Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Olivia Chaney has built a loyal following both in her native UK and around the globe. Get to know this artist on the rise.
HOMETOWN: London, UK
MUSICAL TRAINING: Joint first piano/voice scholarship to Chetham’s School of Music at age 14, then Royal Academy of Music on a jazz degree. (Although I was pretty anarchic there because I wanted to continue some classical studies plus write my own music and do free improv and collaborate, all of which the course wasn't so geared to, so I probably drove them a bit nuts)! They've since made me a Fellow, so I think they understand I was just trying to do everything I loved.
FIRST GIGS: I used to do a lot a of piano competitions when I was really young and growing up in Oxford. I also toured a lot with an amazing choir who sang everything from pop to Gregorian plainchant, to new commissions by young composers. The first gigs I probably hustled myself were crazy live art shows in and around London with friends and strange private clubs that would have me. I've sung in caves on mountaintops, cathedrals, dive bars, concert halls, pubs, festivals - the lot.
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: Joni Mitchell, Stravinsky, Prince, Handel, and quite a few more.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: A John Maus session on KEXP.
MY BIG BREAK: Getting a Grammy nomination for the Offa Rex record I made last year in collaboration with The Decemberists called Queen of Hearts. Also having landed with such incredible labelmates on Nonesuch Records, and getting to play with some heroes like Alasdair Roberts, Robert Plant, and the Kronos Quartet has been great.
LATEST ALBUM: Shelter, out June 15.
FAVORITE KEYBOARDS AND WHY? I used to borrow a wonderful (and battered) old Oppenheimer organ around the time I was writing songs for my first album. I accumulated many odd keyboard instruments and also a Wurlitzer. They're beautiful instruments in their percussiveness and sweet sonority. At one point, I also managed to get some demos done on a classic Juno, though I never mastered it's capabilities! I bought a mad, old, analogue synth called a Europa Gem which you could carry like a briefcase and was seriously wonky and out of tune. That was fun until it became too tough and unreliable for shows. These days, Korgs and Nords and Rolands are all great for piano and organ sounds which is mostly what I like to use.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? Launching my new album and get out playing a ton of shows, touring the UK and the US.
ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: Truly find and then follow your own voice! After teaching a lot of singing to kids and adults over the years, I came to really appreciate old teachers or inspirations of mine who had pushed me to sing in a way (either in person or by their recordings) that was natural to me and encouraged me on my own path of discovery in that area. I'm not sure people are encouraged enough to do that these day - it's maybe more about persona and public image and a package. I'd love to hear more voices that are really honest and sincere. There's still room for a kind of truth within being extravert. I think artists who do this are the ones that stand the test of time.
For more information visit www.oliviachaney.com