In Interview: Olivia Lane – “We have to get on stage, and we have to be vulnerable”

Olivia Lane interview - music and hitting the road

Olivia Lane makes her first visit to the UK for a run of dates including a headline Manchester gig at The Castle next week.  The shows come after the Nashville based singer songwriter took a brief break from being on the road before bursting back on to the music scene with the single You Got Me and the recently released Hey 3AM.  I spoke to Olivia Lane whilst she was at home in Nashville.  Almost appropriately it’s 3 o’clock UK time when I pick up the telephone, albeit 3pm.

Talking of her Hey 3AM released just a couple of weeks back, it’s a song, she explains, that she started pitching around three years earlier.  “No-one wanted to write it with me” she explains, “and so it was in my phone notes for a really long time.  It was an idea I always glazed over because I was like, “Ugh, this is just bad idea, nobody’s going to relate. La la la.” Then three years later I’m sitting up, watching TV or something, and it’s 3:00 AM and I’m so mad at myself and like, ‘Why am I up?’ I could’ve gone to bed at nine o’clock, but I didn’t. I started watching all those Netflix episodes and I let my brain wander to all those places in my life, and now I’m up. I was scrolling through my phone and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. I am actually going through this again. I have to write this song.'”

“It’s like your mind goes to crazy places”

Shortly afterwards she took the idea to co-writer Aaron Scherz and the song was written in next to no time.  After an initial thought that perhaps the song was too personal, she found that the more she performed it, the more people she discovered who could relate.  “It’s really a song about not being able to go to bed and letting your mind go to this crazy rabbit hole place and being frustrated by it.  That’s where it initially started and now it’s my comfort song. It’s like, ‘Okay. I’m going to let go of all of those thoughts now. Thank you, 3:00 AM'”.  It’s a place where many of us have found ourselves, sometimes all too frequently, and somewhere she admits she also lingers too often but now realises that so do most people.  “All the conversations from that day or something you did two years ago that you’re still embarrassed by,” she adds, “it’s like your mind goes to crazy places in the small hours of the morning.  I just didn’t understand or I didn’t know that there were so many people out there whose minds do that.  I thought it was just a very small bunch of people like me! Now, I’m starting to figure out that everybody has those 3:00 AM thoughts, so it was comforting to know.”

But was Hey 3AM inspired by one particular moment?  “No, you know what’s funny?” she reveals, “I remember sitting on my floor, thinking about this idea, and I actually wanted to write it because I was going through a breakup.  I actually wanted to write about a guy like, “Hey 3AM, you make me think of him.” I took it in [to the co-write], and this is why I love co-writing, because I have an idea or direction of where I want the song to go, but then people that I rely on, they spin around and they’re like, ‘No, no, no. What if we took it in this direction?’  Then it completely opens my mind thinking, ‘Whoa, I didn’t even think about that.’  We tried to keep it very universal, just so anybody who’s listening to the song could take it in anyway they want to.  For me, in particular, when I listen to it, I think of a breakup, but that’s a wildly different perception than if someone else is listening to it.  It’s pretty cool.  It’s pretty cool to ask people like, ‘What does it make you think of?’ Everybody’s 3am thoughts are very different.”

We move on to discussing her upcoming UK dates.  The four show tour marks her first set of live appearances in the UK and she is clearly excited.  “Oh my goodness. I’ve never been there. I’m very excited to come meet the people and see what their vibe is” she gushes, “I think that’s my favourite thing about touring, about being a musician, I get to see different cities and different walks of life.  I get to meet people and different attitudes, hear different stories.  I love listening to people’s stories because it helps me become a better songwriter.  I’m just excited to hang out in Manchester, I’ve never been there.”  And she is serious.  She asks for restaurant recommendations, things to see and do whilst in the city.



And she’s bringing new music with her, explaining that she will be debuting some new material in the UK.  Hey 3AM is leading up towards an EP release around April time.  As we speak, she’s still finalising details of the EP, explaining that she has around 20 songs to choose from and at the moment she hasn’t picked a title track.  “There’s so many creative things I need to work out on my end before that comes out but it definitely will be coming in April, that’s for sure!” she laughs.

Olivia Lane will headline at The Castle Manchester - image courtesy Big Spark Music
Olivia Lane will headline at The Castle Manchester – image courtesy Big Spark Music

The tour also marks her return to touring after taking a brief break from the road.  So now, returning to the live scene, will she approach it with a new perspective?  “I don’t know” she answers honestly, “Present moment, today, I have a little anxiety of getting back on the road again. It’s so weird to say because [it’s a case of] ‘This is what I do. This is my job. I’m good at this,’ or, ‘Maybe I once was good at this and now I’m in a new chapter of my life. I don’t know if I’m going to be good at it again.’ I know as soon as I hit the stage and I see people’s faces, I’ll get energized!”

When she discusses her music it’s clear that she continues to evolve as she delves in to what she calls her ‘vulnerable emotional place’.  She explains that her music has taken her in a slightly different direction than she had anticipated, that it’s a little more mellow, and that may well pose her a bit of a conundrum when she performs live.  “My music is a little bit more subdued” she explains, “I don’t know how that’s going to come across when I’m performing.  I like to be running all over the stage.  I like to be in people’s faces.  I like people to have a really great time.  I’m just going to have to figure it out.”  It’s all part of her learning curve, “I feel like people come to shows and they’re like, ‘Oh, she’s had it figured out. They rehearsed it, blah blah blah.’ No, I’m learning every single time I do a show. I’m always learning, ‘Oh, that doesn’t work,’ or, ‘People love this and I’m shocked by it.’ It’s always a learning process for me whenever I’m on stage. I learn along with the audience, as the audience is learning, I am as well.”

“I’m really excited and terrified”

The UK shows will see Olivia Lane performing acoustically, joined by one other musician.  “It will be super intimate.” she tells me adding that this is another aspect which will be challenging her to perform in a different way.  “Again, it’s like I have the things that I’m good at and this acoustic tour- it’s something that I’m not used to, so it’ll challenge me in new and different ways that I’m not used to, which I’m really excited and terrified about, but more excited.”

It’s not just excitement that will be fuelling her performances.  Olivia Lane will be opening up fully to audiences, exposing her vulnerabilities.  “For me personally, when I go on stage, I feel like I have to be open and emotional with my audience because I don’t know where I’m at in their experience of the night, you know what I mean?” she elaborates, “I don’t know if they randomly stumbled into my show. I don’t know if somebody’s just there to see my show, but I can only be the best that I can be. I can only invite people into my story and into my mind.

“Hopefully, when this happens, when I have been very vulnerable, and very open, it invites people to be very comfortable with going into their lives and being open with their lives, and inside their minds.” For Olivia, she explains, this is what really helps her connect when the tables are turned and she’s at a gig as a fan, “For me, as a fan, when I go see an artist, the artists that I truly love watching are the ones that get so into their songs, and so into the moment, and so into the story that they’re trying to tell, that it almost gives their audience permission to go there with them.

“There’s nothing more beautiful to me than a room full of people who are feeling something together. They might be completely different, different experiences but at least we’re all feeling in a world that I feel like it’s constantly critiquing people to not feel things. I feel like that’s the artist’s duty, we have to get on stage, and we have to be vulnerable, and we have to be open. That’s where I come from. I enjoy it.  Maybe that’s a weird masochistic thing to say, I enjoy re-living my pain” she laughs, “and I enjoy reliving my joys just because that’s just the way I’m wired. I think that’s why people say music is like therapy because you just work through so much if you let yourself.”

“It’s a moment of drama, and you can either let it ruin your performance and your day or you just let it roll off your back”

Amidst the vulnerability and honesty of her performances, I also want to know about a few words she said recently ‘You’ve got to be okay with the chaos’.  She laughs.  “Everything has its chaotic moments” she explains, “My boyfriend, he’s what we call in the musician, artist world a ‘nine to fiver’, because our lives in our world it’s just crazy.  We don’t have a nine to five schedule, it’s just weird.  I talked to him about all these [things], he’s like, ‘Oh my god, I could never do that. I like my structure. I like waking up, I like knowing I’m going to work, I like knowing when I’m off from work.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, I have no schedule!’

“Some people are really not okay with that.  I just thrive with there’s a different adventure every single day.  I’m trying to think of one [chaotic moment] in particular.  Recently we were auditioning for this showcase thing and we got the rules wrong and it was two minutes before we had to show up.  We were going to get disqualified!  It was just a lot of drama, really quickly.  I feel that’s how my life is.  It’s a moment of drama, and you can either let it ruin your performance and your day or you just let it roll off your back.  Even when I’m on stage and a guitar string breaks or my microphone cuts out, it’s like, ‘Oh, okay, I could let this ruin my time and the audience’s time or I can just do the chicken dance and just wait for my microphone to come back on.  I don’t know.  It’s just little moments like that where you choose to not let the stress and the fear get you.”



When does Olivia Lane headline at The Castle Manchester?

Olivia Lane headlines at The Castle, Manchester, on Tuesday 5 February 2019.

Mark Kelly

Author: Mark Kelly

Music lover. Gig reviewer.
Often found at the merch stand.