Olivia Hellman delves into process, inspiration & the baddass nature of pop rock

Taking time out to connect with nature via a solar eclipse viewing, Olivia Hellman sheds a little light on her recent single

Up and coming singer-songwriter Olivia Hellman has been hella busy, fresh off a trip to Syracuse to witness a solar eclipse, Olivia is back in NYC juggling her studies at NYU Tisch and a burgeoning music career.

We caught up with Olivia to chat about her latest single ‘Girl Friend,’ the pressures of being a new artist, and what inspires her music.

olivia hellman happy mag review

Happy: What are you up to today?

Olivia: Actually, I just got back to New York City from Syracuse, New York to watch the solar eclipse!

Today, I have a full day of classes.  I’m currently in my senior year at NYU Tisch studying drama and music and I graduate in a few weeks, so my classes, which are mostly performance based, are getting more intense as the school year closes out! 

Happy: What does a typical day look like when recording a song like Girl Friend?

Olivia: When recording a song like Girl Friend or any of my songs, it usually starts with a writing session, in which I bring in pieces I’ve been working on to my producer David Maurice, and my collaborator Jon Pasquarella.

From there, we experiment with different “colours” and instrumentations for the song, and at the end of the session we record a demo! 

Then, I’ll come back the next day and record lead vocals and harmonies, and from there we’ll have live instrumentalists come in and record their parts in the studio. 

Once all of that is complete, my producer mixes it, and after I approve it he sends it off to be mastered!  Creating a song is definitely a multi-day process, but it is a rewarding one. 

As a songwriter, it’s quite incredible to see your written words being figuratively lifted off of the page and hearing your vision fully come to life!

Happy:  Given how early your are in your music career, is there a certain level of pressure or having to “prove yourself” that comes with releasing your third single?

Olivia: Absolutely, and that’s the reason I wrote my second single, “Prove It!”

I feel like no matter what I do, I am constantly trying to prove myself in my artistry and my abilities. 

I have often felt underestimated in such a competitive industry, and I feel like making music has been my way to stand out and tell my own story. 

When you continue to release back to back singles like I am and will continue to do, there definitely is a voice in the back of my mind that thinks “Will people like this one as much as the last?”  But I think that’s the risk you take as a songwriter, and I’m happy to take risks!

Happy:  You’ve lived in both San Francisco and New York City. Would you say you’ve drawn influence from the music scene of those cities?

Olivia: Definitely, and I don’t just draw influence from the music scenes of both cities, but I take inspiration from the cities themselves!

I was born and raised in San Francisco, and grew up having access to the ocean and nature, and some of my songs have some of those earthy and beachy feels that surrounded me growing up in Northern California.

I’ve now lived in New York City for almost 4 years, and it has so much to offer. With so many people coming from different backgrounds, it create the city’s heartbeat.

Every time I leave my apartment I am so in awe of the city’s vibrant beauty and feel motivated to create!

Happy:  Pop-rock is enjoying a surge in popularity of late. What is about the genre that you think people find so enjoyable?

Olivia: I just think it’s so badass and fun, yet it can still feel truthful and real!

I’ve noticed that people often assume just because it’s upbeat that there is no heart, and that the lyrics have no meaning, but I think exactly the opposite! 

Pop-rock music uplifts me to be my most confident self.  Every song I write has a message, especially my more upbeat pop-rock songs, and I love to empower my listeners through my music!

Happy:  Any pop-rock musicians who you find particularly inspiring?

Olivia: Not necessarily pop-rock, but I love classic female rock artists such as Pat Benatar, Debbie Harry, Linda Ronstadt, and Stevie Nicks. 

Their music is not only incredible, but their confidence in their performance has inspired my performance style, and they have really paved the way for newer rockers like myself. 

In terms of pop-rock, contemporary artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Avril Lavinge, Hayley Williams, and Alanis Morisette have all influenced my songwriting and style of music.

Happy:  You changed up that sound a little with ‘Girl Friend’. Why was it important to you to show that variety?

Olivia: As much as I love the edginess and upbeat sound of a good pop-rock banger, I am a true balladeer at heart. 

Growing up doing musical theater, I had always related to the theatrical storytelling and vulnerability of a heartfelt ballad. 

I have written many ballads like ‘Girl Friend’, but it was definitely hard to reveal this other side of my music to people who are more familiar with my rocker side. 

It wasn’t hard for my family and friends, because they know I gravitate towards singing songs like this, but singing a ballad that I wrote about my own experiences was scary. 

I’m happy that I was able to showcase my more emotional and heartbreaking songwriting, and I look forward to doing it even more in my career.  

Happy:  The single asks the question of whether girls and boys can be just friends. Have you figured out an answer for this yet?

Olivia: I don’t think so, and I don’t really know if I ever will.  Where I am in my life and in my dating experience, I believe that it depends on the person, and it depends on their own conscience. 

I am blessed to be surrounded by an amazing group of friends made up of boys and girls, and who would never make decisions like the characters in my song. 

I wish I did have a concrete answer, but I think that’s the beauty of ‘Girl Friend’!  Even though I sing the line “Girl friends can never be more than a friend,” there’s still a sense of uncertainty, and in that I will always be searching for an answer.

Happy:  Anything else exciting on the horizon that you can tease for us?

Olivia: Yes! I am so excited to continue to share everything I’ve been working on!  I have a new single and accompanying music video coming out soon that I am so proud of! 

I actually filmed it back in the Bay Area, and I had so much fun working on it, and it was by far one of my favourite music videos to shoot. 

I am also lucky enough to be filming another music video this summer!  I also hope to play more gigs around New York City with my band Sunrisers.

Since I’ll be graduating, I’m really looking forward to making new opportunities to expand my music career!

Happy:  What makes you happy?

Olivia: Creating – after all, I am an artist through and through. I feel so fortunate to be able to do what I love in a city that I love. 

I have such an amazing support group around me that are like my own little fan club, and they make me so happy to get out in the world and pursue my dreams! 

I’m also just a normal 21 year old girl who needs to take a step back from work every now and then, and I am happy spending time with my friends and family, cooking, reading, going to school every day, and going on adventures around the world!