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June 2018 - Olivia Millerschin

Detroit Singer-Songwriter Sports a Young Sound with an Old Soul

Story by LCC Radio Reporter Sarah Spohn

Olivia MillerschinWhen Olivia Millerschin began writing songs on her ukulele, she didn’t ever imagine people listening to them, let alone nominating her work for awards. Boy, was she wrong. The now 23-year-old Detroit vintage soul-meets-modern pop singer continues to earn accolades.

“I always wanted to sing, because my grandma studied opera in college, and I wanted to be like her,” Millerschin said.

Inspired by jazz standards by Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, songwriters like Carole King, and Simon & Garfunel, Millerschin began studying opera at seven-years-old, at the Rochester Conservatory of Music. At just eight, she sang “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” at a karaoke bar, and received a standing ovation. When the teenager began playing her original, often quirky tunes in coffee shops, she realized this fun hobby could easily turn into a career.

MIllerschin self-describes her style of music as “the kind of rock ‘n’ roll that goes to sleep at 10 and doesn’t make old people angry,” but seemingly, Millerschin hasn’t slept on any hard work. Now, having shared stages with Ingrid Michaelson and Tony Bennett, winner of the Great American Songwriting Contest, Millerschin is a full-time musician. Just last year alone, she spent seven months on the road touring.

“It’s become a huge hustle, but it’s totally worth it,” the guitar/ukulele/piano player said. While no one has doubted Millerschin’s ability or drive, except Olivia herself, she will be the first to laugh -- chalking it up to dumb luck. “I think I’m probably like too stupid humble,” she said. “A lot of the time, I said it was all luck. It’s been lucky because I’ve worked my ass off since I was thirteen. I was leaving school for three weeks at a time in high school, doing work online on the road and trying to pass, while also touring.”

No matter if she’s playing a local smaller gig or playing The Fox Theatre, or touring the world, Olivia focuses on the same goal: connections. “Anywhere you go in the U.S; you’re gonna get different people and a different space, and that’s just cool to see how that transforms you,” she said. “The objective is still the same with my music. I want to be able to, in the least cheesy way, connect with every single person in the room.”

When her latest “pinch-me-moment” happened last winter, it was another connection Olivia had made that allowed her voice to be heard ‘round the world. Millerschin was a teen when met Sonia Lee, who played violin on one of her tracks. Right away, Millerschin cOlivia Millerschinould tell Lee was great, but she didn’t know just how great her resume really was. “…Little did I know it was this woman named Sonia, who is one of the greatest violinists I think I have and ever will meet. She’s played with Katy Perry, Josh Groban, Ingrid Michaelson, she’s gone on all these major tours, is so professional and incredible,” Millerschin said of the chance-encounter. Years after working together, Lee called Millerschin on the phone with a proposal. She was working on a project to compose a song for an Olympic ice-dancer duo. She asked Millerschin to sing vocals on the track. After singing vocals, she learned her take had been chosen, and her song was Olympic-bound.

Millerschin’s vocals ended up in a mashup with John Lennon on the iconic “Imagine” song. This isn’t her only tie to the former Beatle, having won the John Lennon Songwriting Competition twice. The first time she won for her goofy song, “Screw Valentine’s Day” when she was a teenager, winning $10,000 worth of recording gear. Millerschin’s second award-winning prize was a performance slot at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) in Anaheim, California.

The ‘old-soul’ prefers interacting with fans after shows in-person, and isn’t a big fan of social media. “My manager now, she will be like ‘you know you have 60K listeners on Spotify this month.’ I’m like I don’t even know what that number means. Good for me, I guess,” she laughs.

The ever-so-humble artist admits she doesn’t really celebrate awards. “I’m always like ‘it’s too good to be true.’ When I hear about it, I can’t believe that anyone would listen to it, let alone put it up for something… Maybe I need to learn how to celebrate the little things too.”

Olivia MillerschinHer latest record, Look Both Ways certainly came from an emotional place, which might be surprising from the humorous, witty songwriter. Having been nominated for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year, it just goes to show you this silly young woman is a serious musician. “The whole theme of it was these really weird, dark, twisted things that I’d seen growing into an adult … Things we see as we get older, and we have to see the truth about. I think there’s a way to look at that stuff with a clear mindset and go, ‘alright, but what can I add to this that’s going to allow me to remember it, but also live my life -- not out of fear or negative emotion.’

“The whole point of it ever since then, even if it’s a dark or super hard topic to talk about it, I can always talk about it in a way that changes my mind on it -- no longer leaves me with a bitter taste. I just hope that other people can see that too.”

Considering her tour schedule, music placements, and awards, others certainly see merit in Millerschin. She’s even got an upcoming children’s book with an accompanying song about a cactus wanting to be a tree. Crowds at her concerts liked the song so much, they begged her to put it on an album. She worked with an illustrator to pen a book deal, which is going to print soon.

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