It’s easy to want to compare Olivia Noelle to a Demi or a Dua. With powerhouse vocals and an unassailable songwriting ability, Noelle fits nicely into an exceedingly talented lineup of music’s best vets and newcomers. But she’ll be the first person to tell you not to put her in a box.
The Brooklyn-based artist is determined to remain unapologetically herself and pulls inspiration from every corner of her world to do so. Born in Queens, but raised in Beaverton, Ore., Noelle seamlessly blends her New York roots with her suburban upbringing to influence her sound and songwriting. And while she’s quick to name artists Boyz II Men, Biggie Smalls, and Billie Holiday as major inspirations for her, the “Made of Gold” singer is careful to leave her window for influence wide open. “I’m never able to pinpoint where or when I’ll be inspired,” she says. “It comes seemingly out of nowhere.”
While she can’t credit any specific moments of inspiration for her sound, Noelle has a clear intention behind every song. “I try to write lyrics that are empowering and inspiring,” she says, explaining that she actually draws a lot of motivation from her own lyrics. “I’ve been in low situations and written songs with lyrics that maybe weren’t true at the time I wrote them, but empowered me to make them true.”
That empowering thread flows through all of Noelle’s singles, and she agrees it’s pretty ideal workout music.
Let’s talk about the new single with Kid Ink. In your own words, what’s “High For Me” about?
“It’s about that moment when you’re falling for someone and you’re wondering if it’s too good to be true? I think we all experience that feeling whether it’s a moment in our relationships or careers. It’s just about that nervous feeling you get when something is going really great. It’s wondering, ‘this could be really dope, but will it be?’”
Tell me how you got started in music.
“I really started in Los Angeles as a songwriter, collaborating with various producers and other writers, and occasionally demo-singing (singing a writer’s song to be pitched). From there, I networked until I found a bit of a groove and met the right people. I moved back to New York and was able to really focus on me, my projects, and my sound. I was really able to slow down—rare in this city—and cultivate a sound.”
You grew up near Portland. How do you think your suburban life influenced you as an artist?
“Well, the suburbs are notorious for their high hip-hop and rap consumption. So I was super influenced by hip-hop. I also grew up in a really musical household. Nobody in my family was ever in music, but we always had something playing. Plus, I wanted to get out of my small town and I always felt like music was a very big way to do that.”
When do you feel most inspired?
“Inspiration for me sort of just happens. There have been times when I’m on an airplane and I’ll sit there and write a full song. There have been times where I’ve jumped off the treadmill to go to the locker room to write. I’ve written one million songs in the shower. I think it’s those moments of mental stillness that really help. You can’t bottle it. You can’t promise you’ll be inspired when you go into the studio at noon on a Tuesday. I think it’s important to give yourself time and space and always write down things that inspire you. That way, when you do go into the studio you have a list of things—melodies, lyrics, whatever it is.”
How would you describe your sound?
“I’d say ‘don’t box me in.’ It’s always changing.”
What has working in the bustling music industry taught you about keeping healthy?
“I’m super competitive. I’ll get on the treadmill next to someone and secretly race them. So, I see staying fit and healthy as giving me a leg up on the competition. Just taking that time for myself and having that time to think is really beneficial for me. It’s an easy way to push myself mentally and physically. I know that I can achieve other things if I can push myself a little bit harder.”
Do you have any tips for maintaining a fitness routine with
a packed schedule?
“Everyone has different schedules and a lot of the time there are real-life things—work or school or being on tour, for example—that make it hard to fit in workouts. But I’d suggest just waking up a little earlier. If you’re single and working and able to have a social life, you can probably squeeze fitness in, too.”
How do you hope to evolve as an artist and person from here?
“I’m not exactly sure how I want to evolve. I think as long as I’m working and getting a little better every day, I’m satisfied with that. You know, I never want to be stagnant. I still have yet to write my best song. I still have yet to give my best performance. And I hope I always feel that way and I’m always working to get better.”