Olivia Browse live at the Moustache Bar, Stoke Newington 20.2.22

We all had tunes that helped to get us through lockdown, I imagine. One of the big ones for me was Olivia Browse’s ‘Red Stripe’ a funny, catchy song about budding relationships that I was still enjoying as much at the end of the year as I was when it debuted back in May 2021 – when I discovered it after Olivia herself posted it in the LOUD WOMEN Facebook group. Immediately a fan, I set off in search of other songs by Olivia, and I found several – which both pleased me and annoyed me that I had not caught up with her highly individual talent before. She’s been on my ‘must see’ list ever since then, and has now moved to my ‘must see again and soon’ list after her spellbinding acoustic show at a tiny basement venue in North London on Sunday.

Although a Southerner by birth, Olivia is Manchester-based and most of her gigs to date don’t seem to have taken her far away from the M62. Her short, sweet and oh-so-sharp showcase at Stoke Newington’s miniscule Moustache Bar was in fact her London debut, and it was nice to see that a gratifying number of people had made the effort to show up despite the foulest weather imaginable.

Anyone who didn’t love her already would have fallen head over heels before the end of the first ‘She’s Nineteen And She Likes Me’ chorus of Olivia’s opening number, the aforementioned ’Red Stripe’. Not so much songs as personal vignettes, they have a way of making you feel as though you know the people she’s writing about, however fictitious they may or may not be. This may be due to her between-song introductions, delivered in a friendly and direct manner that makes you feel as though you’ve known her all your life, even when you’ve never met her. She dedicated songs to her brother including ‘Rose, “which I don’t normally sing because I don’t like it but he does”, her partner and her mates to make the whole show feel nicely intimate.

When she sings, Olivia sounds just a little like Harriet Wheeler of the Sundays and a little more like Sophie Ellis-Bextor when she was frontwoman of theaudience too – adding a pleasing 90s-ish vibe to proceedings. But mostly like herself, as she brings her well-crafted words to life, holding the listener’s attention like the Ancient Mariner holding the Wedding Guest with his glittering eye. Only there was more of a twinkle in Ms. Browse’s eye, as she engaged with the appreciative audience while winning hearts all over the Moustache Bar. She half apologized for not having too many happy songs, but the upbeat manner in which she put her set list over nullified any slightly negative vibes in the lyrics of one or two of her eight songs.

Although this was her first London gig, I suspect the main purpose of Olivia’s show was to promote a new double-A-sided single that is out today. ‘Nevermind Valentine’ and ‘Cliché’ are both lovely songs with pithy, honest, frequently pointed lyrics and pretty tunes, and both will do much to advance the career of this delightful woman. Here’s what she has to say about the release:

“I wrote ‘Nevermind Valentine’ after my first year at university. It was just about self sabotaging relationships and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, until I wrote ‘Cliché’ in April 2021. ‘Cliché’ is the first song I’ve written out of happiness, and it’s about my partner and producer Marcus (aka shtum) who I’ve been with for nearly four years now. Love songs have always made me cringe so I had to write something that still had the essence of Olivia, so there are some self deprecating lyrics in there. I just knew after writing ‘Cliché’ that ‘Nevermind Valentine’ would match perfectly with it”

Olivia Browse

Olivia ended her far too short time in our company with her most recent single, the up-tempo, ultra-poppy ‘Calendar Girl’ for which she confidently elicited some audience participation on the chorus. I suspect it will not be the last time that a crowd of people will sing along with her words and music.

Do I think you should grab any available opportunity to see her live?  Very definitely unquestionably.

You can follow Olivia on Facebook and Instagram for news of upcoming gigs and new tunes. Her music is available on Bandcamp and even more of it on Spotify, where you will find ‘Nevermind Valentine’ and ‘Cliché’.