10 in 10 with NYU’s Olivia Reid

Olivia Reid's mesmerizing voice over catchy EDM tracks got her her first 19 million listeners. But now, writing on her own, her poignant lyrics and entrancing melodies could attract a whole lot more. 

1. When you were a junior in high school, you recorded a track in a closet that got 2 million streams, right?

Two guys who had graduated from my high school a couple of years before me – they went by Joyzu at the time -- they were like, “Hey, we have this song. Will you come sing over it?” So I went over to one guy’s house and recorded “Hear You Say” in his mom’s closet, just whatever I came up with, and that was the song that first took off on the global viral charts, and from there, it was just kind of, “Oh shoot, there’s a music industry, like people do this for real?”

2. Did you know you wanted to be a singer at the time?

I always loved making music, but I didn’t seriously think about doing it until I started applying to colleges, and I was choosing between science, film, and music. I never did theater or anything like that in high school. When it came to music, I was just playing around. I performed in school talent shows in 4 th and 5 th grade, and at my 8th grade graduation, that kind of thing. Singing and playing guitar – they were actually my escape from everything else, because I played really intense sports, and did a bunch of AP classes, and was really interested in what I thought was going to be a more math/science route. Music is just what I did at 11pm, after volleyball practice.

3. First song?

It was for Father’s Day, for my dad, when I was six. It was like, “Daddy stands big and tall. He’s real kind, and that’s not all.” It was very wholesome, but pretty bad!

Looking back, I’m actually really appreciative that I got into music later because, coming from a public school and not being in the arts much, I’m not burned out at all. It was a very organic upbringing, and now I can just dive in.

4. It sounds as if getting into college made the music decision for you?

The scholarship helped a lot because all of a sudden, I wasn’t just the girl who wrote songs in my town, it was like, “Oh, somebody in some building somewhere, at a big institution, also sees what we see in her.” That was definitely the turning point of, “OK, I’m going to do this. I’m going to stop pretending I don’t want to do it, and I’m going to go, and I’m going to do it.”

5. But you arrived [at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music] with “Hear You Say” already a huge hit.

It was an interesting position to come in, because at the time, I did not understand how the music industry worked. I was just like, “Yeah this cool thing happened from my friend’s closet.” And other people were like, “But you did this,” and I would say, “OK, yeah, that was pretty cool, I guess.”

That whole situation -- it back-filled information for me about staying grounded no matter what and staying humble about stuff, because something that’s really exciting to me is pocket change to someone else. Everyone’s successes are relative to them. It’s important to remember that, and I think college has only reinforced that concept for me.

6. Speaking of relative successes, right after you got to NYU, you kind of outdid yourself with “Above the Clouds,” right?

The guys from [the Australian EDM duo] SŸDE found me because of “Hear You Say.” I think

they sent me an email, and we got along right away. We wanted to write the happiest song

possible, and that was “Above the Clouds.”

I had just moved to New York from California, and the weather was just starting to tank and I

was writing the song in my freshman dorm room. The song was about keeping your mindset in a sunny place all the time, and not waiting for other people to tell you that you’re doing the right thing. It was about believing in yourself.

7. Was there a lot of back and forth?

Actually, I sent it to them the next day, and they really liked it. That demo was pretty identical to the final release.

8. Right after “Above the Clouds” blew up, you formed your own company, Breeze

Street Media. I guess 16 million streams kind of changes things, right?

All of a sudden, all these things were coming at me from all directions that I wasn’t really

prepared for, so in that sense, I was like, “All right, time to get organized.” Now I’m a business minor and a psychology minor. Both of those really help me with, “OK, this is how I need to organize myself. This is how my brain works and other peoples’ brains work.”

9. This year, you released Norfolk Drive. The song and the video are haunting – in a

beautiful way. There must be a story.

That song has probably my favorite story behind it to tell. It was our spring break from NYU,

and a few of us took a train toward Montauk, all the way down to the end of the line. It was

really cold and snowy-almost.

The place we were staying was like, “Yeah, you can take our bikes,” so we all went on a ride.

Everything was…it was just empty. There was room to think. I actually wrote the chorus while

on the bike ride and I was yelling, “I’ve got to go home, I gotta finish this song!”

10. It’s about escaping, right?

It’s not really about an escapism lifestyle. It’s about escaping to be able to think. And being able to give yourself your own space to grow, whether you can get on a train or not. Everybody I talk to, at least in college, gets that feeling. It’s about escaping, but only for the sake of coming back.

Check out Olivia Reid on Quadio!


15 W 27th Street,

New York, NY 10001