Olivia Penalva’s life has felt like a ride on a ferris wheel as of late.
At only 15, the Vernon singer-songwriter has been spinning heads and gaining new fans with her mature, silky voice and bubbly demeanor.
She is also getting used to hopping on a plane bound for Los Angeles, where she has been working with Vernon-raised hitmaker Andrew Allen and L.A.-based songwriter Robin Ghosh on songs for an upcoming album.
One of those tunes, Ferris Wheel, has been building momentum and has been on steady rotation on the airwaves as far as Australia.
“I wanted a fun summer single as we were recording more material for the EP. When we wrote this song, I thought ‘this is the one,’” said Penalva, calling from Alberta, where her sister was participating in a horse riding event.
Penalva travelled to L.A. this past February to record the song with producer Brian West of The Philosopher Kings, who has also worked with Bono, Nelly Furtado and Maroon 5.
“I sat in (the recording sessions) all week so I could watch and experience it all. Then it came time to do my vocals. I thought they were going to do a rough demo, but they actually used what we recorded there and then. We recorded the lead vocals on the first day and the harmonies the next day and then it was released to radio.”
Released digitally, Penalva had a feeling Ferris Wheel was doing well once her Instagram followers almost tripled overnight. Many of those followers came from the land Down Under.
“Someone over in Australia heard the song and wrote a blog about it, and then it started getting played non-stop. I was even interviewed (by a radio station) over there, but because of the time difference, I missed hearing it,” said Penalva, who has also been receiving feedback from France, where her dad is originally from.
“Someone put my music on a website in my dad’s hometown. It’s cool as members of my family living over there can hear my songs.”
A world tour may soon be in order for Penalva, who only a few years ago was a tween singing at the local Our Kids Have Talent competition. She has since seen her star rise with the release of her successful 2013 holiday single, Christmas for Two, co-written with Allen and Ghosh, which hit the top 30 charts in Canada.
Another single, Fight for You, made it to the top three in an international songwriting competition and was entered into the CBC Searchlight Competition, where it was picked by Toronto-based journalist Chris Dart as one of 112 songs on his Mega Playlist of Amazing Discoveries.
Last year, Penalva earned the right to perform the song, along with an earlier version of Ferris Wheel, at the 2014 Ottawa Bluesfest She’s the One competition.
And in October, on one of her trips to L.A., Penalva provided vocals and co-wrote a song with Allen and songwriter Josh Cumbee.
Entitled Forgettable, the pop ballad was just released on Toronto DJ-producer team Project 46’s new album, Beautiful.
“It’s about how no one is forgettable – no one is going to forget you. I wrote it for some of the people in my life. It’s meaningful and quite moving,” said Penalva. “It has been put to this bass and drum beat and I sing the chorus. It’s all started happening so it’s pretty exciting.”
Now with summer break in full swing, Penalva, who is about to enter Grade 10 at Aberdeen Hall Preparatory School in Kelowna, is busy writing new songs and hopes to soon have the follow-up release to her debut full-length album, Rainfall, in the near future.
“I need to have more material that flows together – the songs have to have that vibe,” she said. “Andrew (Allen) has introduced me to a lot of songwriters. I love collaborating with people. When I go to write on my own it becomes harder – it’s all on you.”
With a few concerts lined up, including her regular gig at Intermezzo Restaurant in Vernon as well as in Kelowna and Lake Country, Penalva is also looking for local fans to vote for her in Star Central Magazine’s online competition for the Female YouTube Artist of the Month for July. At press time, Penalva was in second place and is the only Canadian artist up for contention.
“You can only vote once a day from the same URL address, so my parents have been driving around trying to vote at different locations,” laughed Penalva.
Voting continues to July 31.
For more information, visit www.oliviamusiclive.com.