Olivia Dean Releases Debut Album “Messy”
British singer-songwriter Olivia Dean released her debut album “Messy” along with a live video for the title track directed by Sirus Gahan on June 30, 2023.
It is her first body of work since the 2021 EP “Growth”.
Olivia Dean shared on social media, “It’s an album about learning to love again, the fear that comes with it, finding independence within that still and being grateful for where you came from. I am so proud of this thing I’ve made and I hope you can hear how much fun we had making it.”
The album comprises 12-track and houses the soulful, jazz-inflected, old-soul songwriting.
Produced by Aqualung, Aston Rudi, Bastian Langebæk, Daniel Moyler, Felix Joseph, Max Wolfgang, Nathaniel Ledwidge and Tré Jean-Marie.
Olivia Dean told Apple Music about the album title, “I just loved the idea of flipping ‘messy’ from being a negative word into this beautiful thing. I applied that to finishing the album and it was like, ‘We’re going to keep me laughing in there’ or, ‘The piano doesn’t have to exactly be in time on that part.’ I think in an age where everybody is pretending that their life is amazing, it’s really refreshing to be like, ‘My life’s a mess. And your life’s probably a mess too.’ But that’s fine: That’s the spice of life.”
Olivia Dean said of the album, “Going into making the record, I’d just done this ‘Growth’ project. And for ages, I was like, well, my debut album needs to be what I’ve grown into, I need to have the answer. And that really confused me for a while. Then I realised, I’m always going to be growing. So this doesn’t have to be a destination, it’s just where I’m at now.”
She continued, “It’s funny because I think it’s the most fine-tuned I’ve got my sound to be, but also the most carefree I’ve been in actually making music… some of it’s quite vulnerable but it was just made out of pure fun and joy and unbotheredness, and I think I’ve done a good job with calling it ‘Messy’ because if anybody says it’s all over the place I’ll be like, yeah!”
She added, “There’s no rules! I tried to just expel people’s voices from my mind about what I was supposed to make or what would be cool or what would be the most successful thing for me to make and made stuff that I want to listen to.”
Olivia Dean explained track-by-track for the album via Apple Music.
“I thought it was the perfect opener because it’s like, ‘Hello, everyone. You’re about to go on a journey with this shy alien who is trying to find a place to land herself. Come along.’ This was one of the earliest songs we wrote for the record—it started out as a joke, as a lot of our songs tend to. [Producer] Matt [Hales] and I were having a cup of tea, and I said, ‘It’s a bit of a sexy problem.’ He thought it was hilarious. We went back to the studio, and I was talking about Nick Drake and how I liked the guitar style of his songs. The song was written really quickly and I listened to it 20 times that evening, like, ‘This is it.’”
“I love the drama, and my karaoke song is ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor so I knew I wanted to have [an intro like that] on my record. I wrote this on a really sunny day in London and was talking about how I was ready to fall in love again and feeling open to it. We were thinking about Aretha Franklin and Carole King and all the chords that they use to make your heart feel like you’re flying on a cloud. This one took the longest to finish—because I knew it was good, that it could be an important song, that it was special. It might sound carefree but a lot of work went into it. I was working on it for a year.”
“I was in my local pub in the girls’ bathroom and this lady said something like, ‘Girls, never go out with a man 20 years your senior.’ Then he called her and she was like, ‘I don’t want to go home but I’ve got to leave.’ I thought that was a brilliant start to a song because I’ve had that before. When I was a little younger and not as independent as I am now, [I] was in, to put it frankly, more toxic relationships. I would have gone home if my boyfriend was like, ‘Stay in with me,’ so I needed to write a song that was like, ‘Do whatever you want to do.’ The rest of it was inspired by Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up’ and how that party sound goes throughout it.”
“Originally this had loads of instrumentation. It was dense, with crazy drums, and I realized I wasn’t doing justice to what I was singing about, which was quite sad and vulnerable. I wanted it to feel quite [James] Bond-y, but I was also listening to a lot of Mac Miller’s Circles. I don’t want to talk about the subject matter too intensely—I feel people can get the vibe of what it’s about.”
“This one is about seeing somebody you loved doing really well without you and feeling like, ‘How are they making it look so easy? Why are you so fine without me?’ But it’s not an angry song—it’s very amicable. Some of my favorite lyrics on this record are in this song. It’s got this kind of ‘Redbone’-y bassline in the bridge and I love it. The one feels quite old school to me.”
“Getting There (Interlude)”
“This was always just on the end of ‘Dangerously Easy,’ but I thought, ‘She’s got legs. She can be her own song.’ When we were recording the last bits to the album, I said to the band [Dean made the record with her live band], ‘When we get to the end, just go for it.’ It was the first take of what we did.”
“At first I thought, ‘I can’t have two songs on the same album with “danger” in. That’s not allowed.’ And then I was like, ‘Anything’s allowed.’ I had been wanting to write something fun because I’d been writing a lot of sad music. I had this complex of, ‘If something’s fun and simple then it can’t be good.’ Actually, yes, it can. I think of some songs as Tangfastics—they’re just fun sweeties that you love. And other songs are like sad muesli. You’ve got to have it, it’s good for you, but it’s not the most exciting. I definitely wanted to play with lovers rock and bossa nova, because I grew up listening to a lot of that stuff. It’s also just a classic Olivia Dean song: I will fall in love with you, but not quite.”
“The Hardest Part”
“She’s an oldie but she had to be on the album because I think this song has been very defining for me. It was written at a time when I was very sad and was trying to process letting go of a relationship that I thought was it for me—as you do when you’re young and in love. I was so invested, but had this epiphany: ‘You are not a good person for me, and I’ve changed so much, and you are not able to love the person that I’ve changed into.’ Accepting that, that’s the hardest part. I’m so proud of the lyric: ‘I was only 18/You should’ve known that I was always gonna change.’ That concept of people telling you that you’ve changed like it’s a bad thing. It’s like, ‘Yes, I have and that’s fantastic.’”
“I Could Be a Florist”
“I went to the studio and was supposed to be finishing ‘Dive,’ but I was having a little bit of an existential moment—I felt I couldn’t turn off from music. I was fantasizing about how wonderful it would be to be a florist. You could make lovely bouquets for people and bring people joy and look at flowers all day and then put the closed sign on the shop door. It came super quickly—I left the demo how it was. Now, obviously when I listen to it, [I realize] it’s a love song and it’s about wanting to bring flowers to people as a metaphor for love.”
“The last track I wrote for the album. I had this guitar part that I kept playing over and I just kept saying the word ‘messy.’ I thought, ‘What is this song about? What am I trying to say?’ Maybe it was about a relationship being messy, but I had one of those epiphany moments, like, ‘No. It’s a song to myself. I’m writing a song to tell myself I’m allowed to be messy. Your album doesn’t have to be perfect. It has to be you.’”
“I love this song, but it does also terrify me. It really puts me out there. As in, my heart on the line. But you have got to be brave. It’s all well and good for me to have songs like ‘Ladies Room’ where I’m like, ‘I’m an independent lady, you can’t tell me what to do,’ but obviously I go home and cry into my pillow sometimes. Let’s be real. For me, this song is a warm hug, a bowl of tomato soup, but then at the end it’s like you’re on mushrooms and suddenly the world’s opening up.”
“Out of everything I’ve made, this felt like the thing I made most for me. It feels so specific to my life. I knew that I wanted to immortalize my grandmother forever, even when I’m gone and my great-grandkids are gone. That’s what music can do for someone. It was something that was very private at the beginning. It’s a song about her coming to the UK from Guyana as part of the Windrush generation. She got on a plane in 1963 and came over with her baby sister and completely changed her life. Then she had four kids, and they had kids and one of them is me.
I wanted this to feel like a celebration because, at the time and now, there is a lot of negativity around Windrush. I thought, ‘They need a celebration.’ The way that people from that generation loved the Queen—they needed the love back and the lyric ‘Never got a jubilee’ was me giving her that. When I was writing this song, I pictured my granny sitting on a throne, steel pans are playing and everybody’s just having a great time and eating mac and cheese at her diamond jubilee. I cried when we had the steel pan player come in and record because I just think it’s the most beautiful sound in the world—for me, it’s nostalgic for a place I’ve actually never even been to, but to have that on the record was so important. I’m so proud of this song. My granny knows it exists, but she hasn’t heard it yet. I guess I’m just nervous.”
Background photo by Petros
- source : Apple Music