5 Questions with Olivia Harris



Olivia Harris grew up singing in a church choir every Sunday and dancing to Michael Jackson and reggae playing outside her window in Brooklyn. She’s a prolific songwriter whose music is a soul fusion of Carribbean, funk, and R&B sounds. We asked Olivia few questions about her musical background and why she’s excited to play with The Songwriter’s Orchestra on March 12 below.
1. Tell our readers about yourself and how you first started making music.
The joke in my family is that I started writing music when I got tired of reading the “See Spot Run” book in Kindergarten, and I set it to music at my little Casio. Honestly, I used to watch my dad play the piano and tinkering around with him. I started taking piano lessons at 4, and sang in the church choir every week until I was about 15. In eighth grade, I wrote a song for the school play that kind of sounded like the Natalie Cole song “This Will Be” and my writing just took off from there!
2. Songwriter’s Orchestra brings musicians from countless genres together. The ensemble features vocalists from Broadway, up and coming rock guitarists, and more. What’s your musical background? What do you bring to the ensemble?
I bring the soul! The funky, rhythmic, sometimes 60s vibe. I got a Bachelor’s degree in music, and mostly it helped me realize that the heart and soul that I had grown up with, the part of music that makes you hum and dance along, is the most powerful part of all. The theory can only begin to describe the thrum in your heart.
3. What does it mean to be a part of the Songwriter’s Orchestra? Are you traditionally a solo performer or do you play music with a band? What sort of experience can our readers expect on March 12?
The Songwriter’s Orchestra is an absolute blessing. I typically perform with a band these days, but keyboard and drums. There is nothing better in the world as a creative person than to hear someone appreciate your work so much that they do their own take. I get to hear a small piece of what Solomon hears when I perform. And then I still get to be a part of the process, not a disembodied pen or voice, not just the “song and lyrics” but an integral instrument in the arrangement. It’s also a rare opportunity for collaboration across two genres that in the past few decades have been very separate. Pop music has not always been divorced from classical music (I mean of course once upon a time Mozart was Kanye West, right?), but I think there has been a trend towards extremely spare guitar or piano parts and vocals for singer-songwriters that is beautiful but also not the only thing out there. When you hear us, especially on Power, you’re going to get all the pizzaz of a Bond theme, and who doesn’t want that?
4. Can you tell us a bit about a concert you truly enjoyed being part of? Who was on the bill? What was the venue?

Last summer, my band Olivia K and the Parkers performed in Times Square for the 27th annual Ecofest. It was such a fun place to perform because there were all these tourists who clearly thought that this was just a normal day or just didn’t know why this was happening. We performed after a folk singer and before a Caribbean drum ensemble. It was totally different from our soul/funk fusion group and it was absolutely awesome.
5. Do you have any pre-show rituals (or even, superstitions) that you have to do before taking the stage?

I close my eyes and visualize exactly how the show will go. And then I imagine laughing.
Olivia Harris performs with The Songwriter’s Orchestra on March 12. Tickets on sale at LPR.com.