by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Olivia Foa’i

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Olivia Foa’i

We can almost guarantee that you’ve come across Olivia Foa’i before, especially if you’re any fan of animated films. Hers is the first voice you hear at the beginning of Disney’s award-winning 2016 blockbuster Moana, being part of her father Opetaia Foa’i‘s band Te Vaka. Olivia is now entering the scene for the first time as a soloist and songwriter in her own right, with her laid-back debut single City Got Your Name On It presented to NZ media via NZOA Music’s NewTracks compilation this month. Please meet Olivia…

Aside from being part of Te Vaka, what other musical projects have you been part of in the past?

Honestly, Te Vaka has been my main musical focus for most of my career / life – I’ve been on the road with the band since two years of age! I’ve been writing my own material since I was nine, but this year is my first time really venturing out into a project outside Te Vaka and releasing my own music. 

Who do you work with on your solo material?

Usually me, myself and I! If I’m writing something with some Polynesian flavour mixed in I’ll go to Dad or my brother Matatia for help. And I’ve sourced producers here and there for beats, but at this point it’s just me – and I’ll find whoever else I need on a song to song basis.

With the help of Spirit Of Play productions and my amazing mum [Julie Foa’i] – last years ‘International Achievement Award’ winner at the Music Managers forum – (go Mum!) I haven’t had too much trouble so far in the beginnings of putting in the groundwork for my solo career. 

Genre-wise, you’ve leapt into quite a different direction – what brought the desire for change?

If I could write Te Vaka-style like my dad I would! But this ‘new genre’ is what comes naturally to me and is how I have written for years but have never released before now. That said, I absolutely intend to fuse the two – the modern with some island flare – with my next releases.

What makes City Got Your Name On It stand out for you as a single? 

I felt like it was a good ‘transition piece’. I wanted to make sure my first track was fun and different, but not too shocking to those who already knew me from singing with Te Vaka or from the Moana soundtrack. Also I just really loved the vibe and subject matter. 

What’s the story behind the song?

I wanted a song that painted an empowering love story. Where the pair respect each other and boost each other up. For me, I don’t want to obsess over someone I love, I want to be a team and well… take over the world together! 

Is there a favourite moment for you in the single?

Hmm. I think probably the breakdown because it’s my favourite part to sing. It’s kind of a strange choice of notes and it escalates suddenly at the end. “Seems these people think your throne is just a seat, you put work into these streets and you make it look so easy.”

Who did you record and produce the song with and where? 

I found a producer online and bought the beat from him, then I wrote the song myself. 

I recorded in a studio but ended up scrapping those takes and going with the original demo vocals. So yeah, the vocals on the track were recorded by me in my bedroom chilling late at night, sitting on a comfy chair with one leg up on the bed – probably snacking between takes – vibing out solo. The real deal!

Describe in a sentence what you want listeners to get from this song.

I just want them to feel good and feel ready to seize the day… or night.

Are there any other projects you’re working on that we should keep an ear out for?

Yes, my next drop/video I’m super excited for. Contemporary Polynesian dance is a huge passion for me and I love singing in Polynesian languages as well as English so I’m very excited to have everything mixed together musically and visually! It’s gonna be crazy.

Can we find you on social media?

Yes! Social media is great, I’m always making something new to share.

and @oliviafoai on instagram!