Olivia Dear has never been better.
The Rochester indie pop singer-songwriter has released an inspirational new single, “Better,” introduced a new artist name (from Olivia Millerschin to Olivia Dear) and received a grant from the TIDAL music streaming service.
“This has really given me a shot to do that. I know that what I’m gonna do is gonna always be me. ‘Olivia Dear’ is great because it separates me-the-artist from me-the-person because ‘Olivia Millerschin’ felt like I couldn’t release anything that ‘Olivia Millerschin’ wouldn’t think of or make,” Dear said.
“‘Olivia Dear’ has allowed me to take a step back personally from it. I think in general the music is gonna be the singer-songwriter, pop and indie side of things, but just a little bit more produced than my previous work.”
Dear will share a wealth of new and old favorites from her three-album catalog during her March 20 “LIVE!” headlining set at the Farmington Civic Theater in Farmington. She’ll be joined by longtime bandmates James Pyne (trombone, vocals), Brian Reilly (guitar) and Bob Mervak (keys, vocals) while West Bloomfield singer-songwriter Adam Liebman will open the show.
“For a show with a quartet in a nice, intimate room, we’ll do mostly like broken-down versions of the new music and my last record. The band and I have been working on some new cover stuff, so we might throw one or two of those in there just for fun,” said Dear, who also plays ukulele, piano and guitar.
In February, Dear released her first new single, “Better,” in nearly four years. The uplifting track is available exclusively through the TIDAL music streaming service, which is co-owned by Jay-Z and several other artists. Dear co-wrote “Better” with Los Angeles indie pop singer-songwriter Chris Ayer and teamed up with Lewis Hughes and Reilly to co-produce it.
The track features soaring strings, vibrant synths and high-tone guitars to create a shimmering three-minute world filled with spirited energy, optimism and hope. Dear beautifully sings, “I wanna be good right here, right now/I wanna be better/I wanna feel good right here, right now forever/And I don’t know why I can’t sit still ever/I wish that I could/I wanna be good/I wanna be better.”
“It’s this idea that I’ve had since I was 15 that I’ve written down, but I’ve never expanded upon it, but the lyric was ‘I light myself on fire to make you look,’ and I had a bunch of weird things that followed it. We were talking about that, and there was kind of a negative side of it, like self-sabotaging for attention and for your art and for the sake of feeling,” said Dear about her latest single.
“We ended up with ‘Better,’ which is the more positive side of it, and included somebody who is more aware of all these bad habits, and then we bring in another person in the storyline, too, because not only does this person want to be better for themselves, but for another person.”
Dear also released a new lyric video for “Better” featuring artist Brian Lacey painting a colorful mural on the side of a building that houses “Sharing Art with Kids,” a Detroit nonprofit. Filmed and edited by Jesse Speelman, the video includes animation by Dear and Pyne to speed up Lacey’s progress on the mural.
Lacey’s artwork will be featured in additional lyric videos from Dear. In fact, “Better” is the first of three new singles Dear will be releasing exclusively through TIDAL. The next two singles will arrive in the next two to three weeks.
“I like having some sort of tie for all of the three singles we’ve done with TIDAL, and it’s just given me the coolest opportunity to pay an artist to decorate these walls. I just figured why not have a way to tie all three together and use the money in the best way possible,” Dear said.
Teaming with TIDAL, Sharing a New Name
Last September, TIDAL announced five independent Detroit singer-songwriters who received funding through their inaugural TIDAL Unplugged grant program. Dear was named as one of the five winners along with Emma Guzman, Laurie Love, Raye Williams and Sam Austins.
TIDAL Unplugged provides independent artists with funding to book studio time, take lessons, buy equipment, market themselves and go on tour. The global streaming platform partnered with philanthropists Robert Nelsen and Mark Lampert to launch $1 million endowment in 2019.
Dear learned last summer she was one of the five recipients after Pyne and Reilly submitted an application on her behalf. It’s turned out to be an exhilarating time for Dear to rejuvenate herself personally and professionally.
“When I got the approval of the funds, I took a month or two months to make a list of all my favorite records and all my favorite artists and look up all of their producers and their credits. One by one, I just reached out to tons of producers and worked with as many that would respond to me,” said Dear, who grew up as a classically-trained opera singer and started writing songs at age 13.
She also used the opportunity to change her artist moniker from Olivia Millerschin to Olivia Dear, a beloved childhood nickname from her grandmother. Also a classically-trained opera singer, Dear’s grandmother secured Dear’s first gig at Caribou Coffee when she was 14.
“Personally, it feels clean to me. It’s always been frustrating for me, but I’ve learned to appreciate it. My first full record came out when I was 15, so that music is still out there, and it still sells, and it’s still licensed in film and TV, so I can’t really take it down,” said Dear, who’s inspired by Ingrid Michaelson, James Taylor and Carole King.
“From that standpoint, I wasn’t embarrassed by it, but who you are when you’re 14, 15, 16 is completely different when you’re 18, 19, 20. Now, I’m 24, and I’m a woman, and I’m ready to make some new stuff and not be completely tied to what my thoughts were at 14. This is inspiring from that side of things.”
Dear released her debut EP, Over the Weather, in 2014 while her first full-length album, Yes. No. Maybe So., followed a year later. Her last album, Look Both Ways, dropped in 2016 and featured clever lyrics, haunting melodies and colorful folk, pop and soul elements.
Produced in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Detroit, the album mirrors the grit and hopefulness of both cities and reflects Dear’s quest to “look both ways” as she relishes the good while proceeding with caution in a complex music industry and world.
With an accomplished Millerschin catalog behind her, Dear anticipates building a new sound and musical future with TIDAL and beyond. It’s the first many new waves she’ll be making in the indie pop sea of opportunities.
“I think no matter what kind of music I’m making the songwriting is always going to come before everything else. The music is always going to be lyrically driven and hopefully uplifting pop music,” she said.
Friday, March 20 | Doors 7:30 p.m. | Show 8 p.m.
Farmington Civic Theater, 33332 Grand Rive Ave. in Farmington