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This article was published 22/8/2020 (522 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Olivia Lunny’s future gets clearer with each piece she places in her musical puzzle.
"It’s kind of like you’re playing Jenga, right? You’ve built a really good foundation and now it’s time to keep building on that," says the 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Winnipeg.
Lunny’s move skyward continues Aug. 28 when she releases her new EP, To the Ones I Loved. She hopes it will restart the momentum she created after winning an episode of the CTV musical competition The Launch in the spring of 2019.
"I would say The Launch really did launch my career, no pun intended, and it really gave me the platform to reach the right people and get my name out there and build a fan base," she says.
"I feel so much more confident, both as an artist and even as a person. I have that validation and reassurance that this is what I’m supposed to be doing."
Her song from the show, I Got You, has received more than one million listens on Spotify and peaked at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot Canadian Digital Song Sales chart.
She’s had more good fortune from streaming services in 2020. Lunny and her record label, AWAL, released three of the songs from To the Ones I Loved earlier this summer, and while some of the melodies follow I Got You’s synth-based dance beats, the lyrics switch things around.
Instead of I Got You’s yearning for a lover who isn’t near, Lunny sings about breakups in songs such as Bedsheets and Think of Me.
The latter song, which Lunny co-wrote with British Columbia singer-songwriter Tyler Shaw, has chalked up more than 420,000 Spotify listens since its release on April 17. It takes a few lyrical jabs at a past lover amid a catchy, up-tempo beat. "When you’re with somebody else / When you’re drinking by yourself / Tell me what you do / Do you think of me?" Lunny sings in a whispery voice.
"It was our first time meeting and our first session together and we sat down and strummed some chords. Like most sessions start, you talk about each other’s life and kind of get to know each other," Lunny remembers of the 2019 recording with Shaw. "I had recently got through a breakup and that gave us the means to write a really great song — they usually do — and this song came out."
Lunny spent the early spring and early summer in Winnipeg at her family’s cottage at Lake of the Woods, but in August she went to Toronto to get back in the studio and prepare for her EP’s launch.
Also this summer, Lunny joined a musical effort by ArtistsCan to raise money for the Canadian Red Cross for coronavirus relief. She once again teamed up with Shaw, Jann Arden, one of her mentors from The Launch, and a host of Canadian stars such as Justin Bieber, Serena Ryder, the Tenors, Avril Lavigne and Buffy Sainte-Marie on a recording of the Bill Withers classic Lean On Me.
"It’s been really great to have some things going on in my career. Obviously, live performing is a big part of what musicians do, but unfortunately we’ve all had to adapt and switch our focus," Lunny says.
She has returned to songwriting, and she’s found herself sitting at the piano and writing indirectly about injustice, in reaction to global demonstrations about racial equality. Between that and COVID-19, that means dabbling more in minor chords, she says.
Lunny’s new EP, the early success of songs she’s released this summer as well as her time on the The Launch have lifted her beyond the clubs and coffee houses of Winnipeg’s music scene she grew up with. And while she gained some notoriety by earning a Western Canada Music Award nomination in 2018, she recognizes she’s making a big step in 2020 as she attempts to connect with new fans across Canada and around the world.
"I think I started playing gigs when I was 14. I remember one of my first gigs was at the Winnipeg Folk Fest and the Stingray Young Performer program so it’s definitely been a long time coming, even though I’m only 20 years old," Lunny says. "It really is amazing to slowly see some results, but there’s a long way to go. It’s a marathon, not a race."
Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.