Olympia, or Olivia Bartley to those close to her, started learning to play the guitar off Joni Mitchell songs. Her debut album Self-Talk is similarly introspective as Mitchell’s material, based on the concept of the “stories people tell themselves about themselves”. “It’s a nod to the religion of self-help,” she explains. “I found that the songs I was writing had this thread of people who have a singular goal in their life, and then they reach it and wonder what’s next.”
The guitar-driven and synth-heavy Self-Talk came out of a long journey with musicians Pete Luscombe and Pat Bourke and producer Burke Reid, with whom Olympia spent up to 20 hours in the studio. “We worked in a studio with early synthesisers that we got to play with. That said, we didn’t set out to create any particular sound, it just came out organically out of an intense experimenting and writing process.”
Inspiration came of the Melbourne-based singer-songwriter from many places, but she found solace in literature and poetry. Australian author Peter Carey’s short story titled Report on the Shadow Industry, which comments on consumerist culture through the fictional craze for packaged shadows, laid the foundation for album opener ‘Honey’. Olympia also confesses her admiration of Australian poets like Robert Adamson and Dorothy Porter. “I think they’re amazing in that they can say so much about the world in so few words, this really inspired me to really knuckle down and make sure my songwriting is the best it can be.”
Ready to embark on an Australian tour, Olympia describes the feeling of completing her debut album as akin to finishing a mountain climb. “You’re absolutely exhausted when you reach the top, but there this immense feeling of elation. Having finished the album, I can now truly identify with the sacrifice any artist goes through when they create something.”
Olympia Northcote Social Club, 301 High St, Northcote 3070. 03 9489 3917. $12. Jun 18, 8.30pm.