Neo-soul songstress Olivia K is unapologetically proud of her Guyanese Heritage. Born in Brooklyn, New York the talented guitar playing singer/songwriter recently treated her fans to a carnival-inspired performance that was nothing short of spectacular. The packed event was held on February 22 at the Knitting Factory in celebration of her 25th birthday, and coincided with Guyana’s Republic Day Mashramani celebrations. Olivia K is known for her electrifying performances with band “Olivia and the Parkers” that fuses the melodies of reggae, jazz, pop and soca music with her soulful voice and Caribbean dance moves. Her singing style is often compared to that of Grammy winning artist, Erikah Badu.
The daughter of a Guyanese mother and American father, Olivia K began signing at the tender age of 3, creating cassette tapes of made-up songs and raps in the basement with her father. Traditional church gospels and hymns, her mother’s old R&B records like Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson, and Prince, as well as the diverse Caribbean-influenced New York dance styles of reggae, soca, bachata, and salsa all provided her with an extensive background to draw from. On top of her New York upbringing, her father’s North Carolina roots have influenced her with country and rock sounds. She began formal training in piano at four years old, and continued to have instrumental training in school, church, and on her own. In high school she began to focus on singing and composing in an a cappella group, which influenced her to pursue a degree in music at Columbia University. There, jazz empowered her to use the variety of music she had grown up with to create her own take on R&B.
Her lyrics, which span from the political (“Power”) to the wistful poignance of first love (“Magic”) and the stormy side of breakups (“Live Wire”), are rooted in deep and honest universal truths. She even brings comedic humor about her image and personal experiences (“That Afro”), dramatically creating stories that listeners continue to love. Whether performing solo at the piano Bitter End, collaborating with live orchestras at 54 Below and Le Poisson Rouge or funk/rock bands at The Delancey and Highline Ballroom, her music and her personality injects positivity, honesty and humor into every note
In addition to songwriting and playing the piano, guitar, and on her most inspired days, violin and cello, Olivia K has a love for the dramatic that she expresses through acting in musical theater, and infuses into her live musical performances. She has had the opportunity to perform for thousands as a lead in Columbia University’s 2013 Varsity Show, and for over 40,000 at the University’s 2014 Commencement. Her performances are witty, fun, and more likely than not, call for audience participation, so be prepared. Performing at popular music venues including The East Village’s The Bitter End, Chelsea’s Highline Ballroom, and Greenwich Village’s Cornelia Street Cafe and Le Poisson Rouge has only made Olivia K more excited to expand beyond her hometown sound to bring Soul Fusion to a global stage.
Olivia K plays throughout New York City, singing with artists of diverse genres from country to jazz, and of course, performing her own original music with her band Olivia K and the Parkers. She electrifies every room with her infectious good humor and powerful vocals. She proudly honors her Guyanese heritage by sampling folkloric melodies in her music. In 2016 she had the pleasure of performing for both the President and Prime Minister of Guyana during the country’s 50th Anniversary Jubilee Celebration.
Follow Olivia K on her amazing creative journey at oliviaksings.com, or on Instagram and Twitter at @oliviak_music.