Eight questions with local musician Olivia Millerschin

Millerschin will open for Smooth Hound Smith Thursday at The Ark

Credit: Jesse Speelman
Credit: Jesse Speelman

ANN ARBOR – I've been quite fortunate during my tenure at All About Ann Arbor when it comes to meeting new and fascinating people. Every single one of them have been kind beyond measure, and Olivia Millerschin is no exception. Wise beyond her years, funny and down to Earth, Millerschin is an old soul who brings a classic feel to modern music, and I mean that as a big compliment. Where many people of the millennial generation would prefer a mediated conversation via text or some other form of technology, Millerschin was very gracious with her time and wanted to meet in person to discuss her work.

If you're not already familiar with her music, you should absolutely start listening immediately. Millerschin is a wonderful talent who brings an amazing storytelling quality to each of her songs. You'll be able to see her on Thursday at The Ark, opening for Smooth Hound Smith and at several other Michigan shows throughout August. Trust us when we say that you should make a point of seeing her perform live. You won't regret it. 

This interview has been edited and condensed.

How long have you been writing songs/playing music? How would you define your musical style and your influences? How do they impact your writing?

I started my training in opera and classical voice at seven or eight. After singing incredible music written by other people for a couple of years, I decided I wanted to sing about things relevant to my own life and thoughts. So around 12-13, I started writing my own music. As far as style, I always feel like it's changing. I write in a traditional singer/songwriter style, but production-wise and feel there are a lot of modern pop and jazz elements. Obviously, the music will keep changing as I grow into the person and artist I hope to be! Part of coming into my own as an adult is accepting and utilizing the modern technology that weren't as present when I first started out in music. So all of that said, the times have really inspired and encouraged this old fogey soul in me to be younger and more relatable and open to trying new things that the new age has offered us. 

When we met, you mentioned a deep connection to Ann Arbor. What is it? Is there something specific about the city that lends itself to new voices in music? If so, is that strictly an "Ann Arbor thing" or a Detroit/Michigan thing?

I have tons of connections to Ann Arbor, I think most artists feel it too. Ann Arbor has such open arms to the music and art community. My first ever radio play was out of Ann Arbor's 107one with John Bommarito. John is one of my favorite humans and he gave me and my music a shot when no one else would. I think Michigan, in general, is a very wonderful, inclusive and inspiring place for artists to create and be welcomed, but Ann Arbor has this air about it. Between the venues and opportunities, it's just a conscious effort to support local, and I am so thankful for it.

Aside from anything musically, what do you love about Ann Arbor itself? What makes it a favorite place to visit, assuming it is one?

Tons of spots I love out that way! I love Black Crystal Cafe, which is a relatively secret venue. I love the Lunch Room, incredible vegan food and the nicest service. I love sitting in the arcade for hours and drinking tea and people watching.

How did the Smooth Hound Smith show at The Ark come to be? I noticed it's one of the few shows this month that includes a special guest, in this case you, which I thought was pretty cool.

Smooth Hound Smith is an awesome band that I met through a friend of a friend. When we saw they were thinking about heading to Michigan we wanted to play with them! It's going to be a good night. I'm excited to finally hear them live.

Credit: Entranced Media
Credit: Entranced Media

I don't know if "spoiler alert" applies here, but are you hoping to have Smooth Hound Smith join you or vice versa for any songs? If so, are there any of yours or any of theirs that you'd love to play?

SPOILER ALERT: I'd love to make that happen if we have enough time to run through something pre-show! I've got tons of songs I think they could lend somethin' somethin' to.

You also mentioned that you're working on a children's book. How did that come to be? Can you provide any details about it?

I am! The book is called, "Cactus On A Ledge," and it's all about a cactus who wants to be a big tree someday. The book happened by total accident. I actually wrote it as a song then got quite a few inquiries about what was next for it and if I intended on making it a book. Now I do. The book and accompanying CD are coming out this fall. We may or may not be planning a small but mighty book tour.

You're currently working on a new album. Can you tell us anything about the types of songs -- how they're different or similar to previous albums? Is there a particular sound or theme that you're going for with the new songs?

The new music is similar in sentiment but different in content from my previous work. Obviously, a 23-year-old writes about different things than a 15-year-old. The music is still emotional and about real-life experiences that I observe and go through first hand. With the new stuff, you can expect the same level of emotion but a slight change in the way it's delivered. Like I said, we're going to really utilize things that weren't as accessible 10 years ago, to create a more accessible and modern sound. I think I'll always think and write like a 60-year-old though, so no drastic changes there.

What is your favorite song (that you've written) to play live and why? What is your favorite cover song to play live and why?

My favorite song I've written is *drum roll* whatever my newest tune is. It is whatever I'm feeling right at that moment. Currently, I have a song called, "Halfway," that I'll be debuting [at Thursday's show] and that's probably my current favorite. I'm just feeling it right now, hopefully other people do as well. My favorite cover to do is, "Edge Of Desire," by John Mayer. It's one of those songs that's not widely commercially known, but it's pretty well-known as a favorite to his super fans. The song is just honest and true and everyone has felt what he's saying, so when we play it live, we do a three-part and just feel it out and it feels good.

About Olivia Millerschin

With a celestial voice and lyrics only an old soul can write, singer/songwriter Millerschin is a unique talent. Her most recent album, "Look Both Ways," is full of the clever lyrics, haunting melodies and colorful folk, pop and soulful elements she’s noted for, with a few more years of life and musical experience added. The album’s title reflects Olivia’s quest to “look both ways” -- relish in the good and proceed with caution when necessary -- in a complex music industry and world.

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