Singer-songwriter Olivia Rubini has always been around music, growing up with a musician/producer father who exposed her to a wide range of music and insight into the industry from a young age. Knowing it’s the career path she wanted to take, she asked him to help her release music at 15 years of age. She started out posting covers to SoundCloud in 2015 and soon transitioned to releasing original music, having released 10 singles over the past 6 years. In January of this year, she released her debut LP Silhouettes, an album that documented her emotional journey following the end of a significant and impactful relationship. “Silhouettes is about taking a not so beautiful love story and making something beautiful from it,” she says. Having started her career at the age of 15 posting covers online, she soon transitioned to writing original songs and has released 10 singles since 2015. With Silhouettes, Rubini says “I was fully immersed in every aspect of every song and I maintained detailed involvement at every intermittent stage of production. I had a very specific vision for the album as a whole and the individual songs that created an exceedingly personal storyline, so the desire to pinpoint every detail was intense for me. Overall, the album was far more personal than my previous releases; they are my lyrics, my emotions, and my personal story, which made me want to bring as much life to the words as possible. The writing process for a lot of these songs was also a different experience in comparison to my previous releases since I fully wrote a majority of the songs on the album. The collabs on this record were also much more immersive and equal than previous collaborations, which was an awesome aspect of the creative process.” With plans to release more singles in the coming weeks, a possible EP in the fall and book some live shows, make sure to follow her for all upcoming music and tour information! You can connect with Olivia Rubini via the following links. Photo credit: Vince Cirino.
You grew up in a musical family and often spent time with your musician/producer father in the studio. What can you tell me about your childhood and how those experiences shaped you as an artist? What advice did you receive from your father and how has he helped you to navigate the music industry?
Growing up in a music-centric environment was the absolute best upbringing that definitely shaped who I am as an artist and my mentality towards pursuing this career. As a young child, I was constantly in studios, watching recording sessions, hearing practices, and even taking little naps in guitar cases since my dad is a producer and musician. Through his career, I got to see all of the behind the scenes firsthand. Besides seeing the “fun/glam” aspects of the music industry like shows and photoshoots, I got to witness the hard work that goes into making music so at an early age I think I had a heightened appreciation for the music I was listening to. I think that witnessing his hyperfocus and work ethic throughout the years made a huge impact on how I conduct myself as an artist in all aspects of my career. Beyond his example, he’s given me countless tid-bits of advantageous knowledge that I’ve carried with me throughout my career thus far. A lot of his advice to me circulates around being self-sufficient; asking for help is great but don’t expect it, so be able to carry yourself through to your end goal. From a young age, he greatly shifted my perspective on rejection or “failure”; he always says that artists face more rejection in a day than other people face in a lifetime, but we keep moving forward because the need to create trumps the fear of failure. Those are definitely some of my favorites that have formed me into the tenacious person I am in an industry that isn’t always so nice.
You have been releasing music since you were 15 and said that you asked your father, who has produced music for various artists, if he would help you make music and to give you a shot. Was he hesitant to let you enter the music industry at such a young age? Having started out doing covers, what was it like to make the transition to writing original songs?
There was a lot of hesitation, solely because the industry can be tough and scary, especially for a young girl; since he’s had so much inside experience, he was not naive to the potential risks or insecurities that the industry has to offer. I can imagine that that question was very daunting for him as the dad of an only daughter, but I think he knew I’d be a bit destroyed if he had shut me down completely so he let me start recording and releasing covers on Soundcloud. Doing proper covers gave me some introductory recording/studio experience before I started releasing my own music. Honestly, there was no grand design for me to start releasing my own music; the opportunity sort of presented itself through collaboration and we jumped on those opportunities, which resulted in my first few original releases. At that time, I wasn’t overly involved with the lyrical writing (since I didn’t have much to write about at 15), but maintained involvement by tweaking words, writing melodies and additional vocal arrangements, and adding my two cents with production. Since there was still limited pressure on me to write and totally craft my own releases, the transition from covers to originals was very smooth which I’m very grateful for looking back.
You released your first single in 2016 and have since released 10 singles that have varied in style, genre and attitude. How do you feel your music has evolved over the years and what do you feel has influenced your stages of growth as an artist?
I genuinely think it’s evolved in every aspect and it’s not going to stop evolving any time soon! I’ve grown as a person, gained life experiences in and out of the studio, changed my perspective on genre, fully embraced all types of music, became fully committed to a cohesive album (which was a “long-term commitment”), and totally stopped caring about anyone’s opinions. As I got older, I finally had things to say, I found a better idea of who I wanted to be as an artist, and solidified the message I was trying to convey to my listeners. Being able to write my own music totally changed the experience in every way and made it so much more intense. The execution of the music in respect to the production details also became very special to me and I became heavily involved in those aspects as well. I think, overall, gaining knowledge has been the biggest influence of my growth. Being active and voicing opinions in a studio is hard when you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing; so while I was unable to properly communicate my thoughts as a kid, I have become very particular and involved as an adult which has understandably changed my sound a lot. I also know now that I had a very skewed idea of genre in the past. I thought that I had to pick one genre, one attitude, one style and commit to it for the rest of my career, but now I’ve embraced the evolution and am super comfortable changing my style to be in alignment with who I am at that given time; that realization gave me so much more freedom and made me excited for the future of my career rather than fearful or doubtful of my creative abilities.
In January of this year, you released your first full length album Silhouettes, which has been described as taking a not so beautiful love story following a break up and making something beautiful out of it. You have said that this album is much more personal than your previous releases and that the writing process was different. How would you describe the writing process and what was it like for you to write such a vulnerable album? Did you face any personal challenges in finding the beauty in the love story, being such a personal experience for you?
The writing process for this album was really special to me since the writing experience for every song was totally different; some were written entirely in 15 minutes while others took months of tweaking with collaborative help. This variation kept things really lively and helped me maintain enthusiasm and flowing creativity even when it did get more difficult. While being open and vulnerable was tough at times, writing those emotions was more of a release than a challenge; it felt nice to let those burdensome thoughts and memories sort of evaporate once they were legitimized through my lyrics. The timing was everything, since it was far enough in the past that I could write more maturely without anger or bitterness, but close enough that I could still feel what I felt back then in a genuine way. If I had attempted to write these songs a year or two earlier, it would have been a very bitter, immature album lyrically so I’m grateful that the opportunity to make the album came when it did; I was able to find a lot more beauty in it now than I would have at any other time in my life.
Your vision at the start of writing the songs for Silhouette was not to necessarily create a cohesive, chronological storyline, but that as the album progressed, it became clear to you that is what you were writing and you were fully immersed in every aspect of every song, as well as in all stages of the production. What can you tell me about the very specific vision you had for the album as a whole and the songs that made up the storyline? At what point did you realize that your vision had changed and do you feel it was a natural progression of the songwriting, that the more you wrote the clearer the story became?
From the beginning, my vision was to make a cohesive body of music that was organic and genuine, lyrically and sonically. While still being pop, I wanted real musicians rather than computer generated sounds to give it a more timeless feel that was not undeniably pop. I took a lot of inspiration from Harry Styles and other “pop” artists who’ve mastered the feeling of modern throwback pop; there’s a lot of blurred genre lines in the album while keeping it cohesive which was really important to me since I didn’t want to put myself in one specific genre box. I wanted there to be a little something for everyone to enjoy. So while the goal of communicating a genuine message in an organic way was always my vision, creating a chronologically coherent storyline was not. But the songs sort of wrote themselves and told the story without me having to try to piece a timeline together. When it was time to finalize the album’s tracklist order, I just sat there staring at it thinking, “Oh wow… I think I told the story in full chronological order”, even though that wasn’t necessarily my intention. It was just a happy accident that naturally created itself and presented itself. But I’m so glad it happened that way because it is a very heartfelt record and I think that genuineness is felt in the lyrics, in the sound, and through the order. Seeing the full story was very validating for me personally. I think that creating an album that starts with self-doubt and concludes with triumph was more powerful than I had anticipated, both as a writer and as a listener.
What can you tell me about the collaborations on the album, which you have said were much more immersive and equal than in the past? What has it been like to work so closely with your father over the years?
The collaborations on this album were amazing – There were only a few songs that had collaborative lyrical writing and the processes for writing those songs were so natural, it just felt right. Whereas my collaborations in the past had been less equal, these were truly equal collabs with great heads in the room to verbalize the message I wanted to convey in the style that felt right for me for each particular song. A lot of the overall vision and message was still mine so being able to work off those ideas with other writers was really great and authentic. Thankfully, my dad and I work really well together; we have very similar work ethics and are mostly on the same wavelength in respect to production and arrangement (which makes the process a lot easier for both of us). He’s also been really great at solely being my producer when need be so I can feel comfortable with sharing lyrics without feeling self-conscious. After all this time, I think we’ve sort of mastered how to tackle a song in our own way without forcing inspiration which I think is super cool.
In what ways do you feel that making this album helped you to grow, both personally and artistically. What was it like for you to not only discover you had a writing range you didn’t realize you had, but who you are as an artist, in the process? How do you feel this will impact your music going forward?
I feel like this album was a catalyst for my self-discovery as an artist. Diving head first into a record is a lot of commitment and is pretty demanding of time and creativity, so I think that fully embracing a record gave me a push into what it truly means to be a recording artist that needs to put in 200% at all times. Through the record, I think I became more certain in my abilities as a lyricist and as a writer sonically; writing is a tricky thing that really plays with your psyche since there is no objectively right or wrong path so committing to Silhouettes was like artistic self-validation. You can’t second guess yourself with this sort of thing so trusting myself and my intuition to make the “right” decisions was difficult at times, but it helped me grow in all aspects of my creative process. It also helped me with my idea of genre since there was so much variation throughout those 10 songs. I was free to make anything I wanted without being shoved into a genre box (which I had put myself in previously!) and that was super liberating; that aspect definitely changed my perspective on genre and I feel like I’m totally embracing my evolution now which might mean experimenting outside of my “comfort zone” in the future.
What can you tell me about releasing Silhouette one day after the start of your final semester of college and balancing school work with interviews, updates and website/socials content?
It was very whacky to say the least. It was great to be able to say “I released an album yesterday” for my class icebreakers, like a total Hannah Montana moment. But I had so much support from my professors and peers so I never felt discouraged amidst juggling both aspects of my life. It was definitely a lot to handle but I’ve always cared a lot about my academics as well as my music career so I was never willing to let either start faltering. Even when I started pursuing music in high school, my parents were pretty strict about academics, saying that if my grades started falling they wouldn’t let me continue releasing music or playing gigs so that mentality stayed with me throughout college. I definitely enjoyed the feeling of having two separate personas: the political science student and the artist. They’re such drastically different paths so I think it was fulfilling for me personally to push through to excel in both aspects. I feel super grateful for this very unique experience of mine.
What’s next for you? What are your hopes and goals going forward now that live music is starting to come back?
I actually have a lot of new content on the way which I’m seriously stoked for! I’m releasing a surprise Harry Styles cover very soon, as well as an acoustic-y version of the album’s single “Be Well”. I’m also working towards a possible EP for the fall so keep an eye out for that as well! As the world is slowly opening back up, I’m starting to book more performances throughout the summer, so all those dates will be posted on my social media, my Spotify, and my website. All updates on music releases and shows will be posted all over my socials (Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok) so follow me there if you’re into it! We’ve been so void of live music for the last year and a half so it feels amazing to finally be back!!