Olivia Lane’s ‘Songland’ Episode Is a Master Class in the Evolution of a Song
Many country artists have both a "performance" and a "songwriting" component to their careers, and most expect that if they're ever going to be on television, it'll be as a performer. Not so for Olivia Lane: The singer and songwriter appears Wednesday night (Aug. 28) in the new reality show Songland, which affords up-and-coming songwriters the chance to get their songs in front of some of the biggest names in the business, competing to have their tracks recorded by an established artist.
For Lane, the irony of her television role is even greater than its focus on the part of her career she always assumed would be more behind the scenes. "To take it a step further, I moved to LA when I was 16, and at the time, I wanted to do acting," she tells The Boot. "I kind of took a left turn to come to Nashville. [Before that], I tried for so long to get on those sets, with so many auditions. I actually had to come to Nashville for six years before I could get on those sets. So it was a really weird path I've been on."
In Lane's episode of Songland, she and other songwriters vie for the chance to have their song recorded by pop and soul star Leona Lewis, each contestant working to develop their song with a different iconic producer. Lane was paired with Ester Dean, the producer behind music by Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Mary J. Blige and more.
Over the course of the episode, the contribution Lane brought to the table -- a piano ballad called "Perfect Skin" -- was retooled to fit Lewis' artistic style. At its outset, however, the song was deeply personal to Lane's life: "This whole last year and a half, really, I took a break from the road and went back into the studio, tried to figure out what I wanted to say ... "Perfect Skin" was one of the songs that was on that journey," she explains.
Even as the song changed shape, Lane says, "Perfect Skin" still maintained that personal connection to her. "The other two contestants that made it to the Top 3 with me, their songs were completely changed. No lyrics were used, completely different vibe," she goes on to say. "Mine maintained the heart of the lyric."
That's not to say that her song didn't change at all, of course. "It [went from] kind of a piano ballad to an EDM, pop sort of thing. Which was, at the time, a little bit, like, 'Oh, what's happening to my piano ballad?!' But at the same time, that was the artist in me," Lane points out. "The songwriter in me needed to be like, 'Nope, whatever's good for the song. Whatever's good for the artist.' You always have those conversations with yourself, where it's like, 'You just gotta let it out into the world. Like a child. [It has to] grow up and figure out its own trajectory, I guess.'"
Songland highlights the songwriting process, and how a song can evolve from its initial demo up to the form in which it's recorded or performed. Lane's song is a perfect example: On the same day the episode airs, she'll be sharing her own version of the track.
"It's like, pushing the limits of a song -- [showing listeners that] it could live here, or that it could live there," Lane relates. "But at the essence, I think we started with a really great lyric. I think that's why Nashville is so amazing. You can have a hit song, but a classic song is great lyrics, and a great melody."
Songland airs on Wednesday nights at 9PM ET on NBC. Kelsea Ballerini and Old Dominion are just a couple of the acts who have appeared over the course of the show, in a roster that also includes John Legend, Meghan Trainor, the Jonas Brothers and many more.
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