The Moment I Knew I Wanted To Make Music: Harley Olivia

by - November 07, 2023

Photo courtesy of John Harold Perez

Growing up, I was a shy kid. Not just a little shy, I was painfully shy. If I was out in public with my family and a friendly child my age dared to say hello to me, I would ignore them and turn my head until they went away. (Much to my parent’s horror!) This was a stark contrast to my older sister, who was naturally extroverted and would go on to become a competitive dancer and Prom Queen.

Along with my shyness came a big imagination, introspectiveness and a touch of melancholy. (Or as I like to call it, The Holy Trinity for Introverts.) I would eventually grow out of my shyness, but that wouldn’t start until I discovered music. Enter Silverchair. Thanks to my sister and her friends, I had access to what the older kids were listening to in school. One day, I grabbed one of her burnt CDs and popped it into my Walkman. As soon as I heard Daniel Johns’ longing voice backed by electric guitar, I was hooked. The emotion, the grit, the attitude, the controversial lyrics… For a shy, rule-abiding book nerd, this lit me up more than Nancy Drew ever could.

After Silverchair came Rooney, The Strokes, My Chemical Romance, The Distillers and Marilyn Manson. Music transported me into a world where I had an outlet to say and feel the things I didn’t yet have words for. While my friends lusted after rockstars and daydreamed about being with them, I dreamed about being them. As I got older, the more shocking and heavier the sound, the better. I knew I had unlocked a passion that would never go away, and that passion was singing.

But there was a problem. I was still way too shy.

During the week, I had exactly one hour from the time I came home from school to the time my dad came home from work. This meant I could sing along with an album for about 40 minutes and still have time for a snack. (Pop Tarts were a fav!) If I sang any longer, I risked someone hearing me, and if that happened, I felt like I would shrivel up and die. Despite this fear, I talked about my rockstar dreams constantly. My mum would ask if I wanted to sign up for singing lessons, but that was always met by a hard “no” from me. They told me I needed to do some kind of extracurricular activity, and since it was clear I wasn’t going to follow in my sister’s dancing footsteps, my parents asked me what I wanted to do. “You have to pick something!” They would threaten. I knew I wanted to sing, but I wasn’t ready to “perform” so I tried soccer, figure skating, Girl Guides, etc. When everything I signed up for inevitably became a chore, my fed-up mother begged me to pick something I actually liked.

“How about singing?” I looked up and my eyes grew wide. My mother had pulled the car into the Connor’s Music parking lot, the music store in town.

After a few more encouraging (and threatening) words from my mother, I finally went in and signed up. This. Changed. Everything. I slowly became more confident and better with singing. I went from a shaky-legged kid to a full on ham. I did musical theatre, I sang in voice competitions, I even got into Humber College’s Theatre Performance Program where I would study with opera legend Fides Krucker. I performed Shakespeare, I did improv and I joined a band. While working on my technique, I also had the chance to see my heroes in action. I saw My Chemical Romance, Coheed and Cambria, Marilyn Manson, Deftones, The Distillers, Silversun Pickups, Mother Mother, the list goes on!

By this point, I knew music would always be essential to my happiness. I still tried other jobs: flight attendant, video editor, server. But much like the doomed extracurricular activities before them, they fell by the wayside. Now I am focusing solely on music. I spend my time writing, performing and releasing my own music as well as coaching other vocalists! Voice lessons were a huge part of why I became an artist, so I like to share my knowledge with other singers whenever I can. (Especially those shy, introverted, rule- abiding ones!)

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