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Q&A with Olivia Burnette

Olivia Burnette is a Raleigh-born and Los Angeles-based singer and songwriter. She grew up listening to and loving James Taylor and Carole King. Though, it was Fearless by Taylor Swift, an album gifted to her for her ninth birthday, that inspired her to pick up the guitar.

Years later, she accidentally wrote a song in the car and it was like "wires in her brain had finally connected." She ditched her life interning on Capitol Hill and preparing for law school to devote her time to being a songwriter and artist.

Her debut single, The Last Word, released on January 13. The single highlights the indescribable feelings of immaturity that arise when there is a lack of closure in a relationship.

Her highly anticipated sophomore single, "hurt you to lose me," is out now on all streaming platforms.

What was the inspiration behind your new song “hurt you to lose me”?

I had a falling out with someone I really cared about a while ago, and I was always under the assumption that I was the only one heartbroken by it. Long story short, I found out that wasn’t true. I started to feel a sense of guilt, relief, and closure over that realization. At the time, I didn’t know how to process all of those emotions, and writing this song really helped me figure out what exactly I was feeling. I always feel like songs that help me realize something about myself are the ones that stick with me the most.

Do you have a music video for it in the works? If so, can you give us an idea of what to expect? If not, what would your dream music video look like?

I have plans to create a music video! This song is such a summer song, and living in LA, it would be a shame for me to not take advantage of the beautiful weather here. This song has a lot of visual elements to it lyrically, and I cannot wait to play with that in the video I make!

So far, you’ve released two singles. Are you working on an EP or full-length album? If so, what can listeners expect from it?

I am constantly writing and sifting through songs trying to figure out what I want to release and record. My mind is definitely on an EP right now, and I have a bunch of songs I’m excited to share. I like to play with a bunch of different styles, but there will always be elements of pop-folk woven into the songs. Also, I don’t think I will ever release a song that doesn’t have an epic bridge. Calling that now. I am a sucker for a good bridge.

You were initially planning on becoming a lawyer until one song you wrote changed everything. What was the song and what about it specifically made it all click?

Looking back, the song I wrote at the time wasn’t even that great of a song haha–but I think that was what made it click for me, weirdly enough. All of my life, I’ve pursued and enjoyed things because I was good at them. For songwriting and performing, though, I enjoyed it so much that I was willing to be “bad” at it for a little bit just because I loved doing it so much. It was like I was finally enjoying my life rather than enjoying telling people about my life. I have written a lot of songs, good and bad, since then, and I’ve learned so much about the creative process, and I am doing everything I can to have this as my lifelong career.

What is your writing process like now?

As for sitting down and writing, I always like to write a verse and chorus and then put the song away for a day; the next day I come back and finish it. I like my songs to feel super intricate and intentional, and allowing myself some space and time away from the song in between finishing it really helps. I love the feeling of sitting down and writing an entire song, but that is more of a lightning in a bottle kind of moment for me haha! A lot of my writing process happens away from a guitar and piano, though. I have my Voice Memos and Notes app full of ideas that I put in throughout my days–a line, concept or melody. I also am constantly listening to other music trying to figure out what aspects I like and don’t like–this has helped me more than anything because it’s given me a sense of my own preferences and sound.

What are you listening to currently?

I will always listen to Carole King, James Taylor and Taylor Swift. However, I’ve been listening to a ton of The Clash recently, and their cover of “I Fought the Law” is absolutely incredible. In addition to that, I’ve listened to a ton of Dijon, Big Star, Lauryn Hill, boygenius, Chloe x Halle, Nat King Cole, Cass Elliot, Nina Simone, and Florist. Super all over the place, but I think listening to those different artists has opened up my songwriting a ton, and I am super excited to play around with different styles while still having an element of consistency in my sound!

Listen to Olivia Burnette's single "hurt you to lose me" now.

All images by Michelle Li (@activatemishimode)

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