Kirsten Olivia will be all over stages this weekend for the Halifax Jazz Fest, showing off her powerful R&B chops, but if you’re too scared of the hurricane (be brave) then you can cop a solid dose of Olivia by downloading her brand new EP, T.H.A.N. today, right here.
Olivia’s focused on the present these days, and her early songwriting needed an update to reflect that. “The title is The Here And Now, like T.H.A.N. but when I first started working on it, it was Then, a lot of songs were about the past, kind of positive but sort of negative,” says Olivia. “Some of the songs I didn’t like the vibe of so I took them off, I met with my guitar player and we came up with the new acronym.”
“My outlook shifted on things, my songs could about negative things but they have a positive spin,” she says. “I went through this but now I’m stronger.”
Olivia sees the EP as an introduction to what she can do. “It’s like a business card. Like, here’s what I can do. This is me. I’ve never done this before but this is who I am.”
Though Olivia’s background has a lot of backup singer gigs—she performs with Asia & NuGruv, the Nova Scotia Super Soul Review and Erin Costelo—she cites the experience as contributing to her onstage comfort level. “It allowed me to become more comfortable on stage,” she says. “When I first started, my comfort level wasn’t what it was, it gives you that freedom to get comfortable.”
More recently, fellow singer Cyndi Cain (who also started out as a backup singer with Yvonne “Muzz” Marshall) has been an influence. “I’ve recently been introduced to her and I’ve seen her perform—locally I don’t think I’ve ever really had someone I can identify with, I see her doing that and I think I can do it too,” says Olivia. “I think there’s something about seeing someone who’s like you—someone who looks like you—that’s inspiring.”
Though soft-spoken in person, Olivia’s big voice and emotive stage presence portrays something else entirely. “Part of being shy is being able to be someone different on stage, that’s why I sometimes overperform,” Olivia says. “I’m being who I wish I was—that inner Beyoncé comes out.”