out what it's really like. I've been going to concerts my whole life, thinking "I really can't wait... I just wanna be on stage!" I can already kind of tell what my favorite thing is going to be -- connecting with the audience.

    What's the best show you've been to lately?
    The most recent show I went to was Imagine Dragons, and it was just so cool. I love their songs, and the stage design was amazing. I've never been to a Big Time Rush or a Victoria Justice show, so I'm excited about getting to see them like 38 times this summer!

    When is your EP coming out? Can you give us any hints about what it's going to be like?
    I'm hoping to release my EP in August -- right after the tour! It will have a few more upbeat, summer, catchy, fun songs than my first EP, so I hope people will want to sing along.

    In honor of the summer tour and your last name, let's do some summer questions.

    Favorite summer food?
    Seasonal summer fruit. All year, I wait for peaches and nectarines.

    Favorite summer memory?
    My mom and I used to drive to Lake Tahoe every summer, and we'd listen to Coldplay's album Parachutes the whole way there, the whole way back, and the whole time we were there. Now, when I hear those songs it reminds me of my favorite summer days.

    Favorite summer activity?
    Probably after this summer, it's gonna be touring! But I hope that at the end of the summer I'll get to drive up to Lake Tahoe and go swimming, or even just jump in the ocean and swim.

    In part two of this interview, Olivia talks about her writing process and shares songwriting tips. Read it here!

    Catch Olivia Somerlyn on TeenNick Top 10 all month long (Fridays at 10pm et, 7pm pt), and keep in touch with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also see her live on the Summer Break Tour, beginning June 21 in Los Angeles.