Olivia Noelle has a strikingly beautiful voice that is drenched in attitude. Her songs are intimate, ballsy, liberating three-minute highs that linger in your system for days. She is a devastatingly potent elixir of intoxicating talent and her music gives you the courage to fearlessly live your best life.
Over the past several months, Olivia has been dropping singles — “Faking It,” “Made of Gold,” and “High for Me” — from her upcoming EP and preparing to head out on the road. Her first tour will be a quick dash down the East Coast with Hippie Sabotage that begins on March 2 at the House of Blues in Boston and ends on March 9 at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, Florida. Then, on March 15, she’ll be performing a special set at an as yet undisclosed location. [Note: See the end of this article for an update on this upcoming performance.]
“I’m proud of what I’m doing. I’m very happy that I found the courage to say what I really feel,” Olivia told Entertaining Options. “When I first started writing, I was trying to write what I thought people wanted to hear, what was cool, and what was being said right now. I’d listen to what Ariana Grande just put out and I would try to write from that space. That approach made it really difficult for me to write anything that I was proud of. It wasn’t until I said, ‘F*ck it! This might not do anything or go anywhere and I might not ever play the song for anybody, but I’m going to write it anyway!’ That’s when my music started connecting with people. Every song on this EP, especially ‘High for Me,’ is honest and personal.”
“The first 20 to 30 times I listened to ‘High for Me,’ I would blush because it was so honest,” she continued. “I’d be listening to it through my headphones on the train and I’d think, ‘Oh sh*t! Everyone knows my secrets now.’ Even though I hadn’t sent the song to anybody and nobody had heard it yet, I would get embarrassed and bashful about it. For me, that’s now the test: Do I get embarrassed when I listen to it? If I do, then it’s probably honest enough to be good.”
“It’s not really ’embarrassed,'” she decided, “it’s more that feeling of, ‘Oh sh*t! This is so honest! Maybe I shouldn’t have put this lyric in there?’ That’s what I want from the artists I listen to, so why would I give less of myself than what I expect from others?”
The magic of “High for Me” is that it can be taken in two different ways. And, because of Olivia’s attention to detail, each is valid. The song’s hook, coupled with the rap by Kid Ink and the lyric video — not to mention the provocative teasers from a possible official video — can push you to think it’s about a drug-induced high. However, listening to the lyrics, “When all I feel is low, will you get high for me?” you realize, there’s a more intense, deeper layer. When someone loves you enough to be able to remain strong for you, even when you are at your lowest, that person is definitely a keeper! Olivia’s music is beautiful, but it always maintains an intriguing, street-smart savvy.
“I grew up listening to my brother’s music — he was a big hip-hop head, so I listened to a lot of Biggie and Tupac. I was also listening to my mom’s music — she is super into Motown and jazz, so I listened to a lot of Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, and groups that had a lot of soul that really hit you in the gut. But I also went to seven Backstreet Boys’ concerts, so pop music is ingrained in me, too!”
“But there’s just something about hip-hop… I get the chills with the right lyricist, like André 3000. It’s poetry. I really feel like I’m being taken somewhere because it’s so honest and you’re able to say so much in such a little space. I only have four to six lines and the chorus to say everything I need to say. The best way to do that is to just be really blunt. Sometimes, that means cursing.”
There are two versions of Olivia’s single, “Made of Gold.” The clean version just doesn’t hit with anywhere near the same impact as the explicit version.
“I did not want to write that song!” Olivia blurted.” After I did, I realized, ‘Sh*t, now I have to break up with my boyfriend! How am I going to live through this, now that I have said it all out loud?’ I think that’s something I do with my music: sometimes, the song beats me to it. At the time I wrote those lyrics, I definitely wasn’t confident. I didn’t walk around like a girl who thought that she was made of gold. I was in this relationship and the song beat me to the actuality of it. Instead of a breakup inspiring a song, the song inspired a breakup.”
One person, however, is not enamored by the swear words that find their way into Olivia’s lyrics.
“My mom was just texting me about my new record and she said, ‘I love it because there are no F-bombs in it.’ It’s definitely tough for her. She’s a very, very strong woman and she has very strong opinions about cursing and respect. The first time I played ‘Made of Gold’ for her, it was very scary. I was like, ‘You’re going to hate this.’ But I was surprised because she said, ‘I don’t love the F word, but I really like this song.’ I was surprised that she could see past it. My mom is the reason I am able to do any of this. She was the first ‘yes’ I ever got. When I was a little kid and I told her, ‘I think I wanna be on stage… all the time!’ She said, ‘Okay, let’s figure it out. We can’t afford soccer and voice lessons, so you have to choose one. If I wanted to do something, she’d always figure out a way to let me do it… And she’s still that way. I just want to honor and respect all the sacrifices that she made for me to help me express myself in this way.”
In closing, Entertaining Options asked Olivia what it felt like to be heading out on her first tour.
“I am so excited!” she gushed. “I think I have to manage my expectations on how much of each city I’m going to be able to explore because I’ve never been to any of them before. Well, except for New York, obviously. [Olivia is based out of Brooklyn.] I can’t wait to go to Boston and hear all the accents. I can’t wait to go to Baltimore. I’m also excited because I got my best friend to come along on the tour. She’s going to be the driver. She’s been with me since we were doing ‘Carpool Karaoke’ on our way to high school. Hippie Sabotage has a great fan base and their fans seem really dope, so I’m hoping it’s going to be a welcoming crowd. I’m so excited. I’m thrilled. I can’t wait! I know that I’m not going to want to stop once I start!”
Update: A few days after this interview, Olivia tweeted the following: “Secret’s out, I’m going to @sxsw this year!!!” That’s right, on March 15, Olivia will be hitting Austin, Texas to perform at the illustrious SXSW in Sony’s highly anticipated #LostInMusic, a showcase featuring both Sony Music artists and groundbreaking Sony technology.
Olivia Noelle’s tour dates (supporting Hippie Sabotage):
March 2: Boston, MA – House of Blues
March 3: New York, NY – Brooklyn Steel
March 4: Washington, DC – 930 Club
March 5: Baltimore, MD – Rams Head Live
March 7: Knoxville, TN – The Mill & Mine
March 8: Atlanta, GA – Masquerade
March 9: St. Petersburg, FL – Jannus Live