In June 2016, Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) ran our first Artist of the Year (AOY) event with Adult and Teen Categories. The response to our event was astounding with final vote counts for all Artists in the thousands. Now, with the SMC Artist of the Year Season II amping up, we will be saying hello to a new Artist and our goodbyes to current ones: IAMWARFACE and Miss Olivia Penalva. But with all the mayhem that is about to go down in the next 2 weeks, our Artists of the Year will always be held in high regard and supported by the SMC platform. They are SMC Family, after all. In fact, when we look to the future of SMC and our annual events and the global attention within the industry, it would not be too far of a stretch to say we are considering a five and ten year Artist of the Year concert series. More on that later….
In the time that British Columbia based Olivia Penalva has reigned as SMC’s Teen Artist of the Year, she has launched an EP, performed across Canada live on several radio shows, launched several music videos, did a cover of The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’ which landed in a TV commercial in Greece, and has even attended an ArtistMax (www.artistmax.org) weekend in Los Angeles where she met with Award Winning Producer Ken Caillat and Award-Winning Artist David Foster. Part of the win as AOY on our platform was a VIP Scholarship to the ArtistMax event where Olivia was mentored by these industry peers (more on that in our interview below).
Recently, Olivia launched her new single ‘I Choose This Love’ a brilliant co-write with Robin Ghosh (more on that below too) over a David’s Tea and Smarties (yes, really!). The song is about how love pulls us through some of the most challenging times of our lives and is an absolute MUST for your playlists. In fact, we have added the song already to our Spotify playlists ‘SMC Editor’s Favorites’ and ‘SMC Spotlight Artists’.
In reviewing this single, I can say that this song is Olivia, evolved. Her earlier singles like ‘Ferris Wheel’ and ‘Outshine The Stars’ while inspirational and fun in their make – up (it was Ferris Wheel where I discovered Olivia after all in a Reverbnation contest SMC ran with Bongo Boy TV), ‘I Choose This Love’ is a step up for Olivia in terms of a more mature lyrical progression. Her strong vocal ability is never a disappointment in all of her music – it is consistent and fluid throughout. However, in ‘I Choose This Love’, you can audibly hear how she’s grown into her own and just like fine wine, she keeps getting better.
The video for ‘I Choose This Love’ is also evident of Olivia’s personal growth with a theme demonstrating the struggles and triumphs that a gay couple face in their heterosexual environment that surrounds them. Acceptance and disapproval are heavily woven throughout and lend power to the purpose of this song. I applaud Olivia for having compassion and fearlessness beyond her years in terms of addressing real issues in society today through her music such as in ‘Outshine The Stars’, a song about self-confidence and celebrating our uniqueness. Similarly, ‘I Choose This Love’ isn’t a video you would expect from someone so young in an industry primarily saturated with Artists focused on egocentric career advancement. It boils down to one thing: this is Olivia, and she will always dance to the beat of her own drum in terms of her music: she is fearless, selfless, and unafraid to make change in the world. Her goals are personally driven and not industry based meaning, she addresses the real issues in our world and not just what the music industry typically expects of someone so talented and young: a flowery, over the top ‘all about me’ glamour video. This is the stuff that makes an Artist celebrated by us on the SMC platform simply for their ability to adapt to their environment with grace, consistency, and integrity. She continues to be a beacon of light and hope to disadvantaged groups in society through her music – how can we not all applaud that?
SMC SPOTLIGHT Exclusive Interview | Olivia Penalva
SMC – Hello Olivia! We have so much to talk about since our last interview! Let’s begin with your run as our TEEN Artist of the Year (AOY) – what was your experience like?
Olivia – Hi Candice, so great of you to do another interview with me. I am always grateful for these opportunities. It for sure was so amazing to have won AOY! Aside from the great spotlight you did of me and my music, I got other interviews and media attention and support throughout the year, not to mention the bragging rightsJ.
SMC – One of the benefits of becoming the TEEN AOY was being awarded a VIP Scholarship to the ArtistMax 3-day event in Los Angeles. You attended in late March 2017 – can you tell us about your experience with the weekend?
Olivia – That was definitely a fantastic prize to win. I got to go to LA and spend three intensive days working with very talented industry professionals and meet other artists. I had a terrific time. I was pretty nervous and not sure what to expect but enjoyed it, learnt lots, and made some nice friends as well.
SMC – We saw that you also met Grammy Award Winning Artist David Foster while you were there! Can you tell us what advice he gave that you took with you?
Olivia – Pretty cool to have met him. He is a legend. Basically he was straightforward and told us how hard this business is, which is probably better than sugar coating it.
SMC – What was it like to meet with our industry friends Ken Caillat and Bridge Gardiner?
Olivia – Bridge is super sweet and definitely made the weekend what it was. She seems to really enjoy these mentorship weekends and working with us artists. Ken Caillat is also a legend, and it is inspiring to be mentored by someone who worked with Fleetwood Mac and other greats.
SMC – If you were asked why you would recommend the ArtistMax program, what would you say to someone wanting an understanding of the program?
Olivia – I would definitely suggest it to those artists who have not had a lot of songwriting experience, or who have not collaborated much with other artists. We were put in groups and had to come up with a song and perform it at the end. Working with 5 other artists for one main goal like that can be difficult, as everyone has a different opinion or style for what they see. It was pretty intensive. Also great for artists who have not had much if any studio time, as we got to record in the studio with Ken Caillat and his team. Though I have had quite a bit of experience with songwriting and working in the studio, I did enjoy working with other artists my age and collaborating together. We also worked with a vocal coach (Colbie Caillat’s) and a performance coach, and got to meet industry reps and managers. All in all it was a positive and rewarding experience. Thank you so much Candice for that!
SMC- Now let’s get into your Music – your new single ‘I Choose This Love’ is just beautiful in composition and sound. Did you write the lyrics for this song?
Olivia – Yes, I wrote this song last summer as an acoustic track with my favorite songwriter, Robin Ghosh. We write most of my songs together. I have written with several others, but Robin and I just seem to click and usually it is the songs we wrote together that I end up releasing.
SMC – Can you tell us five things about the making of this song that no one knows about? (they can be fun facts)
Olivia – Ha ha well I think the idea literally popped into Robin’s brain at like 3 in the morning, so later that day when we sat down to write, he told me about his idea, and a couple hours later, we had the song. I think we may have been eating smarties and drinking David’s tea when we wrote it… And I am pretty sure I had a candle burning in my studio to create the mood J. When we were talking about the song, we were thinking about how love gets you through stuff. Whether it be love of a partner, a parent, a friend, a child, and that being there for someone no matter what is what everyone is looking for.
SMC – What has the media support been like for this single so far?
Olivia – I have the best publicist who does an amazing job of getting my music some media attention, whether it be blogs, or interviews. Often from that the social medial support can spiral with shares on Facebook or twitter. This time Spotify actually added it at the time of the release to a new pop music playlist, which was awesome because it got me over 60,000 streams.
SMC – What was the fan support like when you released this single?
Olivia – I have some great loyal fans who like my music, so they were quick to comment on You Tube on my lyric video for the song that came out at the same time. I also had great support as I mentioned on Spotify and even SoundCloud, where I have a decent number of steady followers.
SMC – The video is equally as gorgeous as the song – who is the creative team behind the video?
Olivia – I am really proud of this video. It tells the love story that this song is all about. I have to give major credits to my Videographer Lee Watkins of LMW Photos. We were initially brainstorming for a video with all kinds of different love, but realized how difficult that could be in less than three minutes, and so we decided to focus on one love story and the ups and downs of that. The two main characters are actually friends of ours and did such a great job of sharing their love story and their dreams. Lee directed and filmed this over three days, and the results are so emotional and inspiring. Everyone in the video is from Vernon, and everyone just stepped up and either acted in it, or gave us locations to film at. We had an amazing team in front of and behind the camera.
SMC – Where and who produced this song?
Olivia – This song was ultimately produced by a young man named Alex Klingle, a Vancouver BC based music producer, composer, and sound designer who has his music roots in electronic dance. My manager met him at a music event and played him the track, and Alex was on board.
SMC – Who is your ‘go-to’ dream team?
Olivia – Well first of all, I have the best team ever!!! So not sure if I would need to dream one up, unless you are taking about song writing – Ed Sheeran all the way!! A duet with him would be pretty nice. Seriously though, I do have a great team and they are there for me whenever I need them, from my managers Andrew Allen & Julia Allen, to my writing partner Robin Ghosh, my Radio Promoter Scott Clements, my Videographer and Photographer Lee Watkins, my Publicist Sera Roadnight, and my beauty team, Brit Fisher and Jessie Voss.
SMC – What are your thoughts on being the only TEEN to have been supported as Artist of the Year on our Platform? We moved to an ‘adult only’ competition for Season II of these events….
Olivia – Well I would have to say AMAZING!!! And thank you! It is hard to be an artist, let alone a teen artist, as somehow our age always plays against us. I have often heard, too young, music is too young, not fit for the demographic, and make yourself look older… But instead I believe in myself and my art, and I write what I know, which changes as I grow up, and people respond to my music, so for those platforms that do support us teens, I am truly grateful.
SMC – We have seven Judges for the Artist of the Year event this month – Last year, we had five from various categories. Can you tell us if and what your connection was to last years’ Judges?
Olivia – Wow, that is a lot of judges. Well I can thank Candice for sure as she actually discovered me through another competition that my Ferris Wheel video won, through an SMC sponsored Bongo Boy video competition. Through the ‘SMC Artist of the Month Competition’, I got to know Randy Wayne Belt, frontman for Barley Station, who is super supportive of my music and even wrote a super nice article about it also.
SMC – I have seen that your single ‘Skyline’ was added to many radio shows last fall – can you tell us which stations you would like to acknowledge in this interview for their consistent support?
Olivia – I can’t believe how well Skyline did. It was chosen for the month of October 2016 as Bell Media’s iHeartRadio’s Future star at CHR, then chosen again in November for iHeartRadio’s Future Star at Hot AC and AC Radio. So it played across Canada on all Virgin Radio Stations across Canada, and SUN FM here in BC, Chum FM in Toronto, all of which was just so amazing. It also got played by several other stations, many of which are in Ontario and who have been great supporters like 103.1 FM in London Fresh, FM in Kitchener, Mix FM in Belleville, and Kiss FM and the Jump FM in Ottawa, to name a few. The Maritimes have also been good to me with spins from CING FM in Hamilton, CKCW FM in Moncton, the list goes on… I am so grateful to all of the stations who took a chance on me and hope they will continue to want to support me with my new single I Choose This Love.
SMC – Where do you feel the focus is with regards to your management team in terms of getting your music promoted to the masses?
I Choose This LoveI think it is to just keep on doing what we are doing, trying to put out good music that my publicist and radio promoter can get out to radio and social media.
SMC – Do you feel that platforms like Spotify or Pandora are the way of the future in terms of music play and getting your music in high rotation?
Olivia – It seems to be the way. Most of my music sales are from Spotify. ITunes is the no longer the favorite platform, and I guess platforms like Spotify do make it easier and I guess cheaper for listeners to find and compile playlists. I have a decent following on Spotify with almost 860,000 streams of my music. Spotify also create cool playlists and I have been lucky enough to have had Skyline Madlucky Remix included last year on a workout playlist, and I Choose This Love on a new music playlist.
SMC – We consider you to be a part of the SMC Family now and we will be looking at the possibilities of hosting a SMC Concert for charity in the next 5-10 years. What are your thoughts on that?
Olivia – Well thank you do much for thinking of me that way. I am honored and would love to be a part of your charity event!
SMC – Recently, Limehead Radio in the UK has reached out to SMC and have expressed interest in supporting the Artists on our platform – what do you think about being supported on a multi-media platform?
Olivia – I think that is fantastic. This industry gets harder and harder and so any support that one platform can get or give to another is valuable. Internet radio is getting popular as it is free for its listeners and often will play non top 40 tunes and indie artists, so a great platform for emerging artists to get heard.
SMC – Which Social Media Platform is your favorite?
Olivia – Personally I love Snapchat and Instagram. For music, twitter and Facebook still seem to be more popular, and of course the most effective is You Tube. This year I hit 1,000,000 views on YT and am almost at 10,000 subscribers. It is a great way to get noticed for your covers and then you hope your fans will like your originals too. You never know where a cover might lead. Last fall I did a cover of Every Breath You Take with a fellow artist, and randomly it was pitched by Universal to a client of their in Greece, and now it plays on a commercial on Greece. This has really helped my YT channel growth as I have a lot of new fans who either found me through Shazam of the commercial, or looked me up on YT. Very cool to have a growing fan base in another country.
SMC – Do you work all of your Social Media or does someone do it for you?
Olivia – I do it all myself, which means that sometimes I get behind in posting and sharing stuff, and thanking my fans for their love and support. I plan to use the summer to catch up and get on top of it.
SMC – What has been the best experience in your career to date?
Olivia – Wow, there are so many. Meeting and performing with Andrew Allen back in 2013, working with Brian West on Ferris Wheel, writing at the Toby Gad Studios in 2014 on Forgettable, being at the She’s the One comp in Ottawa 2014, Artistmax 2017, being on a billboard in Edmonton, winning iHeartRadio Future Star 2016. I feel very lucky for it all.
SMC – What has been a not so pleasant experience in your career to date?
Olivia – Radio visits where the MD or PD doesn’t seem really interested or asks some very hard questions. You feel so fortunate to be able to be welcomed into their stations and work so hard to show them your music, but sometimes it just doesn’t click and you have to be okay with that too.
SMC – Can you tell us which competitions you have won in the last five years? Which was your favorite?
Olivia – I have been in quite a few and made it pretty far, like top ten She’s the one at the Ottawa Blues Fest, winning top EP at the Independent Music Awards for Weightless 2016, top Holiday Song for Christmas For Two at the Independent Music awards 2016, Bob Kingsley’s Country Top 40 Video cover for H.O.L.Y. 2016, Ferris Wheel 1st Runner up in Radio Airplay Summer Music Comp 2015, top 15 finalist in the International Song Writing Competition for Fight For You 2015, Artist of the Month and then TEEN Artist of the Year with SMC 2016. It felt great to get the results I did in all of them, but I can say winning the SMC Artist of the Year 2016 that was a real compliment as I was up against some real talent, and the prize to go to ArtistMax was so valuable, and SMC has since been just such wonderful supporters of my music.
SMC – How do you feel music competitions help Artists?
Olivia – First it gets the artist and their music out there for others to see. It also gives the artist confidence to put themselves out there. Winning feels very validating, but you also learn not to beat yourself up to much if you don’t win. Public votes are hard as it can really depend on many people an artists can rally to vote for them, and judge voted ones are very satisfying given that industry professionals validate your work. At the end of the day music is very subjective, and you have to take the negative that may come out of a competition and work harder and make your music better.
SMC – How do you feel about the kinds of Grants and Funding options available to Artists in Canada as opposed to other countries? Do you feel Canadians are at an advantage over other countries?
Olivia – I can’t speak for what is out there in other countries, but I can say that there are lots of grants available to Canadian Artists, you just have to know where to look, and work hard to put an application together to get them as you are up against other determined artist. Factor Canada gives away several grants a year for emerging artists, for marketing, for song production, etc. Storyhive gives away grants for music videos, I know the British Columbia, Canadian Government also now has grants for Artists. The application process can be overwhelming and using a grant writer often helps the process. I have been fortunate to have received a couple Factor grants and am so grateful for them as they are helping me continue my music journey.
SMC – Can you tell us about your song for the Salvation Army titled ‘Fight For You’? How do you hope to benefit this organization through this song?
Olivia – When I released the song in 2013, I was inspired to do something as that particular year we had a very cold winter and I just could not imagine what it must be like to have no home or shelter to go to. I knew that my impact would be small, but felt that whatever I could do I would do. So, I decided to annually donate any proceeds of the sale of Fight For You to the Salvation Army. We have had a couple good years where I was able to donate a couple hundred dollars a year. I hope to continue to give back where and how I can through my music.
SMC – You have a really cool section on your website titled, “These are a few of my favorite things’ – some of those things listed in the menu are: Little White Lies, David’s Tea, Fluevog Shoes, Lush, Quay Australia, wildflower cases, Nars, Kylie Cosmetics, Aritzia, and mAAJI. Have any of these companies stepped up to become sponsors of your music?
Olivia – That would be a dream come true!!! Not at the moment, but of course I would welcome any opportunity. I am a big online browser of beauty and fashion goods. I love Pinterest as you can see so many beautiful things. And I love to write about those things, so I thought why not have a page on my website where fans can see what I am all about. I always have an online shopping cart full of items that I will never actually end up buying, but just love to look at clothes and makeup.
SMC – I see you have some tours coming up as well! Can you tell us the where and when of each date?
Olivia – Yes, I am excited to be touring a bit this summer. I will start of the summer on June 23rd in Edmonton at the ‘Edmonton Chante Festival’ at la Cite Francophone at 7:15 pm celebrating Canada’s 150 years. Then on June 24th I am performing at the ‘Works Art & Design Festival’ at Winston Churchill Square at 3:45 pm. I am also doing a cool local venue at ‘Predator Ridge on the Patio’ from 5:00 – 7:00 pm on June 27. Then off to New Westminster to perform at a Canada Day celebration at Queens Park at 11:35 am, then some private concerts until early August where I will do a sweet local event called ‘Jammin For Justice’ Wednesday August 2, from 12:00 – 1:30. Then back to Vancouver August 11 to perform at ‘Coquitlam’s Summer Concert Series’ where you can find me at 7 pm at the ‘Towne Centre Park Plaza’ Stage. And maybe a few more here and there.
SMC – Do you have any tours planned for the fall and winter months?
Olivia – I do have a couple private events in the fall, but not much else planned yet as I will be in my final year of school, and I like to use the fall and winter months to work on songwriting and potential releases, but I am always open to performing any time of the year if my schedule permits it.
SMC – Can you tell us about the possibility of an album or EP release in the near future?
Olivia – Yes well for sure a new single coming end of the summer, then working on potentially a full length album for next year. I have a lot of songwriting plans so hopefully something good will come out of it all!
SMC – Last question: If I were not pursuing a career as a Musician, I would be…….
Olivia – An interior designer!
SMC – Well Thank You Olivia! It has been a pleasure having you on our platform the last year as our TEEN Artist of the Year – we wish you all the best going forward!
Olivia – Thank you so much for your continued support. I truly appreciate it.
Olivia’s Social Media Links (click to view)