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If there's one thing that stands out about Olivia Lane, it's her pure, unbridled energy. It's reflected in her big, dynamic voice; in her performance, which bursts with passion and levity; and by her simple presence, which can dissolve you in laughter and make you grin from ear to ear. Not every day does an artist come around able to so effortlessly meld a freewheeling spirit with poignant, inspirational songs and an irrepressible drive, but Lane's one of them. Because she knows as well as anyone how easily music can inspire a smile.
"A lot of my material is about following your dreams," Lane says. "About being inspired. Life is wonderful, and why not sing about it?" She certainly lives that ethos: Lane's been following her dream since she was a small child, singing songs for her parents in their Houston living room. Her mother, a regional Texas singer, was the ultimate role model, encouraging her daughter by playing her the greats – Linda Ronstadt, Patsy Cline, Elvis – and making sure she could express herself in any way possible. "She noticed I was this crazy child with a loud voice," Lane recalls, laughing. "So she put me in community theater and choir and completely opened up my world."
Now, Lane's more often found collaborating with producer partner Ilya Toshinsky (Sheryl Crow, Carrie Underwood Luke Bryan and many others) or frequenting the Nashville writing room, but she'll never loose sight of her roots, or her family. That's because her journey is a huge part of her story, and a true testament to her commitment to her art. At sixteen, she convinced her parents to let her move to Los Angeles, just so she could be in an environment that challenged her to push forward. "I moved to LA because I wanted to move to an entertainment capitol," she says. "Then I went to college out there at USC and did theater, and started songwriting, and completely fell in love with it. I said, you know what? I could probably do this for a living."
It was this love of country music and songcraft that pushed her to go to Nashville – she came to Tennessee on internships while in college, and then, right after her graduation, she packed up her car and drove cross-country to make her relationship with the town official. Immediately, she started getting to know writers and spending time in writing rooms, composing songs like "Steal Me Away" (written with Lee Thomas Miller and Toshinsky) from her Love Thing EP, that introduced the world to who Olivia Lane is: a bold, brave, positive force ready to shake up the country music scene with her songs.
Lane holds her relationship with Toshinsky – and everyone on her team – as a vital part of her evolving picture, and selecting whom to work with wasn't something she took lightly. As optimistic as she is, she's also a careful businesswoman who holds the careers of Reba and Dolly Parton up as the gold standard, and grasps full control over her bigger picture. "It was really important for me to find a producer who would believe in me," she says on Toshinsky. "I wanted someone who would work with me on development, but still keeping Olivia, still keeping the essence of who I am."
Part of that essence is her vast ability and in-depth musical knowledge, which she takes huge pride in – referencing everything from Michael Jackson to classic country greats. She's often been compared to Jennifer Nettles and Sara Evans, which certainly are welcome. But she's as quick to point out a Frank Sinatra tune as she is a Sugarland song. "I love the big voices, like Trisha Yearwood," she says. "But my fourth grade teacher would play us frank Sinatra after recess in an effort to calm us down and, of course, the annoying Olivia would learn 'World On a String' and belt it out, which my teacher would hate! I love everything, from Katy Perry, to Jason Derulo to James Taylor. I just find it all so inspiring. Because as a kid, I would lock myself in my room and listen to music for five hours until dinnertime. I'm still that kid."
Now at home in Nashville, Lane's been focusing on her next phase: co-writing more songs, touring (she's opened for Wynonna and Frankie Ballard) and hosting a local music series called Diva Jam at listening rooms around town. Ever the open book, she shares every minute with her fans through YouTube videos and social media. "I want to be very open with my fans and friends," she says, "and be open in my life – because life is great. If I can make someone's day with a selfie, then that's just amazing."
Lane's sound is a combination of country elements – mandolin, banjo, lyrics sweetly laced with Texas twang – with a pop energy and locomotive rhythms that capture her every-moving spirit. The title track of her EP, "Love Thing," is a mid-tempo ode to looking for rollercoaster sparks in love set to plucky strings; while "Steal Me Away" is a thumping, sing-along about letting life take you away with its every adventure.
"Country music, everyone has their own definition," she says. "For me, it's a lifestyle and it's true lyrics. If you're writing something that's true to you then that's country. How I grew up, my lifestyle and stories – that's number one to me. Stories are everything."
And certainly, Lane's always collecting stories. From her adventures on the road, to life in Nashville, to writing songs with the city's best, she's always on the lookout for life experiences to fuel a lyric, or just make her smile. As she sings on "Steal Me Away" to an infectious strum, "normal is overrated, I want fun and complicated." She's all that and more.