For Bognor’s Olivia Stevens music is much more than a passion.
“It gave my life meaning,” she told me, as we chatted after her blistering performance at the recent Priory Park Festival, where she and her band were cheered to the treetops.
Critically acclaimed, Olivia’s five piece soul and blues band are undoubtedly making a name for themselves. Offering a unique take on the blues genre by blending traditional blues with Stax era soul grooves and poetically poignant lyrics, it is a fresh and original sound that crosses from jazz to blues to funky Northern soul and torch song balladry.
But singing the blues was a happy accident for Olivia, who having been performing professionally since 2008, cheekily approached acoustic blues troubadour King Rollo in The Fountain pub in Chichester one night in 2012, asking if she could sing with him. Her chutzpah paid off. Mentored by Rollo for two years, at his suggestion she went on to form Ruby & the Revelators.
Continuing to expand on why music is a force for good in her life, Olivia told me: “It’s a whole body and soul workout that has helped me to feel whole and worthwhile.
“Singing is such a joyful life- affirming experience; it’s the best natural medicine in the world! And the funniest thing is that by singing the blues, you can free yourself from ‘the blues.’ Blues is very healing and cathartic in a holistic way and it allows me to be emotionally bold.”
Described by one critic as having ‘one of the most stunning and powerful voices on the blues circuit today,’ Olivia admitted that singing also helps her to deal with anxiety. Quietly, she said: “A nervous breakdown left me petrified of being in the spotlight. I overcame my fears mainly through trusting in the process of rehearsing and working with a very understanding musician who basically believed in me even when I didn’t.
“Singing has the power to transform. Before one gig that I was really depressed at the breakdown of a relationship, but I was able to pour all these feelings into my performance and by the end of it I felt freed of the emotions that were overwhelming me. That’s powerful, magical stuff.”
And with their new album Walk With Me currently sitting at Number 2 in the prestigious IBBA (Independent Blues Broadcasters Association) chart, along with the diary filling up with gigs all over the UK, Olivia and the band are witnessing that magic in action.
“I still get nervous before I go on stage but once I’m there, I treasure every moment,” she said, a mile-wide smile lighting up her face.
The Revelators are: Louise Maggs on guitar, John Whale on bass, Frazer Wigg on keys and Piotr on drums.
Olivia will be performing an acoustic set at Blakefest (16 & 17 September). Find out more at www.thebigblakeproject.org.uk/blakefest
For more information about Ruby and the Revelators: www.rubyandtherevelators.co.uk T: 07775978925 Twitter: @rubytigersings.
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