If you’re looking for a pop-rock artist who is unapologetically herself and will shake up your world with empowering anthems then you need to check out Olivia Rox.
The daughter of international recording artist Warren Hill, and producer, writer, and director Tamara Van Cleef, there is no doubt that music has been in Olivia’s blood from day one. Growing up, she was naturally intrigued by the entertainment business and made her stage debut at the tender age of two, joining her dad on stage during his concert at Chicago Theater. She performed her favourite song, ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’ from the movie Snow White, which resulted in her very first standing ovation.
She wrote her very first song at the age of four, and over the years went on to display her quadruple threat of talent (singing, acting, dancing and songwriting) in various projects, including the starring role of “Annie” at Boulder’s Dinner Theater in 2009. At 14, she was invited to audition for America’s Got Talent and got a yes from all of the judges. This led to her being offered a record deal from Warner Brothers Records, which sadly fell through due to a restructuring in the company.
However, Olivia Rox was later asked to audition for American Idol, a show which propelled her to stardom in the US. After months of preliminary auditions, she made it to the filmed judges round and got a golden ticket to Hollywood. Wowing the judges and the audience during each round, she made it all the way to the top 10 and landed her spot in the top six girls.
Since then, Olivia has really come into her own as an artist and has expressed her musicality through the release of her debut album PopRox. Featuring the singles ‘It Girl’, ‘Galileo’ and her latest track ‘Shooting Star’, the album highlights Olivia’s phenomenal songwriting and vocal ability and offers a unique look on pop music as we know it. Her songs are raw and, most importantly, real, with her passion and dedication to her craft evident throughout.
We caught up with Olivia Rox to talk about her latest single ‘Shooting Star’, entertaining the masses during quarantine with her own online show, her American Idol experience, her future music plans and much more.
Hey Olivia! How have you been during this difficult time?
I’ve been great! Thanks for asking! I’ve been staying busy and in a highly creative mode, which I think has kept me in good spirits. However, I’m definitely missing being on tour! Honestly though, I can’t complain – I’m getting to spend quality time home with my parents (and dogs), I’m healthy and I get to do music for a living!
You’ve been keeping your fans entertained with The Olivia Rox Show – Live From My Living Room – The QuaranTUNE Sessions. How did the sessions come about and how have you found the whole experience?
Yes! When the quarantine hit, I was gearing up to go to Europe for a few months and then tour in the US for the summer, but unfortunately had to cancel/reschedule my PopRox Tour due to the pandemic – so, I was of course bummed. But, I’m definitely not one to idle, and I was raring to go musically, so The Olivia Rox Show came about very organically.
The first few episodes were really just something fun to do and continue performing for my fans even though I couldn’t be there in person. It wasn’t until a few episodes in, when I noticed my numbers literally doubling each episode, getting hundreds of thousands of people watching along with me, that I realized my family and I had created something that truly struck a nerve with the fans.
I’m extremely glad I did it, as I’ve been able to connect with my fans like never before. It’s also been very fun to film! I get to chat with my music industry buds, make recipes, try new things, share behind the scenes stories, and most of all I get to perform music every episode. I never saw myself as a host before – but now a whole new part of my career has opened up to me, and I’m having a blast!
You were joined by special guests during the sessions – who was your favourite guest to have on the show?
Oh my goodness I don’t know if I can choose just one!! I had an amazing time with Jim Peterik, who is an incredible artist and songwriter (‘Eye Of The Tiger’, ‘Caught Up In You’, ‘Vehicle’, etc.) but I also had a blast doing my reggae episode with Quino from Big Mountain (‘Baby I Love Your Way’) and catching up with Wayne Jobson (Producer/Songwriter No Doubt/Gwen Stefani, Keith Richards, Willie Nelson, etc). Then of course I had special guests such as artist Jeneve Rose Mitchell from American Idol, Chef Marco from Italy, and International Jazz recording artist Warren Hill, to name a few! So many incredible guests.
Having recently aired the season finale, we hear that you plan on continuing the series in July! Can you give us any hints on who or what we can expect to see?
Ooh…. well I can’t share too much yet. However, I can tell you that it’s going to be an amazing time. The Olivia Rox Show -The Summer Sessions will feature some incredible special guests, loads of music, and exclusive music video premieres. I will also be releasing a comedy special, where my family and I play the “crew” of the show in a reality tv show format with confessionals. It was absolutely hysterical to film that episode! I’m really looking forward to airing this new limited season, (The Olivia Rox Show – The Summer Sessions)!
During the finale, you also unveiled the music video for your latest single ‘Shooting Star’. The visual was shot in London – what was that experience like?
Absolutely epic!! We filmed at night on the Millennium Bridge overlooking the Thames, which was truly a magical experience (and also freezing haha – especially being in a short jumpsuit). I feel like I’ve experienced quite an evolution in my career thus far, and every music video I release shows that. I find that I’ve definitely come into my own as an artist, and this video shows a flirty, uninhibited side of me that I really haven’t shown the public before, so that in and of itself is very freeing.
I’ll share a funny story with you, a moment I’ll never forget! So, it is right before the music video shoot- the crew and I were at this really conservative pub nearby for dinner, waiting for nightfall to come, so we could film on the Millennium Bridge. Once it was dark, I headed to the pub’s loo to get ready. So, I changed out of my “appropriate proper English pub attire”, into an outfit that was entirely out of the ordinary for me, ya know, for the music video, which was a short, somewhat revealing jumpsuit, with towering sparkly heels.
I emerged from the bathroom all dolled up into a bustling, super noisy room, where suddenly, the entire place fell completely silent! It was a total British rom com moment where literally every single person stopped, and turned to look at me in unison, and you could hear a pin drop. Well as you can imagine, I was sooo embarrassed! Reading the room, someone in my crew yelled out, “It’s not what you think – she’s shooting a music video!” The entire room responded like “Ohhhhh, Cheers!” and proceeded to erupt in laughter!! Hysterical! My Mom threw her jacket over me and we hightailed out of there pretty quick!
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind ‘Shooting Star’?
‘Shooting Star’ is a song I wrote about going for your dreams against all odds. I wrote it during a time when it felt like the entire world was against me, hearing that inevitable word as a young new artist, “No”. So, it sent me soul searching about my career, which ultimately made me take matters into my own hands and just be myself, not what other people wanted me to be. Writing this song truly helped me to push through my defeat and say to myself that nothing can stop me or sway me in my path, because I already know who I am – and who I am is a musician. Which can be felt in my lyrics, “Even if you try and slow me down, you know that it won’t stop me now, cuz I already know just who I am”.
I penned it as a sort of anthem for myself, a promise that, no matter what the world threw my way, nothing would stop me. And the song did just that for me, I navigated those “no’s” and found the people that believed in my songs wholeheartedly – and I‘m so grateful that I kept going after my dreams, because here I am, now 21, finally starting to reach them. It’s truly an anthem for anyone needing that little boost of inspiration to get them through the day. I hope you will sing it loud!
Why did you decide to make ‘Shooting Star’ a single?
In my mind, when I wrote ‘Shooting Star’, I imagined it being a “Stadium song” (as I like to call it) . Something iconic, that literally outlives us. One of those songs that you put on in the car and all conversations stop because you just have to sing along. Maybe that’s just how I feel when I sing it, but I always had that dream for this song. So when it came time to choose the next single, after the success of my songs “It Girl” and “Galileo”, I pleaded my case with my amazing label, Songbird Records, and thankfully they were already right there with me and agreed wholeheartedly!
I think this is the kind of feel-good anthem that our world desperately needs right now. We’re living through extraordinary circumstances, and we need that little extra reminder during a difficult day, that we’re going to get through this, things will get better. We shouldn’t give up on our dreams just because the world is beating us down. Stay strong, stay passionate, keep soaring. “You can’t stop me, I’m a shooting star!”
‘Shooting Star’ is taken from your debut album PopRox which was incredibly well received. How did the creative process push you as an artist?
It was an amazing experience getting to make PopRox. I’m lucky, because I have an incredible label behind me with Songbird Records, and the producers on my album really allowed me to showcase my voice on the songs, which doesn’t always happen on a pop album. For instance, producer Tamara Van Cleef really knew how to get the best things out of me, that I didn’t even know were possible. We would be in the studio at 3am, tired as hell, but she knew that I had more in me, and she truly pushed me to find greater parts of myself.
I remember recording the ending of ‘Go For It’, and being the overachieving perfectionist that I am, I wanted to hold a full voice lick over the ending of the song- for 33 seconds- with one breath. Everyone thought it wasn’t possible, but my producers said to “Go For It” (pun very much intended) and so I did. You definitely realize how long 33 seconds is when you’re holding a full voice note and giving it your all – but I completely surprised myself and did it!! I came out of the vocal booth, on cloud 9 and everyone was high fiving me. It was a really special moment. Turns out it was the longest note ever held in a pop song.
We actually had a lot of moments like that – I was never satisfied just phoning it in on any song. I wanted to push all of the boundaries. I think I also felt a sort of responsibility to the songs, since I was the sole songwriter on the album. I wanted each and every one of my babies to be showcased and the best that it could be. Part of what I’m most proud of are the productions on the songs. I was very involved in the entire process, and we made sure that each song had intricate productions – that way when you listen to the album for the second, third or even hundredth time – you can discover something new each time, like a flower blossoming.
Possibly a bit of a difficult question as the album is your baby, but for anyone who is new to your music, which three songs would you choose as the ones which define you the most as an artist and why?
Yes!! So hard!! I think it changes on a daily basis because I’m so incredibly proud of my album in its entirety. I would say one of my favorites on the album is ‘Galileo’, Which I literally wrote about Galileo Galilei (Yes, I’m a science nerd, and yes, I think being a nerd is super cool), the song leans a little more on the rock side of PopRox and has a lot of rebel spirit.
Another rock leaning song is ‘Miss Positivity’, which is musically a bit of a juxtaposition to its lyrics. In a nutshell, the song is about seeing all of these negative things happening around you and deciding to turn it around and be a positive force in the world instead of keeping with the status quo. And then, of course, ‘Shooting Star’, which is probably my favorite to sing.
What do you hope that listeners will take away from your music?
I write with a very positive tone – even though I may write about heavy subjects, I always hope to leave the listener feeling good. Even though it may be rough, there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel. So I hope you feel just that; inspired, happy, and ready to take on the world. Most importantly, music should make you feel – whether that’s happy, sad or anything in between – music is emotion embodied.
You’ve also been working on a new acoustic album called Just A Girl And Her Guitar – what can you tell us about the album?
Yesss :-) I’m very excited for this new project. It’s a world apart from my debut album PopRox, as this new album is entirely acoustic, and really geared for my fans wanting a deeper look into my songwriting. It’s a little side step from the pop/rock music that I do, and of course, intend to continue, but I found that creating this acoustic album was really something magical and had to be shared. The songs are all live; so we’re talking one takes, no auto tune, very raw- and the title really says it all, it’s literally “Just a Girl And Her Guitar”.
I wrote all of the tunes on it, so it’s very personal, like looking through a window to my soul. For me, each song is a memory, each lyric a journal entry, so to speak, and a few of the songs were so emotional for me to sing that I almost didn’t even record them (I’m glad my producer convinced me to put them on the album because they truly made it even more raw and personal.). It drops really soon – July 16th!
Have you found the isolation period beneficial in terms of writing new music? Has it been easier or more difficult to be creative during this time?
Surprisingly, I’ve found myself so extremely busy these past few months (maybe even more so than before the quarantine!). But, all for good things at least; in addition to The Olivia Rox Show, Just a Girl And Her Guitar, promoting my current pop album PopRox and my brand new Shooting Star single release. Although it may not seem that I cannot possibly be doing more, I’m also working on developing a new music festival with Music Getaways, and I have a new guitar that I’m preparing to release with Entour Music.
I have been writing a lot as well, and I was able to work on, and finish Just a Girl And Her Guitar during this time! I’ve found a lot of inspiration in all of it, which is very exciting. I like to say, being creative can only inspire more creativity. Some people look at creativity like a finite well, with water that will one day dry up – I don’t see it that way, I think it’s a never ending ocean – you just have to keep swimming.
You were a contestant on America’s Got Talent when you were 14, and were later a finalist on season 15 of American Idol. What’s the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your talent show experiences?
Ahh yes! I saw a lot of the contestants consumed by fear – and they weren’t able to enjoy themselves. Luckily, I’m not really a nervous person when it comes to my music. I grew up from a baby touring the world with my parents as my incredible dad is International jazz recording artist, Warren Hill. So, I was onstage performing songs to hundreds of thousands of people since I was literally two years old, so that part of performing on TV came very naturally for me. One very big thing I did learn during my time on both shows was the interview process, and how you must be very careful what you say when you sit down for that interview – even if you think the cameras are off, and stay true to yourself no matter what other people want you to do.
What advice would you give to anyone considering applying for one of these shows?
Be yourself! Really. At the end of the day – even if you don’t win, you’ll be glad that you didn’t change your morals to get where you are. I’m very happy to say that I’ve been my truest self in my career, and so I have no regrets because of it. There is a great saying that I try to live my life by; seek to be worth knowing, rather than well known.
What are your hopes for the future in terms of your music career?
I’m a dreamer, so I have huge goals. I look forward to the day that I can be on my own worldwide stadium tour. Right now, that is my current goal that I’m striving for – but that’s not to say that I won’t reach even higher. Wherever I am in my career, it’s all about the music – so my hope is that I can continue to have this insatiable love of writing and performing music, because for me – this isn’t my “job”, it’s my life. It literally makes me smile when I wake up in the morning, and keeps me going when I’m blue. I’ve truly found my passion, so I’m going to hold onto that feeling with a strong grip, and keep going, no matter what.