Olivia Jo Interview

Olivia Jo Interview

By Big Al Weekley for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Olivia Jo is a versatile singer-songwriter whose roots lie in bluegrass and acoustic music, but have expanded into other genres such as country and blues. Her heartfelt lyrics—often derived from personal life experiences—and passionate vocals coincide to create an honest delivery. Olivia Jo’s 2015 country album, “Something Real Good”, showcases her diverse songwriting abilities with 10 of her original songs, including the title track “Something Real Good,” a feel-good, bluesy number. In 2019, she released her latest original single titled, “Paper Heart”, in which she took a deeper dive into the world of rhythm and blues. Olivia released a country single in 2021 titled, “Going Broke”, that she actually started writing amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Its ironically positive, upbeat tune and genuine lyrics depict the story of her life—not only during the pandemic and the struggles that came along with it—but also those over the course of the 10+ years that she has been breaking into the music industry. She says, “I just want this song to inspire those who hear to never give up on the dreams that are hidden deep in their heart, no matter what it takes to keep pursuing them… even if they can’t see ‘the light at the end of the tunnel,’ and they are possibly, quite literally going broke.”

Based in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the small town of Stuart, Virginia, an area rich in bluegrass tradition, Olivia Jo got her start in bluegrass at a very young age. She began singing basically when she could talk and learning guitar from her dad at age six. The first song he taught her to sing and play was Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, which opened the door to the music that would shape her entire life. A few years later, she started playing local venues and festivals in her surrounding areas at the age of nine where she began to establish a name for herself. She recorded two bluegrass albums by the time she was 12 years old with which she enjoyed moderate success and gained exposure in radio and television. At 13, she was one of the featured female artists for a PBS television documentary called, “Women in the Arts”. By 16, she had made her way to Nashville and transitioned into the country music scene. Since then, she has focused on honing her vocal ability and songwriting craft, recorded and shared the stage with numerous musicians, groups and artists in country music and other genres, as well as co-written with prominent Nashville songwriter, Larry Cordle, who she says has become “an incredible influence, mentor, and friend.”

When talking about what music means to her, Olivia Jo explains, “Music has been my friend when no one else was. It leaves you with a feeling of sublime peace when you hear the perfect song that just speaks to you… it truly heals the soul. That is part of what inspires me the most as a singer and songwriter: to create songs that help people to feel and heal, while also giving myself an avenue to truly and authentically express myself.” She is determined and dedicated to her music career. “Music is just as vital to me as the air I breathe. It’s who I am… it’s what God created me for,” she emotes.

Olivia Jo is thrilled to take her career back to her bluegrass roots, where her love for music began. She released her debut single in bluegrass titled, “You’ll Always Be My Blue Eyed Darling“, in September 2022, a classic that was first recorded in 1940 by Roy Acuff & His Smoky Mountain Boys and has been covered by a plethora of artists since then; but never by a female artist. “This song goes way back. I first heard it performed by Harley Allen with the Allen Brothers from one of their shows in the 1980s. I was instantly struck by Harley’s voice and the way he sang it. As an up-and-coming bluegrass artist, I wanted my debut single to be a song everyone would love and identify with, that would also showcase my vocal style and range. I think this song checks all of those boxes and I’m eager to share my version of this classic, timeless tune with everyone,”  Olivia shares. With Olivia Jo on lead vocals, the tune features an A-list lineup: Lou Reid, harmony vocals/rhythm guitar; Ron Stewart, banjo/fiddle; Shawn Lane, mandolin; and Barry Bales, bass. Lou Reid also produced the artist’s debut single.

The artist released a single in late February 2023 called, “Mighty Mississippi“, which features the same all-star lineup. “I wanted to come back with something more upbeat and driving.” the artist says. “We tried to create something new and fresh, and put my own spin on it, while still keeping the integrity of the original song alive. Truthfully, I think that’s the beauty of doing a cover song and I strived to accomplish that with my version of Mighty Mississippi.” she explains.

Her newly released single “Nothing to Lose” was written by Kim Fox, a renowned songwriter across multiple genres. Olivia Jo expresses her excitement about releasing this song as her newest single, saying, “Lou Reid brought the song to my attention and together we decided to make the song a duet. It has an upbeat melody and lyrics that will catch your ear right off the bat. With Lou’s prolific lead and harmony vocals, I was very happy to have his accompaniment on this song. I really enjoyed recording this song because it has a different style than my previously released singles, which allowed me to show a different side of my voice. All in all, I am quite pleased with how the song turned out and I’m excited to release it as my next single.”

Olivia Jo is looking forward to greater opportunities and new experiences in the world of bluegrass music. She says, “I grew up on this music, so it’s embedded in my heart. It’s where I got my start; and even though I’ve ventured into other genres, nothing feels like ‘home’ quite like bluegrass does. That is why I’m so eager to continue my musical journey in bluegrass and see where the road takes me.” She is looking forward to recording and releasing more music in the near future.

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