Moyana Olivia’s powerful voice, emotional lyrics garner fans on campus


Jack Austin/Daily Senior Staffer

Moyana Olivia practicing an original song on an acoustic guitar.

Jack Austin, Senior Staffer

A young girl, sitting on her father’s lap in church while he sang, would grab his mic and belt out the tunes he practiced at home. From a young age, it was clear she was meant to be a musician.

Tackling issues like homophobia and racism while boasting a deep soulful voice that can hush a room, Bienen sophomore Olivia Pierce, also known by her stage name Moyana Olivia, has amassed a dedicated following among her fellow Northwestern students.

Moyana Olivia hails from the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, Minnesota where she grew up in a musical, creative family.

“I just want to make music that builds community, brings people together and sheds light on experiences that maybe we don’t necessarily talk about in mainstream songs,” she said.

Moyana Olivia said she began writing her own songs in 2017. She received help from the nonprofit Hope Community’s Best Buy Teen Tech Center, which taught her how to produce songs under J.T. Evans. Moyana Olivia co-produces all her songs and focuses on shaping the recording’s sound.

“She’s definitely a singer-songwriter at heart,” Evans said. “But she also has a very powerful voice. We’ve been exploring with different sounds in her music. The sound is always really powerful and emotional.”

While Moyana Olivia has only released singles so far, she said she has many full-length projects in the works. “Black Joy” is an upcoming collaboration between Moyana Olivia and other Black artists on campus, she said. Moyana Olivia said she wants to empower other young musicians through teaching.

One of Moyana Olivia’s voice instructors, Bienen Prof. Patrice Michaels, said the pair is exploring different ways to use the artist’s voice, who was not formally trained before coming to campus.

“(Her voice is) really flexible. Really interesting. It’s a projection of her big and energetic personality,” Michaels said. “Her desire to express point of view and her ability to use all kinds of tools, her voice, her compositions, her ability to arrange and record — that’s really unique.”

The artist said Black identity is central to her music. She said building on the legacy of great Black musicians is a great responsibility, but it’s something she’s proud of.

Moyana Olivia said family has been instrumental to her success. She said she reviews contracts with her mother and has collaborated on covers with her younger sister. Her father, who recorded CDs for Moyana Olivia and her sisters, was a major reason she got into music.

In a field that can seem elitist, Moyana Olivia said she encourages young people from various backgrounds to get involved in making their own music. She said people don’t need to take lessons or know theory to make their own music.

“Anybody can really make music,” she said. “GarageBand is free. You can record yourself in a voice memo, and then you have a song.”

Weary of how musicians have been treated by record labels, Moyana Olivia operates as an independent artist. To make production easier and become more self-sufficient, Moyana Olivia began learning multiple instruments, a decision inspired by watching H.E.R. play drums and sing simultaneously, she said.

Moyana Olivia’s father, James Pierce, said his daughter quickly taught herself to play the guitar. Pierce said he was proud of her tenacity and readiness to try new sounds.

“Everything that she has written always has a lot of meaning to it,” Pierce said. “We’ve talked to our girls about finding how they can leverage their talents to make a difference.”

Unlike many artists who create a public image that belies a different persona, Evans said he is impressed with Moyana Olivia’s authenticity. He described her as genuine, kind and humble.

“She’s getting better and better every time, vocally, songwriting wise. So the sky is really the limit,” Evans said. “She’s likable, she’s going to treat her fans well. She’s going to make people feel appreciated.”

To see more of Moyana Olivia, watch The Daily’s video here.

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Twitter: @JackAustinNews 

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