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Olivia Little makes her big country splash

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  • | 5:00 a.m. December 15, 2010
"I don't sit down and say, 'I'm going to write a song now,'" Olivia Little says. "I have a poem book I carry with me all the time, and I'll be walking to class and a lyric will hit me."
"I don't sit down and say, 'I'm going to write a song now,'" Olivia Little says. "I have a poem book I carry with me all the time, and I'll be walking to class and a lyric will hit me."
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Olivia Little had a big year; some might say a dream year.

The timeline went something like this: Discovered by a Los Angeles talent scout in January; whisked off to New York City to meet with a music manager in March; headlined her first solo concert in May, at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre; wrote and recorded a new song with country singer Jamie O’Neal in June; and started eighth grade in August, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School.

That’s one way to roll into adolescence.

“I kind of walked in blind,” Little says of the four days she spent in Nashville with O’Neal and a team of writers and producers. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. Just being in the room with these people
who’ve done this a hundred times … I just kind of followed their lead.”

That’s not to say that Little took her impressionable vocal chords to Nashville and played the part of a pop/country puppet.

Her first single, “What Might Have Been,” about a girl who falls in love with her best guy friend and doesn’t realize it until after she sees him with another girl — is based on an experience tugged from the singer’s own life.

The narrative sounds like something pulled from the pages of country-music sweetheart Taylor Swift’s diary. And like Swift, who was just 16 when her debut single, “Tim McGraw,” went multi-platinum, Little lays on the coy when asked to reveal her childhood crush.

“The person it’s about probably won’t even realize it,” Little says. “It was like last year. He won’t remember it. It’s not really relevant.”

The Swift comparison seems like an obvious one, until Little really starts talking about music.

She loves Led Zeppelin and Christina Aguilera. Her mentors in Sarasota are cabaret/opera diva Jeanette LaVoy, under whom she’s studied for six years, and gritty soul singer Twinkle Schascle, with whom she recently began training in an effort to strengthen her “belt.”

When she was 3 years old, she handed her parents a video camera and asked them to record her singing a blues song she composed about being an orphan alone in the woods with only the animals to talk to.

“It was actually kind of ridiculous,” Little says. “I had this really deep voice and I’m singing about my parents being dead.”

She giggles at the thought of her dark toddler self.

People often tell her that she has an old soul — especially her mother, Sarasota jeweler Tina Little, who operates Queen’s Wreath Jewels out of The Met, on St. Armands Circle.

“She seems to have more wisdom than a child her age should have as far as interpersonal relationships go,” says Tina Little, who grew up in Hollywood, Calif., where her mother worked as a dancer and appeared in several of Elvis Presley’s movies. “We’re very proud.”

Little says her focus right now is on getting good grades, building a fan base and promoting “What Might Have Been,” which was released last week on her MySpace page.

Despite her whirlwind year, she says very few kids at school realize what she’s been doing. She’s kept a low profile.

“They wrote an article about me in the school newspaper,” Little says. “But nobody read it. Only a few people know what’s happening to me and I kind of like it that way. It’s not all the big gossip.”

It’s not now, but it will be soon.

To hear Olivia Little’s debut single, “What Might Have Been,” visit

Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected]




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