Wednesday 30 Jul

Power Pyramid - The God Drums

Power Pyramid doesn’t have much patience for nonsense. That appears to be the takeaway from the Oklahoma City quintet’s last 10 months, which brought The God Drums in September, the Insomnia EP in January and its latest, self-titled effort in July.

07/29/2014 | Comments 0

TJ Mayes - "When Love Comes Down"

’50s era rock ’n’ roll had been long overdue for a rebirth. Thankfully, the stockpile of capable luminaries has not been in short supply over the past few years. 

07/23/2014 | Comments 0

Boare - "playdatshit"

The world is in the midst of an electronic music renaissance, and you find most of this boon of producers laying claim to the club-friendly, bass-dropping variety, holing up in the the free-flowing world of hip-hop beatmaking or pitching their tent on the out-there, boundary-pushing EDM camp.
07/23/2014 | Comments 0

Broncho - "Class Historian"

Broncho has never been hurting in the hook department. The success of the trio’s 2011 debut, Can’t Get Past the Lips, was predicated mostly on its ability to marry melodies with kinetic guitar riffs and anarchic energy. Yet we’ve heard nothing to the degree of pure pop catchiness on display in “Class Historian,” the new single from Broncho’s upcoming sophomore album, Just Enough Hip to Be Woman.
07/23/2014 | Comments 0

Manmade Objects - Monuments

No one wants to be forgotten; everyone wants some sort of legacy, a mark they leave behind as they exit this life for whatever lies beyond.

And for as long as there has been death, there have been monuments — whether austere or understated, abstract or concrete, prominent or tucked away in private — erected by the ones they loved to assure that remembrance, at least for a time.
07/15/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · Next big thing

Next big thing

Despite wowing her fair share of crowds, 11-year-old phenom Olivia Kay is balancing the life of a normal kid with that of a rising star.

Joshua Boydston July 9th, 2014

As far as songs go, few prove as challenging to sing as our national anthem.

It’s a technically demanding tune from first note to last, to be sure, beginning with a low bellow that quickly soars toward star-punching high notes, eventually swelling to a show-stopping crescendo that even the most seasoned performer can have trouble mastering.

Photo: Mark Hancock

It’s more than perfecting its pure musical gymnastics that dictates its difficulty, the absolute attention of tens of thousands of sports fans directly on the singer and the singer alone. Even music icons like Christina Aguilera, Michael Bolton and James Taylor have flubbed the lyrics or missed a note.

Standing at just over four feet at center court of Chesapeake Arena before Game 2 of the Thunder-Grizzlies playoff series in April, 10-year-old Edmond singer Olivia Kay nailed every note and word of the national anthem to audible awe from the sellout crowd. She had to finish out the song over a continuous roar of approval from the 18,203 fans in attendance.

She did so with a smile on her face, never breaking even a single bead of sweat as her soulful voice, booming-beyond-her-years, ran through each line with confident ease. Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka — approaching at what feels like three times Olivia’s size — ran to give her a high five of approval.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Olivia said. “I’m more nervous in smaller crowds than big crowds. It’s funny; for most people, it’s the other way around.”

She was invited back for Game 4 of the Thunder’s match-up with the San Antonio Spurs. Afterward, she sang Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” for the Inside the NBA crew, met with spirited applause from Charles Barkley while Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith jostled for position to get her to sign a recording contract.

It’s all in good fun, of course, but it feels like a preview of what’s waiting for Olivia around the bend, probably sooner rather than later: a future star signing her dreams into reality.

Child’s play 

That voice has always been there, at least as Olivia and her mother, Heather Kay, would tell you. It’s raw and unmolded, yes, but those big notes weren’t a sudden development. She wasn’t born into a musical family, yet that gene manifested itself anyway.

At just 7 years old, Heather booked some singing lessons to a coach that took some convincing.

“She didn’t exactly want me,” Olivia said of her coach. “She didn’t do 7-year-olds, but she let me audition. I sang ‘Firework’ (by Katy Perry) and ‘Baby’ (by Justin Bieber), and she was like, ‘OK. You’re in.’” And that’s how things went for the next three years. They eventually uploaded a video of Katy Perry’s “Roar” to Next Star Now, a music discovery site assisting aspiring singers and musicians in connecting with label executives, producers and managers from across the country. CEO Rick Garrison was so impressed with Olivia that he invited her and Heather to meet at the Guthrie Escape Art, Wine & Music Festival this past October.

It took just a few notes in person to convince Garrison to hop on board to manage Olivia’s career. The first move was a professionally filmed take of Olivia’s rendition of “Rolling in the Deep,” shot at the fire ring at Deep Deuce Grill in the heart of Oklahoma City and just down the road from the Next Star Studio Garrison was constructing in Automobile Alley.

The video was uploaded just before Thanksgiving.

“I remember we put it on and it got a couple of thousand views and we’re all excited,” Garrison said. “Next thing you know, it’s ten thousand. Then it was 50. And then a hundred thousand.”

Rolling in the views 

The video went viral — in a big way.

As the views soared, so did the calls from local and national television producers. Soon, she was all over local news. And then she was on The View being interviewed by Barbara Walters. And then on The Ellen Show blog.

“Every time it slowed down, there was something to kick it back into gear,” Garrison said. “That’s the speed we want to go, though, nice and steady. We don’t want to do anything crazy at 11 years old.”

It was after that appearance on The View that the Thunder picked up the phone and invited her to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Olivia has kept as busy as she wants with shows not only across Oklahoma but over in Nashville and Memphis for auditions and public performances.

But Olivia isn’t being dragged from concert to concert.

“We’re not pushing her along to do anything,” Garrison said.

“I wouldn’t let them,” Olivia quickly snapped back, smiling.

Upon a star 

Olivia bounces around the new and polished Next Star Studio like it’s a playground, and in Olivia’s world, it is. The swanked-out, state-of-the-art digital studio has been a home away from home for her and other young aspiring artists like her since it opened its doors in May.

She works hard but plays hard there, too. When she’s not working with producer/engineer Ben Edison and vocal instructor Allyson Bold, she’s texting them jokes and goofing around on the drums on the studio’s compact stage or lounging on the bright-red leather couch in the lobby.

Olivia and the team there recorded a cover of Frozen’s ubiquitous anthem “Let It Go” this spring and just wrapped up finishing her first original song “Believe” — co-written by Edison and Bold — this summer.

“I like the inspirational songs,” Olivia said. “I like the big songs, the soulful songs, the songs that you really can get into.”

Olivia has dreams that are as big as her voice and worthy of the message she often celebrates with her song choices. She dreams of being on the Disney Channel just like every kid her age, only she has the chops that make it more likely than a wish upon a star. Olivia is mature enough to realize it but approaches her nights of recording, self-taught piano lessons and songwriting sessions with as much childlike enthusiasm as dedication.

The break from school is booked for a steady slate of shows and recording, but her childhood isn’t getting lost in the process. She’s enjoying a summer of swimming with friends, fun trips across the country and playing around the house with her older sister and twin brother.

“She’s a kid, all day every day,” Heather said of Olivia’s workload, which isn’t as heavy as Internet commentators might assume, with plenty of skip days and only the occasional missed day at school. In fact, she just celebrated her 11th birthday with a humble, fun little party not unlike the rest of her friends and classmates.

But as much as has happened in the past 12 months, it seems likely that the next dozen will offer even that much more. Who knows where she’ll be when she’s blowing out the candles at her big 1-2?

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