Opening for acts that likes of Lady Antebellum, Old Dominion, and Tonya Tucker, 16-year-old Southern California native Olivia Ooms is absolutely a star on the rise. Gracefully balancing the responsibilities of high school, leading a band, and performing at CMA Fest, it is Ooms’ determination and positive outlook that keeps her grounded and set to succeed.
Taking a moment to sit down with GGM at CMA Fest, Ooms talked all things songwriting, inspiration, guitars, and of course, new music!
Are you enjoying your time at CMA Fest?
Absolutely! I just gave my last performance and after these interviews, I am headed home.
It sounds as though your upbringing in California has had a great impact on you and your songwriting, would you say that’s true?
For sure. I have a new song coming out called, “California Country,” which I played at the CMA Spotlight Stage, and I think it’s a perfect representation of my new sound and who I am becoming as an artist.
Being only 16 years old, when was it that you decided to pursue music professionally?
I started out modeling and was on a toy box for Mattel. Which is kind of funny! From modeling, I transitioned into acting and began doing background work on a Disney show. It was there that I got caught singing in a schoolroom by this woman who went to talk to my mom and told her that I had raw vocal talent. She gave my mom a card for a producer and that was kind of my first introduction into the music scene. From there it was a bit of a snowball effect and now I’m here!
Is that when your relationship with Disney began?
Not so much, my relationship with Disney began more recently. A few years ago, I was performing at a 4th of July event in Los Angeles. It was there that a talent scout for Radio Disney saw me perform. She was really sweet and asked if we could chat, that was kind of how our relationship developed and how I became the first female country artist on Radio Disney!
When was it that you began to play the guitar?
I started playing guitar in about 6th grade and am going into my senior year of high school now, so I’ve been playing for a good portion of my life.
What was it that inspired you to play guitar?
That’s a good question. I’ve never really thought too much about it. I loved Taylor Swift, so maybe that’s why I started to play. But also, starting in the music scene, I felt like I had to know how to play an instrument to accompany myself. I didn’t have a band back then and I think I just felt that it was up to me.
Is there a certain brand, model, or make of guitar that you prefer to play?
Right now, I play a Taylor acoustic guitar for all of my shows. The guitarist in my band, Ryan, is a big fan of Martin guitars and has recently really gotten me hooked on them. He always plays a Martin for our acoustic gigs and I’m always jealous!
What are some female artists that inspired you to become a musician?
Taylor Swift was a big one. Honestly, growing up, I loved everything Disney. High School Musical, all of it. At my sixth birthday party, my dad, who’s very handy, built me a stage in our backyard. I had a fashion show performance, all my friends dressed up in costumes. It was my moment to shine! Really, I’ve always loved to perform and it has always been a big part of who I am.
Do you come from a musical family?
No, actually! My aunt plays the flute and piano and that’s about as musical as my family gets. It’s very odd, my parents always question where it is that I got it from. It was kind of a gift from God, I guess!
How is it working with and being the frontwoman of a band?
I love working with my band. They are amazing! We all go to the same school. They’re my best friends! They are incredibly talented and easy to work with. It makes it easier because we all have a lot going on but can be understanding of one another.
How do you go about balancing your music career while also being a normal teenage girl?
It’s definitely difficult but staying in high school and graduating was very important to me. I realized that high school is a time in your life that you can never get back. Even when it does get hard, or when I think of how much easier it would be for me to be homeschooled, I think that staying in a traditional school keeps me humble and grounded. The fun moments in high school are something I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Do you currently write all of your own music?
I write a lot on my own but I love to co-write as well. “California Country” that I mentioned before, was co-written with a woman named Jamie O’Neil and her sister Minnie. We had a great time writing it.
At what age did you start writing songs?
I guess you could say that I started writing poems first. I started doing that and then writing them along with melodies, but I didn’t necessarily consider it to be writing a song. Especially since at that time, I couldn’t play an instrument. The first time that I actually made what I would call a real song was when I was 9 years old. I had a play director who was a great influence over me. He was someone who encouraged me from the very beginning. When he passed away of a heart attack, I wrote him a song. I’d say that was the first official song that I wrote.
Would you say that you always pull from personal experience when writing?
Absolutely. I like to sit on my bed late at night and write about personal experiences. I don’t regret anything I have done in my life but there are things that I wish I could have done differently. I like to take those experiences and put them into songs.
You’ve opened for some really cool people! Lady Antebellum, Old Dominion, Tanya Tucker. How were those experiences, and what did you take away from them?
I opened up for Lady Antebellum and Old Dominion at Coastal Country Jam which is a festival and didn’t get a chance to meet them. It was still extremely cool just to have my name on the same roster though! Tanya Tucker was a big inspiration for me. I met her in Kentucky right before she went on stage and she was super sweet. She complimented me on my performance and during hers, she actually called me up on stage to perform “Delta Dawn” with her! It was her closing song and it was completely out of the blue and so surreal!
How do you, at such a young age, muster the courage to/handle the pressures of performing?
There are a few things. I have been doing it for so long that it kind of comes naturally for me now. I try not to think about it too much. Another thing is that when I’m with my band, I’m with my best friends and I trust them. Lastly, I have a really strong relationship with God and my faith. One thing that I know I can always do is to put my faith and trust into him.
What would you say to other young girls who look up to you and want to become performers?
Just pick up a guitar. If you can’t afford lessons, get on YouTube and learn. It’s a lot about trial and error. I used to play the flute and it wasn’t for me and that’s okay! If I had been successful at flute maybe I wouldn’t have gotten into singing. Everything is meant to be and everything will fall into place.
What should your fans be looking out for from you within the next couple of months?
I’ve got my single, “California Country” coming out soon. I’ll also be performing all around Southern California throughout the summer for any California listeners out there!