"I’m already cracking on the next one so don’t worry - more sad bangers await you" We chat with Olivia Ellen Lloyd
You know what it's like when you hear something new, something fresh yet familiar, foot tapping, yet somehow sad. Well say hello to Olivia Ellen Lloyd. The West Virginian turned Brooklynite has a knack of getting you vigirously nodding your head to the likes of 'Excuse Yourself' before extracting a tear or ten with 'River Run'. Quite honestly, we love it. So, we spoke to Olivia about her record, and a whole load of other things.
Hey Olivia, how the heck are you?
As well as can be expected these days!
Yeah, maybe I need to rethink my opening question. Anyhow, what have you been up to today, and where are you right now?
Hanging tough out here in Brooklyn, New York. I’ve been doing some administrative catch up this week - sending out orders for my new album, getting mock-ups for new merch, and making plans for what’s next!
Introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m a country singer raised in West Virginia and currently based in Brooklyn. My debut album, Loose Cannon is available everywhere now. I’m a Cancer, and I have a slight preference for dogs over cats, but really love animals of any kind.
Tell us something about you that we don't know.
Oh man, well my album is pretty darn personal, so I haven’t left a lot on the table! I took up crocheting amid the COVID-19 shutdown. I am terrible at it.
You stopped playing music for a period of time, what was the thing that made you pick up your guitar again and starting playing?
Honestly, I missed it. I missed it so hard that going out to see live music physically hurt. Around the same time that the FOMO got too hard to bear, I stumbled upon a community of fabulous musicians and started going to jams and parties…it really did sort of fall into place. I feel like I struggled so hard trying to find community and purpose in my twenties and once i picked a guitar up again, there it was!
Tell me about Loose Cannons in two sentences.
Ten sad songs in different tempos. An unflinching reflection of my (our) twenties.
How did you decide on the title track being the title track?
It felt like the thesis of the album - all of it is about looking back and examining your near-past, wondering where all the time went...trying to figure out why you did this thing or that, and eventually (mostly) forgiving your past self for all of the missteps.
What’s the story of ‘The West’?
I was daydreaming about packing everything up and starting new somewhere I’d never been. I didn’t have social media at the time and realized it would be so easy to fly off to some place where no one knew me and kind of re-invent yourself. But as the saying goes- “no matter where you go, there you are”. It was definitely a pipe dream, but fun to entertain for a few stanzas.
Who is ‘Emily’?
Emily Spickler was my best friend. We grew up together in West Virginia and we were close from age six until she died five days before her 20th birthday. She was beautiful, smart, and a brilliant writer. I miss her every day.
What does songwriting look like for you? Do you approach it the same way every time?
It really depends. I have built a consistent journaling habit; I write first thing every morning for at least 15-20 minutes. A lot of my newer material has been born out of that habit. On the other hand, sometimes the songs just come to me, and those songs tend to be the more emotional, and personal. Either way, I know that I’m onto something if I can’t get the melody and lyrics out of my head.
How did you choose what songs to put out ahead of the album release?
That was a collaborative effort between me and my producer, Mike Robinson. We decided to do a kind of country-Americana encyclopedia and picked my strongest songs that ran the gambit from more traditional, classic country through to indie Americana. We both felt strongly about hitting all of my influences, which are pretty broad on the country-to-indie-rock spectrum.
What’s the best story that you’ve got to tell? Can be about anything and as long as you like.
One time, I visited my friends at WVU for a New Years Eve party at 123 Pleasant Street. I do not remember most of the evening (sign of a good time) but when we woke up the next day we went to Eat n’ Park (a regional diner chain). I ordered some standard breakfast platter (I think, I don’t really remember) but added a side of fruit in a very misguided attempt to balance out the previous night’s shenanigans. Our waitress, who was a very old woman with an incredible wig, came to deliver our orders and plopped a bowl full of cherry tomatoes in front of me. With no emotion in her face, she said “here’s your fruit hon” and walked away.
I was so hungover I just stared at it for a full minute. I think about that morning every day of my life. It is probably the funniest thing that has ever happened or will ever happen to me. It’s not as funny written down, but I think of it so often I couldn’t not tell it.
There’s a lot of talk about equality and diversity at the moment in music, what’s your view on how we get a better representation of diversity in music?
Dang if it’s not overdue, and we still have a lot of work to do.
I think we all benefit from having more people’s voices heard. Country music in particular is about storytelling - at least that’s my favorite aspect of it - and including as many stories and perspectives as possible is essential to the advancement of that genre and craft.
That being said, we’re just scratching the surface. There’s a lot of work to be done and difficult discussions to have. And many deep wounds that we have to figure out how to heal.
Who (or what) inspires you?
Life. Mine and other peoples’.
I think a lot about how very specific experiences can be used to expand on universal themes. It is difficult, sometimes, to write a personal song about loss...but it is also a way of building community. So many people have connected with my song 'Emily', which is explicitly about the death of my best friend. It feels so validating to have other people hear that spark of recognition and know that your emotional honesty has helped someone recognize and honor their own grief or feelings of loss.
Recently I’ve been working to build that same kind of emotional connection through observation, rather than solely pulling from personal experience. I think that’s the highest form of songwriting; when you pull from something outside of yourself while still grasping at the emotional core of the story you’re trying to tell.
What kind of music do you listen to in your spare time?
Oh god everything! My boyfriend has a huge record collection and is a big fan of jazz so that’s been floating through the house a lot lately. When I’ve got my headphones in for a walk, I’ve been back on a classic country kick - I was really jamming out to Bobbi Gentry yesterday. Her writing is breathtaking, so vivid and literary.
If you could recommend one artist to hear this week, who would it be?
Just one?! I keep sending people Stephanie Lambring songs, so maybe her.
I love Stephanie. Excellent choice! What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
My true passion and calling in life is being a dog-mom to my pup Hilly. Songwriting is just a pastime between belly rubs.
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
Black, piping hot, and ideally from D’Amico beans.
Thanks so much for your time Olivia, I love the new record.
Thanks so much! I’m already cracking on the next one so don’t worry - more sad bangers await you.