Forwards, from folk to pop to..? Meet Olivia Lunny: one singer who refused to stay in her lane

Genre seems to be gradually losing its place in this post-modern world. With access to the internet, and particularly Spotify, the consumption of music is occurring at a record pace, and with it, unusual hybrids are popping up everywhere; wizard rock anyone?

One artist who is taking advantage of music’s de-categorisation is Winnipeg native Olivia Lunny. Growing up listening to an eclectic mix of Norah Jones, Coldplay and Fleetwood Mac, Olivia herself made the transition from folk to pop – the transition which seemingly launched her career. 

Although this move wasn’t exactly organic, rather, it happened on the set of a TV show, The Launch. “It was definitely a whirlwind and a very foreign experience”, Olivia says as we catch up over Zoom. She received the call to tell her she was going to be a contestant while working part-time in a candle shop. Next thing she knew, Olivia was flown to Toronto to start filming. “It was such an intense process!”, she says. “It was TV right! People were telling me where to go, where to stop, that I had to go and get my hair and make-up done!” The biggest challenge came when they took away Olviia’s guitar, something she had never performed without, and told her to try something new. “It was a lot all at once,” she concludes. 

However, the experience was overall a positive one and afforded the young singer the validation she needed to get going and move away from the folk music that Winnipeg is famous for. I ask her if she thinks this genre-change would have happened without the show. “Definitely,” she says. “I was just in a place where I was struggling to know how to make the transition to pop because I wasn’t doing any co-writing and I was just being a bit of a sad teenager and fixating on why I couldn’t write a pop song”. 

Olivia also resonates with this newer genre. “I love pop music, in this day and age the genre is so broad so you can kind of make it what you want and have fun with it!”, she says laughing. And have fun with it she has. One of her most recent tracks, ‘Vibe Check’ marks the strongest shift with the inclusion of a hip-hop verse from rapper Bhad Barbie. “It was a really fun and organic song to write,” she says, “and we just felt it needed a hip-hop feature.” This natural explanation betrays the real way in which the singer has ditched genre confines. 

In terms of future collaborations to continue the genre-bending, Olivia cites Guyanese-American rapper Saint Jhn as well as Ed Sheeran. “ I love the way he fuses singer-songwriter with pop,” she says of the latter,  “And he also has red hair so I think we’d get along.”

 It’s not the only genre that Olivia has transitioned through, the content of her songs has also transformed. “I started writing about love at the ages of about 11 or 12. It made for some very interesting parents’ evenings,” she tells me laughing. “I’ve always considered myself an old soul, and just via osmosis got inspired from TV shows, movies, and adults talking about relationships”. I ask her who was the subject of her desires at such a tender age. 

“The guy I probably had a cardboard cut-out of in my bedroom or something equally absurd”, she replies laughing. 

Since maturing Olivia has focused her pen elsewhere. “Love is obviously a very large theme to anyone who writes music but I’m actually excited because this new music I’ve been writing isn’t really about a partner or one person.” 

“It’s probably because I’ve been very happy and single for three years, but this music is more introspective. It’s about feelings, whether sad or content, so more self vs relationship themed,” she explains.

This theme is definitely evident in Olivia’s latest release ‘Wonderland’. We discuss where her inspiration came from. “This song came about because I was watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with my brother’s wife – because she had never seen it for some crazy reason. It really stayed with me and when I went to the studio a week later I was still obsessed with a wonderland being the overarching theme. Really it’s up to your interpretation, but for me it’s about that place of escape that you turn to or the feelings you feel when you’re in a dream state.”

We finish our chat by discussing Olivia’s next moves. “I’m heading to New York next week to film the video for ‘Wonderland’!” she says excitedly. I ask whether the motivation material will be evident in the final outcome. “Hmmm,” she says, cocking her head. “It’s definitely going to be trippy and wacky, it just might not feature chocolate”. 

It seems this singer won’t be coining her own chocolate themed genre just yet. That is, if it doesn’t exist somewhere already in the sonisphere. 

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