Regardless of how long they’ve been in the business, most music stars have a sense of jadedness about them.
Talk to Olivia Somerlyn for a few minutes and you’ll be convinced that you’ll look out your window to find a unicorn jumping over a rainbow.
The 19-year-old up-and-coming singer-songwriter-musician – who is managed by Kevin Jonas Sr. – is the definition of perky optimism.
She recently visited Atlanta as part of the “Summer Break” tour with Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice and even though it was pouring rain (shocker) when her tour bus pulled in, Somerlyn, who said she always wanted to visit Georgia, found the “beautiful, lush” foliage around Chastain Park Amphitheatre as her green lining.
A native of northern California, Somerlyn knew she wanted to be a pop star after attending her first concert – Hillary Duff. Now Somerlyn is the one appealing to the TeenNick crowd (the channel crowned her “Fresh Artist of the Month” in May) and garnering buzz for her sweetly bouncy single, “Better with You.”
The effusive Somerlyn, who plays piano and guitar, checked in recently from a tour stop in New Jersey to chat:
Q: How is tour going? Are you getting a good reception from the audience?
A: It is THE most amazing thing that I’ve ever done. I’m having the time of my life! My mom and I keep talking about I used to be in the audience of all these shows – even some of the same venues in California. I have a song called “I’m Just Fine” that I play on the keyboard and have everyone wave their glow sticks in the air; it was completely breathtaking.
Q: Do you get nervous playing for such big crowds?
A: The first day was at Gibson Amphitheatre and I wished it wasn’t the first night because there were so many friends and family there. That was nerve wracking. I was with Mr. Jonas and he said I transferred by nerves to him! But after that first show I wasn’t nervous.
Q: The tour looks exhausting – do you like being on the road?
A: I was a little worried about it, but we’re having a lot of fun. Every time we have a day off I’m disappointed because I want to play. You never know what to expect, but everyone is so much fun and the days go by really quickly. I do meet and greets after Big Time Rush ends their set. I love them. Every new person I meet is a new person to me.
Q: Have you gotten close with Victoria, being the only girls on the tour?
A: Victoria and I, I see her mostly when she’s coming on stage and I’m going off. I tend to see the Big Time Rush boys more. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a fan of everybody on this tour and they have been so fun and inclusive.
Q: Tell me a little bit about how you got here. Do you come from a musical household?
A: My family is not very musical, but my grandmother and great-grandmother were very much into music and acting; they were creative on the visual side. One time my mom walked into my room when I was 3 and I started going off on this whole musical number that I was making up and dancing around my room.
Q: Who were some of your musical influences?
A: There are so many musicians that I hear my mom playing in the car – the soundtrack to “Almost Famous,” Coldplay, they’re one of my fave bands. I love Katy Perry. She’s been a huge inspiration to keep my music a little lighter and fun, but her songs still have meaning. People on tour call me Bubbles because I’m always so up and happy.
Q: You’re very involved in social media. Have you found that to be an effective way to build up a fan base?
A: Ideally, everyone could respond to everyone’s tweets. It gets harder to do, but while I can, I want to take advantage of that. It’s important to me. I want to see the fans’ pictures of the show and the meet and greets. It’s like having a bunch of friends.
When I was 15, I wrote myself a letter to open on the first night of a tour, so I opened it at Gibson Amphitheatre. A lot of it was, “Don’t forget what it was like to be in the audience.” One of the main reasons I wanted to do this is to reach people and have a positive effect. I have strong values and beliefs and I want people to know they don’t have to succumb to peer pressure. That’s what I love social media – I can respond to them.
Q: What can you tell me about your upcoming album? Will the songs be in a similar vein to “Better with You”?
A: There are three songs that are upbeat, poppy and there are a few more that are piano-based and moodier. I think the album is going to be really fun. I’m hoping for August or September to release it. It’s finished; it’s a just a matter of putting some behind-the-scenes tour stuff on there for the pre-sale.
Q: Where did you record?
A: Part in L.A. and part in Nashville. It was really fun going there. It’s such a different vibe in terms of the writing scene. I’m very interested in learning all aspects of the music business. I don’t have a label – I’ve been acting as my own label – and it’s like running a company with designing my album cover, my merchandise, being hands on about the music.
Q: What are your plans after tour ends in August?
A: Album promotion, finishing up odds and ends. I might add a bonus track to the album. And then I’m hoping to find another tour. I want to keep touring because this really couldn’t get more fun.