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Conversations with Olivia Sham

Today we’d like to introduce you to Olivia Sham.

Hi Olivia, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I grew up in Cedar City, UT surrounded by the performing arts community brought there by the university, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and various other theatre companies/arts organizations. I come from a family of performers so naturally, I fell in love with the arts just the same and began performing professionally at the age of 13! After seeing me perform in a few school talent shows, my 7th-grade guitar teacher, Ryan Durfee, asked me if I’d like to be the lead vocalist for a jazz band he had formed with other local musicians Heather Wilhelm & Mason Cottam. I said yes and sang with them for six years, playing all over Southern Utah. During this time I began a professional acting career at SimonFest Theatre Company and earned my BFA in Theatre Arts from Southern Utah University, performing in thirteen productions and participating in countless creative projects. Another experience that really ignited my passion for singing/performing was playing in a band formerly known as the Red Rockers with incredible talents Michael D’Orazio, Faith Read, Conner Cushman, & Addison Love. This band quickly became the passion project of myself, Michael, Faith, & Conner and we continued to play as Yonic Geode after SUU let go of the project. I became fast collaborators with Michael D’Orazio, stage name The New Why, and we began to work together on my debut EP, Pieces which will be released on July 1st! My debut single, “Beg” was released in September of 2021 and my latest single, “Hymn” was released on June 3rd. The music video for Beg is also out now on my artist channel, Liv Rylan, and features the wonderful work of another longtime friend, collaborator, and fellow SUU alum William Cowser (as well as a handful of my favorite friends and artists from my time at SUU). I graduated from Southern Utah University with my BFA emphasis in Musical Theatre and minor in Film & Screen Studies in the Spring of 2021 and went on to perform in four subsequent theatre contracts at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Hunterdon Hills Playhouse, & Buffalo Theatre Company. At present, I’m hard at work on new music, fresh music videos for my upcoming releases, and any and all creative projects that make my heart sing.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I, like many of my peers in the performing arts, was drawn to theatre, music, and other artistic endeavors because it was a safe space where I always knew I belonged and felt like I had value. I was bullied from kindergarten all the way through college if we’re being honest and the lasting effects of harmful personal relationships have not been the easiest to move through and handle with grace. I’m very thankful for all of the wonderful people who are in my life now that have shown me love, kindness, and an abundance of support. In addition, I’m thankful for therapy and other mental health practices that have kept me afloat and that have helped me to really step into my power in this time of life. In the last semester of my senior year of college, I came to the realization that I had been struggling with PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder) my entire life. Due to various birth control methods suppressing my symptoms and constant hormone fluctuations, I didn’t notice how severely PMDD impacted me until that specific moment in time and every mood swing and depressive episode I had experienced throughout the years suddenly fell into place and made sense. I’m so grateful for the tools and resources I’ve been able to access to guide me through and because of this struggle, I am 1000x more passionate about mental health awareness and the importance of taking care of oneself, especially in high-stress and demanding careers. One of my goals for the future is to raise more awareness about PMDD and particularly how it affects those in the performing arts!

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
When asked what I do, my answer is most often: everything. Which is true, to an extent. I have always been curious and passionate about a myriad of artistic fields and I love to learn new skills. At the moment, my focuses are on my music career, acting (both theatre and film), and modeling, which I’ve come to really love in the last year or so. I’d say my greatest strengths are in my singing voice, songwriting capabilities, and acting abilities and those are what I’m most known for when people hear my name. I often feel proud of my work on stage, in music, and on set but at the moment, I’m most proud of my work in Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis my senior year at SUU and of my latest single, “Hymn” Moments during creation when you are completely locked in and everything else disappears is where magic happens and I’m very grateful to have had a few of those moments to look back on with pride. What sets me apart from others I believe is my dedication, work ethic, and unwillingness to settle or lead a life I’m not fulfilled by. Now, this is much easier said than done and I’ve had my fair share of setbacks and reality checks but I will always be in constant pursuit of an artistic, enriching life and I will stop at nothing to accomplish my goals and see my dreams become a reality.

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Keep engaging in activities that bring you joy and help you to remember the beauty of life. Take deep breaths, ground yourself in love and intention. There are very few things a hot bath, shower, and a cold plunge cannot ease. Find gratitude in everything and watch your days become lighter.

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Image Credits
Asher Swan
Alan Holben
Bill Wilhelm
Ryan Munsey

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