Name: Olivia Pasqueralli aka Baby O
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Nationality: Canadian
Recent release: Baby O's new single “N.G.B.” is out now.
Recommendations: Book: Notes by Tracy Wan; Music (album): Childqueen by Kadhja Bonet

If you enjoyed this interview with Baby O and would like to find out more, visit her Facebook profile.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I was drawn to start writing music when I was an engineering student in university because I needed a creative outlet between all the science and math I was doing.

I already knew how to play guitar and grew up listening to funk, soul, R&B and disco. I think those early experiences of listening to music with my parents left an indelible mark on my soul. When I think back on my childhood, I remember car rides blasting The Fugees and dancing to The Commodores in the kitchen. I can still feel the euphoria of those moments.

"Brick House" was probably my favourite song as a kid. Thanks Dad!

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

When I listen to music, I feel different energies in my body and this is something I aim to create through my own work.

Since I’m first and foremost a songwriter, I will usually start out with a feeling / emotion I want to conjure. Is it self-confidence, peacefulness, devotion, bliss, nostalgia, melancholy, agitation, self-righteousness, etc.? Then I try to embody that emotional state and reflect on what it feels like mentally and physically.

For example, what are the words and thoughts that pop up while experiencing devotion? How does devotion make me want to move my body? Once I sit with this, I am able to come up with lyrics and arrangements that will help me create the overall energy I am aiming for.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

When I started writing as Baby O, I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted to say or sound like. I didn’t know how to record or arrange music. I simply had my voice, my guitar and a desire to learn. Over the years I have surrounded myself with other professional musicians and composers and through those connections, I’ve gained a lot of technical skills that have helped elevate my creative vision.

Searching for my voice was a much harder and elusive journey. It’s one I’m still on. But as I step into my queerness, I notice my voice becomes stronger and more assured.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

I understand that my life experiences and queer identity shape the art I create and the art that I am drawn to, which in turn, also influences what I make.

I think an important part of my evolution as an artist will be to further tap into my personal experiences and identity in order to explore the full extent of my creativity.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

Currently, I’m trying to approach creating from a more vulnerable and unguarded place. I feel like I’ve been holding back. If there is anywhere I can be free, it would be within my own art, so I want to stop restraining myself and make something deeply true.

That and follow Rick Rubin’s Instagram account.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

If you asked me this when I was starting out, I would have said originality and innovation was my goal. But I found that trying to achieve those ideals put a stifling pressure on me to the point where I wasn’t creating anything at all.

Now I care more about continuing the tradition and honing my craft as a songwriter. How can I take tried and true techniques, master them and add my own style and flair reflective of the time I’m creating in?

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

My voice has been both my most important instrument and tool because it lays down the basis of nearly all my songs and it also allows me to ask for help and connect with the resources around me.

I’d tell my younger self to use your voice to sing and to ask for what you need to learn and grow.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

I don’t write music everyday but I do constantly think about what goals I hope to achieve as my career progresses. I guess you can say that I manifest daily.

When I am writing, I will lock myself in my home studio for as long as it takes. I listen to songs that inspire me, while experimenting with arrangements, melodies and lyrics.

I drink coffee to keep me going, but not too much to make me anxious (I accidentally cross that very fine line all the time).

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

For my latest single, "N.G.B.", I feel like I really levelled up my songwriting skills.

I had been listening to a lot of music that felt really empowering in my body at the time. First, I wrote the pre-chorus on my acoustic guitar while sitting around the house. Once I had that idea, I moved to my studio and started breaking down how the music I had been listening to was structurally laid out. I used that as the framework for my song. Then I decided on what instruments I wanted to hear in the arrangement.

I relied on feedback from my producer Matthew Chalmers and my collaborator John Kennelly. They helped me add more layers and ear candy.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

I prefer listening to and creating music alone, at first. I want to have a chance to process my own thoughts without influence -- give my own tastes a chance before getting opinions or collaborating.

If I let other people into the process too early, I find that the direction established might not be exactly what I was aiming for, especially if I didn’t take the time to develop the details of my own vision.

It depends on what I’m working on. Sometimes I need more input, sometimes less.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

I’m not really sure how my creativity relates to the world, other than reflecting back my own personal experience of life.

I’m just living here and letting what happens in my world inspire the music I make.

I think music plays many different roles in society from building community to helping us express and heal ourselves.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

When artists write openly about their experiences with love, loss, death, heartbreak, those perspectives can help me see things in new ways or leave me feeling less alone.

I often turn to music to deal with the pain of loss and I’ve learned that listening to music during these times makes me feel connected, which is the opposite of the isolation often created by loss.

I’m not sure that listening to music helps me understand these big concepts any better, but it allows me to process challenging feelings in a safe, comforting and productive way.

How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?  

Without science and technology, I wouldn’t be able to record and share the music I make.

I think the fields of science and music exist in a symbiotic relationship. But art is always pushing the boundaries of what is possible and without science, we wouldn’t be able to achieve these new and groundbreaking creative visions.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

I don’t think it’s my place to say.

Perhaps folks who know how to make amazing coffee feel the same way I feel when I’m performing music. It’s all about the energy exchange for me, which is what I get from playing music.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

I guess it could be because sound is energy and the law of the conservation of energy says that energy cannot be destroyed, just transformed into something else. So maybe it’s inevitable.

When the vibrations enter our bodies and are turned into messages by our brains, we are bound to be moved in some deep internalized way.