Interview: Olivia Penalva On Her Debut Album ‘Spiderwebs’

by the partae

Congratulations on the recent release of your debut album Spiderwebs! What inspired the title and the overall theme of the album?

Thank you so much! The title was inspired by the idea of getting stuck in the webs of life or rather the messiness of life and struggling to find your way out. This album explores themes of loss, heartbreak, and control, and how those things can mess with your emotions and views on the world. At the time I wrote it, I was trying to navigate my way through some past traumas, and you can feel my mood in a lot of the songs. I wanted to show how unpretty our thoughts and emotions can be when we feel misplaced.

“Spiderwebs” is an engaging collection of 11 songs that explores the highs and lows of love and self-discovery. What was your songwriting process like for this album, and did you draw from personal experiences?

The songwriting process was really fun for this album because for the majority of it, I started writing by myself in my room and it all kind of just happened so naturally. All these songs are an accumulation of feelings or experiences that I or people close to me have gone through to show how sometimes messy and ugly life can be. I was really drawing from the idea of growing up and being in your little naive bubble as a kid, to then being exposed to the harsh reality of the world as a young adult and how that can sometimes lead to a loss of identity. It explores all the feelings and emotions that we uncover as young adults that show us that although life is beautiful, it can also be really painful.

The opening track and first single, “Spiderwebs,” produced by Ryan Stewart, deals with losing your sense of identity in a relationship. Can you give us the lowdown on the creation of this song and what it means to you?

When I reached my early twenties, I found myself in a relationship where I had no control over myself or my life. It was very isolating and hard to navigate the world after feeling like I was stripped of my identity. This song was an outlet at times when I felt like nobody would understand me or what I was going through. I had it in my back pocket for almost three years before I decided to finally share it with the world, and I am so glad that I did because in releasing it, I have found how many other people could relate to what I had experienced. This song means everything to me because it was the catalyst in taking back my power and creating this album that I am so proud of.

Since dropping your debut single at the age of 13, you’ve evolved into a versatile artist with over 25 million career streams. How has your musical style and approach to songwriting changed over the years?

I think there is a lot that has changed and a lot that hasn’t. My one thing I’ve tried to hold onto is my storytelling and the authenticity behind it. A lot of songs I write are about my life, but a lot of songs are also inspired by people in my life or things I wish I had experienced. There have been times I have definitely stepped outside of that box to cater to what’s current or what would play well on radio, and as proud as I am of all my songs, doing that taught me that the best stuff I write and the stuff that means the most to me are the songs that come from my heart, and I feel like this album really shows that.

Your hit single “Love Me” earned a Top 20 spot on Canadian radio and became the #2 most-added song at CHR Mediabase. How did that success impact your career and your approach to this new album?

I am so proud of that song because we had such a fun time writing it, so to see people love it the way we do as writers and creators made me very happy. Being a Canadian, the support from Canada was so amazing and pushed me to want to create and share more of myself with everyone. As artists, it’s really the public that decides if your music is good or not, so to get that kind of love and feedback allows me to continue doing what I love, and I am very grateful for that.

With tracks like “Ex’s” making it to the Top 20 on CHR and Hot AC radio in Canada, and also breaking into the US market, what challenges and opportunities have you faced in expanding your audience?

‘Ex’s’ was the first time I ever had a song break US radio, so that was a very cool thing to experience. It’s such a different market in so many ways, and as a Canadian independent artist, it can be so hard to break through that wall and get your music out there to more listeners. At the time that it did, I was lucky enough to be signed with a US label and have that support. One thing a lot of people don’t know is the cost of putting your music to radio. In Canada, it is more cost-friendly and easier to try. Although just because you hire a radio promoter, doesn’t mean your song will make the cut. US radio is a whole other ballpark. As an unsigned artist, I’d say that one of the biggest challenges is often finances, so you just have to make music you love, stand by it, and hope that when people find it, they will see how talented you are, with or without a label backing you.

“Spiderwebs” covers a range of emotions from toxic relationships to self-acceptance. Which song on the album is the most personal to you, and why?

It’s so hard to choose because each song is personal to me for different reasons. I’d say ‘Spiderwebs’ for sure because it was the catalyst for creating this whole album and a way for me to take back control over myself and my art. But if I had to name one because it’s my absolute favorite song on this album, it would be “Paper Rose”. It was the first song I had written by myself for the first time in a few years, and I am so proud of that. It reminds me of all the things you wanted but couldn’t have, and although it’s a sad song, for me, it gave me a lot of hope and confidence to keep writing by myself and tell the stories that are often hardest to tell.

As a rising pop star in Canada, what message do you hope listeners take away from your music, especially from the songs on “Spiderwebs”?

When people listen to this album or any of my songs, I hope they feel heard and understood. We all crave that connection and need to be related to. I think it’s a good reminder that although we may have different experiences, we can all relate to many of the feelings conveyed on this album. More than anything, I hope it reminds people to never let someone else dim your light and take away from the thing that makes you who you are.

Twitter: @Oliviapenalva

Facebook: /OliviaMusicLive

Instagram: @oliviapenalva


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