My first musical memory of Olivia Leisk is of one occasion, when we were still at school and she sang during a Friday assembly. She played the piano and sang Fallin‘ by Alicia Keys and the sound was so unbelievably good that people passing by ran into the hall to see who had this amazing voice. It was a ‘hairs-stand-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck’ type moment and she was only around 15.
Fast forward nearly a decade, and the 24-year-old, LIPA trained, south-Londoner is currently in Philadelphia to play some gigs, and y’know casually do some writing with Eric Roberson. She has already worked with the likes of Brandon Hines, Raphael Saadiq and John Legend, which is quite something considering she says Legend is ‘the whole reason I wanted to play piano in the first place’. Olivia is no stranger to the States though, having spent a long time there writing and recording last year before releasing her latest EP, Love Songs From A Hater this spring. “I think the UK music industry needs a breath of fresh air, and hopefully that will be me” she says, “There are some really good people out there at the moment like Ed Sheerhan who is doing his thing but there is something really wrong when Cher Lloyd has the number one record in the country.”
The American influence is obvious on Love Songs From A Hater, and the combination of sexy, at times even risque, lyrics over quite jazzy beats is reminscent of Teedra Moses – listen to What Would You Like To Do? it’s a serious seduction song, but the love for all things Yankee isn’t just about influences, Olivia says the attitude towards live music is totally different. “Over here in London you have a few cool places like Jazz Cafe or Ronnie Scotts but even though I’ve never had a bad experience performing, a lot of other artists say English audiences can be quite inexplicably snobbish. In the States, Philly in particular, there is just a massive hunger for live music and it’s not hard to see why we lose some of the best UK artists to America where they are getting that kind of love.”
The last year has seen Olivia touring with Devlin spending the summer playing festivals from Glastonbury to Wireless and finishing up at the Big Chill at the beginning of August. Once she is back from Philly, she’ll be joining Devlin again to support Jessie J on tour and hopefully releasing a mixtape towards the end of the year. Refreshingly where her peers cite fairly recent artists as inspiration, Olivia looks a bit further back for her musical idols.
“I love Amy Winehouse and Adele, they helped me figure out what I wanted to do musically but I enjoy listening to people like Micheal Jackson, – she may possibly be his biggest fan if her facebook posts are to be believed- Prince and Ella Fitzgerald but I do really like some newer artists like Janelle Monae, Chris Brown, Bluey Robinson and this great artist called Daley.” She describes her music as soul with a little pop, but ultimately ‘keeping it quite old school but adding a modern twist’.
The thing about Olivia though that sets her apart from all the rest is her attitude. Despite her success, her huge talent and schmoozing with soul royalty (She asked Maxwell to marry her when she met him) she remains incredibly humble. She says, “I’m not one to ever act like I’m owed anything. I have great fans and good people around me and I can spot snakes a mile off.” She’s still the West Norwood girl with the beautiful voice, the girl slightly obsessed with Jeff Goldblum and the girl who it seems hasn’t yet realised just how amazing she already is.
You can buy Olivia’s EP from itunes by clicking here and let us know what you think in the comments!