Olivia Ooms is a senior at Huntington Beach High School's Academy for the Performing Arts. (Photo courtesy of Rob Shanahan)
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Q&A: Performing arts student Olivia Ooms on the intersection of country and pop music and her future in Nashville

Navigating the complexities associated with high school is intensified in the presence of a rising music career. In an attempt to ensure harmony between her careers as a student and artist, Olivia Ooms created a community with like-minded peers also chasing music careers at her Huntington Beach High School’s Academy for the Performing Arts.  

Entering her senior year at Huntington Beach High School, the singer-songwriter integrates the faults and joys of her everyday life into her lyricism. 

Emphasizing truthful songwriting, Ooms details the waves of emotions associated with the end of relationship on the 2018 single “Thoughts of You.”

Her passionate lyrics paired with a distinctive pop-country sound emits a seemingly 1990s throwback essence and continues to be refined as she spends more time crafting her lyrics and polishing her sound. 

Tell me about the conception of single “Thoughts of You.”

Olivia Ooms: “Thoughts of You” [is] about the idea of a relationship and it’s the moving on story when you recently broke up with somebody, whether it could be a relationship or a friendship, and you’re in that process of getting over that person, feeling yourself, figuring out what your next step is going to be and that whole process of moving on.

How do you balance attending high school and creating music?

OO: It’s very difficult, but now it’s nice because I go to Nashville for most of my music-related work. So I dedicate a few days out of each month or every two months and I’ll go there and dedicate that [time] fully to music. And when I’m at school and not out in Nashville, I’m involved in a lot of extracurriculars, academics, AP classes and I do have a job. So, it’s difficult to balance but a lot of my friends have the same mindset as me in terms of being musically involved. 

How did you establish yourself within the industry?

OO: I started out through acting. I did this program called Background Kids and was in a lot of different Disney TV shows and other [channels] where I was in the background. That’s kind of how I broke into the industry. I [also] did a lot of modeling and auditions for commercials, and then I kind of lost my passion for acting. It wasn’t my priority anymore and focused my intentions on music. 

How does your background in choir and the piano contribute to your song lyricism and production?

OO: When I was younger, I did music not even meaning to make a career out of it when I was older. It just kind of happened. My mom signed me up for piano lessons, and I love to sing and I love to be onstage. Music has been a part of my life since I was a child, since I was born, so it’s been natural for me to make that passion, and something that’s been a part of me for so long, into a career. 

Where does your songwriting inspiration stem from?

OO: I think the best songs tell stories from personal experiences. People can always relate to them in some form or another, and they can take what you said and relate it to their personal lifestyle. Songwriting and telling stories through songs is a really great way to connect people and tell your truth.

Does your spirituality translate into your music?

OO: My spirituality is very important to me and I’ve made a few God references in [my music] which is a fun little way to relate back to my spirituality, but not necessarily [writing] worship songs.   

What local and more mainstream artists do you take inspiration from?

OO: The bigger artists that I admire for songwriting, vocals and their career path in general, Maren Morris and Runaway June [who] are two female artists and bands that I really look up to. And also a lot of the artists around me. I go to a performing arts high school and have a lot of close friends who are also pursuing music careers. They continue to inspire me every day because they’re so creative and talented and do a lot of work that people usually hire other people to do for them. And it’s really inspiring to see other people actively looking to create that career and that lifestyle for themselves. 

What is live performing in support of artists like Lady Antebellum and Tanya Tucker?

OO: It’s insane opening up for those kinds of people because I am not at that level yet, but it’s what I strive to be. And just knowing that I can be opening up for them and being in the same area as them shows that there’s room for more people and there’s room for new talent.

Tanya [Tucker] really took me under her wing. I met her briefly before she went onstage, but she really saw the passion that I had behind my music and she invited me out to sing with her [during] her last song. And it was that moment, this is an established artist who’s been doing this for years, her specifically for a very, very long time, and to see that she believed in me enough to invite me onstage with her and sing with her was really inspirational and gave me that nudge to “keep going, you got this. And it will all work out in the end.”

What elements go into your live show?

OO: When I perform live, I tell a lot of jokes that no one really laughs at, which is really funny because in real life I do that same thing. I’ll tell jokes to my friends and they just won’t laugh, and they’ll tell me how bad my joke was because that’s who I am. I’m a very outgoing, but awkward person at the same time. So just who I am is represented onstage, and I really like that I don’t try to pretend to be a different person when I’m onstage, but what you see when you’re sitting in classes with me is the same when you’re looking up at me when I’m onstage. 

Looking forward, what role do you expect music to play in your life?

OO: I’m planning on moving to Nashville when I graduate, and I’m going to Belmont University and majoring in songwriting and minoring in music business. So I definitely want to pursue music as my career, even if I’m not a singer and an artist going on tour, but if that means being involved and working at a record label and doing A&R for a record label, whatever that may be I know my future and my passion is in music and that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.