Olivia Penalva

October 13, 2016
Olivia Penalva

At the age of 11, Canadian singer/songwriter Olivia got her start with a captivating appearance on Our Kids Have Talent, which paved the way to writing and recording her debut album two years later. Since that time, her song “Christmas for Two” cracked the Top 30 on Canadian radio, she was a finalist in the International Song Writing Competition, and on her 2014 song “Ferris Wheel,” she worked with acclaimed producer Brian West, who has previously collaborated with artists such as Nelly Furtado and Maroon 5.

Still only 16 years of age, Olivia recently released a new EP, Weightless, a collection of songs about self-love and the power of positivity that allow the rising star’s sultry, soulful vocal stylings to shine.

To learn more about Olivia, visit and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Olivia PenalvaWhat were you like as a child?

Ha ha, my parents would say I was loud because I was always crying. Maybe that is where my vocals came from! I think I was funny though and loved to spend time with my family and put on shows for them.

How did you initially become interested in singing and performing?

I was (and still am) a huge fan of High School Musical (and Zac Efron of course) and so was often singing around the house and my parents told me I had a nice voice, so at age 11 I decided I wanted to take singing lessons and went about finding myself a music teacher. She was great and we started with one lesson week to then three times a week because I loved it so much. Through her I entered a local talent competition. When I showed up to the competition and saw the stage and the judges and all the people I was terrified and decided I was not going to get up there. A couple pep talks later, I got up there and sang Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly” and Norah Jones’s “Don’t Know Why” and I was hooked. I made the finals and from there, got some small gigs and just loved all of it.

Who are your biggest creative influences?

There are a few. I guess the first would have to have be my manager, Sony ATV artist Andrew Allen. I was blown away and very nervous the first time I met him, but loved working with him. He is really a genuine person and a super talented songwriter and performer. Through him I have met so many amazing artists, each of which influences my music in different ways. One of my favorites, is Robin Ghosh with whom I have written most of my songs. We work really well together and when we sit down to write together, I feel really creative and effective. I also love Ed Sheeran. Lyrically, he is an amazing story teller. His songs feel very honest, so I try to write from that place too. I also love Norah Jones and Colbie Caillat.

What were your goals when you started writing and recording the songs on Weightless?

Weightless was my second album, so I was definitely in a different space than when I release my first album, Rainfall, at age 13. Rainfall was all about just getting into the process of songwriting and producing an album. The goal on that one was just really about the accomplishment of getting it done. Weightless came from a different place, where I wanted to tell my story and focus on the lyrics. Three years after my first album, I am much more in tune with who I am as an artist and the style of music that I want to put out there. So there was a lot of focus as well on the production to ensure that its suited my style.

In what ways have producers such as Brian West and Josh Cumbee helped to shape your sound?

Working with such talented writers and producers really helped me find my sound. They have years of experience and a knowledge of the songwriting process and production, so I learnt so much working with them. They really listened to what I was wanting to achieve and helped me get there. Brian West produced my single “Ferris Wheel” that I released last year, which is on my EP Weightless. Josh Cumbee, Andrew Allen and I wrote a song called “Forgettable,” which was released last year by a Canadian DJ duo called Project 46 through Ultra Music on their album Beautiful. I really loved that song and used it as the driving force behind my song “Outshine the Stars.”

Are you particularly proud of any of the songs you’ve written and recorded, or do they all hold a special place in your heart?

I am proud of all of them but of course there are some special ones. I really love “Outshine the Stars” because I love the message that everyone matters and that no matter what in life is bringing you down, each one of us has value. I also really love “Weightless” because it is about letting go of things and moving forward without all the stuff that drags you down. And of course “Skyline,” which is about taking that leap of faith and following your dreams. “Skyline” also has a very cool remix which was just added to all Bell Media stations across Canada. So that is super exciting!

Which contemporary musicians do you think will be most fondly remembered in 50 years?

I would have to say Ed Sheeran and probably Adele. Though their music is current and trendsetting, they both have that classic old world vibe which is timeless. Their songs are stories that we can all relate to, and that make us feel something. A lot of the music out there right now is just about beats and sound and not much going on lyrically, I think that stuff will just fade away.

What’s the best meal you’ve had recently?

Ha ha, I LOVE food, especially fish tacos, lettuce wraps and sushi. I was just in Vancouver last weekend and got to eat at two of my favorite restaurants, one called Tacofino where I highly recommend the fish tacos. And at Cactus Club where I am addicted to their chicken lettuce wraps. They are amazing!

If you could travel anywhere in the world for a few weeks of vacation, where would you go?

My family is European and so we have traveled a lot through France and Italy, which I love because of the culture and food, but if I could go anywhere for a vacation, I think I would definitely pick the Bahamas. Sitting in the sunshine by the ocean is super relaxing and there is an uninhabited island there called Big Major Cay where you can swim with pigs. I really want to do that. ☺

Buy Weightless



Aside from music, what are you most passionate about?

I really love hanging out with my friends so much. I also love watching horror movies and cooking. I love to try out new recipes and cook for my family. So I guess I am passionate about food, ha ha.

What are you working on next?

I have a couple things on the go. I spent some of the summer holidays songwriting and will keep doing that until I guess I fall in love with a song that can be my next single, or enough of them for a new album in the new year. This month I am doing some radio visits here in BC promoting “Skyline” and will be travelling out to L.A. at the end of October to work with Ken and Colbie Caillat as part of an Artistmax scholarship I received through Starlight Music Chronicles. And I am always putting out cover videos on my YouTube page, so always lots going on. Lots of exciting stuff happening for me right now, and I am super happy about all of it.


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