In between recording for her band Lowertown, Olivia O. found time to craft her own solo EP — ‘Great Big Nothing’ — inspired by an ‘intensely psychological year,’ ‘isolation,’ a big move and major career moves.
You may know Olivia O. for being one half of the indie dream team Lowertown, but she’s telling her own “coming of age” story on her solo EP Great Big Nothing that came out on June 10. It has all the characteristics of such a story — transitioning into adulthood, moving to a new place, grappling with “isolation,” dealing with “the existential dread of getting older,” and overall dealing with a “intensely psychological year” — that Olivia said translates to a very “raw and emotional” lo-fi listening experience that she admits “doesn’t feel very polished” and is “rough around the edges” at points. This gives the EP an authenticity of what it’s really like to be an 19-year-old in a new city and new industry, that a more well-manicured pop album may not offer, especially considering that Olivia did the EP’s instrumentation and production herself. To sum it up, it’s a “very intimate look into my life,” Olivia said.
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“When I was making this [EP], I was in London. And it was the first time I’d like ever lived by myself,” Olivia explained to HollywoodLife. The singer is not from the U.K., you see: she’s from Atlanta, where she and fellow math class cohort Avsha Weinberg formed a music partnership in high school. This paved way to the classmates and bandmates signing with a record label, Dirty Hit — which is based out of London — where thew flew to record an EP with a producer and met the whole record label team. It was an experience that offered both extremes of the whole going-to-another-country spectrum; it was “really cool, but also really crazy,” Olivia said.
“Just because that entire year, like we were in, you know, COVID and all that…I sort of stayed inside my house in Atlanta for like the majority of that year until we went to London and it was like a completely different experience from anything I’d had that entire year,” she explained. “And also, I just sort of fell in love with the city. Like I definitely want to move there at some point, but yeah, just all those new experiences and like meeting all those artists and like people there was…one of like…the most inspiring and informative things I’ve had in like, very, a very long time. Yeah, it was like a big theme in a lot of my music I wrote after that.”
Despite all these new opportunities, it was still an all-around “very overwhelming experience” to be doing all this “during lockdown in the wintertime,” Olivia confessed, since she was nearly alone. “I really had like, very minimal human communication outside of my bandmate and my photographer…it was just like, the most isolating experience I’ve ever had…I was definitely coping with all of that at the time, which was really stressful,” Olivia admitted. All this alone time also translated to a lot of thinking time; Olivia recalled sitting by herself for “excessive periods of times” in which she’d dig herself into these rabbit “holes” of thought.
These feelings of isolation in a new city are reflected in the EP’s lead single, “All I Want,” in which Olivia sings bittersweet lines like “bye bye peace and free will” set against melancholic guitars. The song “encapsulates my growing understanding of adulthood as I’ve moved out and gotten older and grappling with my feelings of isolation and discomfort in a new, unfamiliar environment,” Olivia explained in the song’s press release, and elaborated on this transition from high school to adulthood as she discussed the personal themes in her EP with HollywoodLife.
“I definitely was grappling with getting older and just the weight of like, access, or just more responsibilities piling up as you like age and you move out of the house,” Olivia explained. “Because as I was writing all this music, I just graduated high school, and I was sort of deciding what I wanted to do with my life…I either wanted to go to college or try pursuing music, which was more of a risky path.”
Olivia was also feeling “very existential” during the creation of this EP. “It’s just been a very, like, intensely psychological year for me, I guess. Nust a lot of big questions I’ve been asking myself, which I’ve never really thought about before…just like the existential dread of getting older, I guess, or just all those new responsibilities that you get, like, as you age and stuff.”
Like “All I Want,” the rest of the EP is the perfect brooding music to listen to as fans entertain their own “big questions” and face “insecurities,” which the singer said she hoped people around her age could relate to while listening to the new project. Essentially, it’s the ideal soundtrack for the thoughts you face alone in your bedroom at midnight, which makes sense considering that Olivia got her start in music by tinkering with bedroom pop on her laptop at 14 years old. While the new EP still possesses that lo-fi grunge spirit — Olivia admitted to listening to ’90s grunge, and other influences like Elliott Smith and Sonic Youth at the time — she acknowledged that the EP is also a testament of how her own production has “gotten better” compared to what she’d make playing around on Garageband as a young teen. “This is just sort of a documentation of, like, me growing as a producer and a musician, just because like from my early stuff ’till now you can see, like, a big growth. And it’s all just done by me,” Olivia pointed out.
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Olivia O. with her Lowertown bandmate, Avsha Weinberg. [Instagram/@lowrtown]
While Great Big Nothing is its own coming-of-age story in both the EP’s sound and themes, the story of how Olivia met Avsha and eventually formed Lowertown together also sounds like a tale you could pick up off the selves of the YA section of Barnes & Noble. It all started when Olivia transferred high schools her sophomore year and met Avsha through the same friend group of “music and like alternative kids,” she recalled with a laugh. It was a trip to Canada, though, that sparked their music journeys together; at that point, they were “very close.”
“And when we were in Canada, we decided we should just make like a band together, because everyone who did music at my school was a guy. And I felt very left out. And this is how I felt a lot of the time,” Olivia admitted. “There’s always a lot of guys in this like, genre, making music and there’s not as many girls. And I don’t know, I always felt really insecure, because I wasn’t as good at like playing guitar as the rest of them and other stuff. And I was like, ‘Yo, like, we should just make a project together. Because like, I haven’t made music with anybody before. And I always feel like really insecure that like nobody wants to work with me.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, I obviously want to work with you…nobody is like wanting to approach you because they’re really, like, intimidated or something.’ And I was like, ‘Okay,’ so we ended up doing that our first album, our junior year of high school. And we just got really serious about it ever since this because we worked super well together. And yeah, we just have the same, like, work ethic, I guess…we just can push each other really hard. And it’s really nice.”
Lowertown is now coming out with a new project — which Olivia and Avsha recorded in London — which is coming out a few months after Olivia’s solo EP. Like Great Big Nothing, this new project will be different from their previous DIY efforts, given that they’ve upgraded from a basement to a studio. All in all, a lot of major changes are happening in Olivia’s coming-of-age story. “So I’m just like really high,” she said.
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