By Deaglan Howlett | Posted Tuesday, August 27, 2019
For fans of - Death Cab For Cutie, Boygenius, Sharon Van Etten
Olivia Rohlfs is a singer-songwriter based out of Bergen County. Having recently obtained a music degree from Monmouth University, Olivia assembled a band and headed straight to the studio. Its efforts will be her debut release, sometime in 2020. In the meantime, you can listen to a live session of her latest track “June 8th” on her YouTube channel. Olivia was kind enough to answer a few questions about her new project. Thanks again!
What is your background in music?
I like to think that music runs in the family... My grandmother was a singer, and my grandfather was a professional pianist who ran with the likes of George Gershwin and Irving Berlin during his day. Unfortunately, they both passed while I was young, so I never really got to press them for stories of their glory days, but I definitely think that I’ve inherited whatever made them both gravitate towards music. I didn’t really appreciate music too much as a kid— I loathed playing the clarinet and oboe in the band because it was the farthest thing from cool. It wasn’t until late high school that I bought a guitar off eBay and started to teach myself just enough to cover my favorite songs. I’ve become somewhat of an instrument hoarder since I bought that first guitar, and typically alternate between guitar, piano, ukulele, and mandolin.
Fast-forward to present day, and I actually have my Bachelor’s degree in the Business of Music from Monmouth University. I spent most of my time in college attending, playing, and hosting house shows with the talented friends I’ve made in Asbury Park’s flourishing music scene. I’ve interned for local labels like Sniffling Indie Kids in New Brunswick doing everything from digital marketing to website design and PR. I’ve played in bands with friends for Monmouth University’s record label, and hosted a weekly radio show on Monmouth’s radio station, WMCX 88.9. After graduation, I took an assistant job at Hearst Communications in NYC to get a handle on my student loans but still find myself spending every spare minute that I have spent consuming, playing, or writing music.
When did you first start writing your own music?
This is sort of an embarrassing question for me to answer because I feel like I’m such a late bloomer with my songwriting. I only started writing my own stuff in 2017. After years of simply covering my favorite musicians and attending their shows, I would always walk away thinking, “I could write like that” or “I could do that.” It’s only now that I’m actually getting around to it. “Time You Knew”, which will be on the record, was actually the first song that I ever finished. I’m pretty proud of it considering it’s my first. The only reason that I actually wrote it in the first place was because another musician had been writing songs about me and I felt inclined to return the favor—so thanks to that guy!
Who are your influences?
The list of artists that I love runs long. My first CD that I got as a kid was a Beach Boys Sounds of Summer album. Growing up, my parents played a lot of Bruce Springsteen, Beatles, and Tom Petty, so those classics remain some of my favorites. Some modern artists that I love are all over the place… Phoebe Bridgers, Maggie Rogers, Your Smith, Haim, Kacey Musgraves, Vulfpeck, Anderson .Paak, Bleachers, Margaret Glaspy, The 1975— I could go on, but I’ll spare you.
How long have you been working on this upcoming release?
These songs have existed since 2017, but we finally went into the studio for the first recording session this July. I wrangled a few of my friends to back me as my band, and we’ve finished almost half of the record already. “Time You Knew” and “June 8th” are the first two tracks that I’ve been holding onto for a while. With those two in the bag, we have a couple sessions left to round out the record with a few more songs. It doesn’t have a name or a release date yet, but I’m figuring it all out as I go. I’ll likely release a single while wrapping up the loose ends of the record. My fingers are crossed for a release in the late fall of 2019 or early 2020… 2020 has a nice ring to it.
What musicians did you work with?
The best part about being a music major in college is that your school pals quickly become some of your favorite musicians. I was lucky enough to have Owen Flanagan (drums & percussion), Justin Murray (lead guitar), and Jon Bass (bass) as my wrecking crew. Owen is a top lad, my former roommate, and one of the most sought-after drummers in NJ. If you’re out at a bar on a Saturday night where there’s live music, the odds are pretty good that Owen’s there on drums. I still remember playing “Time You Knew” for him and my other roommates in our living room the day that I wrote it because I was so excited. We joked that whenever I needed a drummer that I’d come after him, so he’s really been in it from the beginning. Justin & Jon are two peas in a pod that lived around the corner from Owen and I when we were in school. We always had a lot of fun together and I admired their musicianship when I watched them play in other bands. When it came down to picking musicians to work with, this crew seemed like the obvious choice.
Where are you recording? What made you choose this place?
We are recording with Adam Vaccarelli of Retromedia Sound Studios in Red Bank, NJ. It seems like everyone and their mother has been going there to record, and I’ve liked everything that I’ve been hearing. Jon, Justin, and Owen had all recorded there multiple times over with their own projects, so I trusted their referral. I finally got to see what all the fuss was about, and Adam lived up to his reputation. He’s a cool dude who really knows what he’s doing, and has some awesome gear in the studio. He is so easy to work with and fosters a really fun vibe in his space.
Self-releasing? What is that like?
Adam will be mixing and mastering the whole project, with me hanging over his shoulder adding touches here & there. My obsession with perfection can be crippling and it’s really hard for me to leave good enough alone. I think that’s why I’ve put off releasing anything up to this point—I’m afraid it won’t live up to my own expectations. I’m very happy with how it’s going so far, and hopefully the music will speak for itself once it’s out there in the world. I plan to self-release the record… I really couldn’t care less about the numbers that it does on Spotify or anything like that. I’m simply putting the music out there for the people that have come up to me after I finish playing a set to ask where they can find “that one song”. I’ve grown tired of telling them to look me up on YouTube because that’s the only place my original music exists as of right now. My family and friends have generously gushed over the songs that I’ve played for them, and I’m over the moon that I can finally share my music for real this time.
You can keep up with Olivia Rohlfs and new music on her YouTube channel.