Olive Klug is taking up space and confronting existential angst

December 22, 2023

Interview by Alyssa Goldberg

Photo by Alyssa Goldberg

“I’m gonna plant both feet on the ground / I’m taking up space / I’m taking it in / I’m letting it go,” Olive Klug sings on the emboldened closing track of their debut album Don’t You Dare Make Me Jaded. The album explores what the 25-year-old singer-songwriter describes as the “second coming-of-age” that occurs in your mid-20s. On the ironically cheerful song “Coming of Age,” they encapsulate the feelings of post-grad life, singing: “I'm a toddler running through the bank / They told me I'd grow out of all this adolescent angst / Why do I still relate to Lady Bird? / And Taylor Swift makes me feel heard / It's like my pen is stuck to the page / And I can't finish my damn coming of age.”

Sounds of Saving caught up with Klug before their show at Brighton Music Hall in Boston in October to discuss keeping roots in your community while on the road, touring with ADHD, shaking off existential angst, and their songwriting process.

SOUNDS OF SAVING: What's your first memory of knowing that you wanted to make music?

KLUG: I feel like this is actually really relevant to this magazine. I have this really silly memory of when I was really little and drawing these fake plaques for me as an older person. I made up this fake name for myself, and one of them was a singer-songwriter, and one of them was a therapist. And so that was like, my vision board or whatever. I either wanted to be a singer-songwriter or therapist and that very much stuck with me throughout my life because I majored in psychology and I'm a singer-songwriter. I think I was like, 10 and I was just writing, you know, little dreams that I could have. And so I think it's cool that I'm doing that now. 

SOS: Do you do anything with your psychology education now, or did you pivot to focus on music?

KLUG: I've definitely just pivoted to focus on music. I think it’s really hard to do both. This is cheesy to say, but like, in a way I do feel like music is utilizing that, and specifically the type of music that I do because I write a lot about mental healt. And then people will tell me that they share my songs in therapy and stuff. So I feel like it shows up in my music, even though I'm not directly doing [psychology] work right now.

SOS: What is your songwriting process like? Does it come from a very lyrically-driven perspective of trying to process emotions, or do you approach it differently altogether? 

KLUG: I would say that most of the time, it comes from a lyrically driven place where I'm trying to approach emotions, but I think recently I've been thinking more about the sonic aspects of songwriting and what kind of genre I want to go for and what kind of melodies I want to play with. That's a new thing that I'm doing. When I started writing it was primarily just about processing emotions and writing lyrics, and I think it’s interesting because a lot of people experience it the other way around where they’ll be a musician first and then a lyricist second, but I feel the opposite. 

SOS: Have you ever explored writing poetry?

KLUG: I have, but I just don’t think it’s my medium. I feel like I like to rhyme, but I think [music] adds to whatever words I’m saying. I wrote poetry a little bit when I was in college, but it just never hit the same. But I’m trying to read more poetry because I think it is pretty inspiring to read poetry and analyze it, but I don't write it.

SOS: Yeah, I agree. I feel like you are still a writer of 'poetic things' as a songwriter, and reading is the best way to get inspired. Plus just having things in life that are necessary to write about. I read that you wrote your new album Don't You Dare Make Me Jaded over the span of a couple years, so it really is an encapsulation of growth. Since you [approach music] lyrically first, was there a specific theme you had in mind for the album?

KLUG: I would say the theme wasn't necessarily intentional. But yeah, the theme was something I noticed when I was deciding which songs would fit together. I think that it's really rare for an artist to be like, “Okay, I'm gonna sit down and write an album about this,” and then actually do it. It was also my first album so there were so many question marks before I released it. Like, I did not know the music industry. I didn't know how an album worked. I didn't know how releasing songs worked. There were so many questions that I had at the beginning of this process, and I feel like this album just presented itself in little pieces, and then I haphazardly put the pieces together. It definitely wasn't something where I was like, “Okay, this is like what this is about, and I'm gonna write the songs about this.”

I would say that generally the theme of the album is the ‘second coming of age’ you go through when you graduate college, or if you don't go to college when you graduate high school, where you're out in the world and you're just like, ‘Well, now I don't have this like paradigm to follow and I don't have all these rules that I have to follow. I don't have to do anything, like, I'm not required to do anything.’ And that's extremely scary, but extremely freeing at the same time. So I think the album just explored all of those elements of being in your early 20s and not knowing what you're doing at all, but also coming into yourself and discovering what you want to be doing and discovering the path that you want to take. I call it “Don't You Dare Make Me Jaded” because I was writing a lot of the songs in my early 20s during the pandemic and I was just feeling––like my entire generation was just really depressed, honestly, we were all just hopeless for the world. There was a lot of stuff going on politically that made me hopeless for the world and continues to make me hopeless for the world. But I wrote that lyric in one of my songs and it stood out to me because I just feel like it’s a brave declaration to the world to say, “Don't you dare make me jaded.” Like, I'm still going to have hope, and I'm still gonna pursue joy and maintain my innocence in spite of all of this stuff that's trying to make me jaded. But it’s very hard. I think I like that album title now that I've released it. And it's been a couple of months. I think about the album title, and I'm like, damn. I feel like I've gotten more jaded since I even came up with the album title. So it's funny, but it's a good reminder at the same time.

I just feel like it’s a brave declaration to the world to say, “Don't you dare make me jaded.” I'm still going to have hope, and I'm still gonna pursue joy and maintain my innocence in spite of all of this stuff that's trying to make me jaded.

SOS: Yeah, I really loved hearing about that naming process. It is such a great name for the album and a reflection of how the songs on it really encapsulate this very tumultuous period of growth that a lot of us were going through during that time. And I was going to ask if when you look back and reflect on the songs that you wrote when you were in your earlier 20s, if they make sense now with the album out, but it almost sounds like things are making less and less sense as life goes on.

KLUG: Yeah, I would say so. But I also think that like, I don't know, for example, there's this one song called “Faking It” that's about not knowing what you're doing and feeling like you have to know what you're doing. And I feel like at the same time, I am more confident, and I know what I'm doing more. Like, I feel like I have just more confidence in general because I've experienced more and I've done a lot of touring. And I've like released my first album and so I'm like, “Okay, well I actually literally do know what I'm doing a little bit more.” But at the same time, nobody ever fully figures it out, and there's just new challenges that continue to come and new things that you don't know what you're doing at. I think that the wisdom also comes in just realizing that there are times in everybody's life, no matter how old you get, and I've heard people tell me this, like, you never feel like you've finished your coming of age and you're never gonna feel like you know what you're doing and you're always gonna feel like a little kid as at times, and I think the wisdom is just like knowing that and accepting that.

SOS: You have the song “Faking It” at the start of the album, and it’s a very nice juxtaposition with your last song “Taking Up Space.” 

KLUG: Yeah, I think that was definitely intentional. 

SOS: Yeah, it is kind of a coming into your own. It's all these things that you're saying about finding more of your confidence and just navigating your way through the world independently. How much time was in between writing those two songs?  

KLUG: That was about two years, I think. Or like a year and a half. I wrote “Faking It” right after I turned 24. It was when I released the song “Raining in June” and it was the first time the music industry was talking to me. And I was like, I have no fucking clue what I'm doing and I went to LA and I was just meeting with all these random people and they were telling me all this stuff. I was like, I have no idea what the fuck is going on and I'm just here and I don't have a job and I'm just like, what's happening? And then I wrote “Taking Up Space” when I already had my album planned out, but I was recording the last few songs. I was in an AirBnB recording my album, like last fall about a year ago, and I just wrote that and was like, “Oh, I have to put this on my album.” 

SOS: Being on tour now, are there any practices that you do to take care of your mental health? You were saying earlier that when you're in school, you know exactly what you have to do every day. You know, you have to wake up, go to class, do your work, go to bed, all these different things. And then when you graduate and you have this second coming of age where you can literally do whatever. But it's almost overwhelming. And on tour, there’s structure, but there's not routine. So how do you balance that with managing your mental health?

KLUG: Yeah, I think it is true that it's the only time in my life where I feel like there's a lot of structure. It's like touring and then like, when I record an album, I would wake up every day and just be in the studio all day and that was also really nice. But yeah, I really lack routine in the in betweens of my life. And I tour so often that I think the hardest thing has been maintaining community while I'm on tour, and I think it's cool because I get to build community with the people I'm touring with and build community with fans, but it's not the same as like your core community that you have at home of your friends and family. I think that that's been the hardest thing for me. I feel pretty isolated from my friends and family when I'm on tour, and it's been really hard to maintain romantic relationships while on tour. It's something that I've had to work out because, yeah, I guess I'll share because this is a mental health [organization]. I have ADHD and one of the things that's hard for people with ADHD is  keeping up with friends who don't live in the same place because we have really bad object permanence, even though it makes us sound like little babies. Like, if somebody's not directly in front of you or lives 20 minutes away from you, it's hard to even remember that they exist in your life, even if they you like care about them a lot. It's just hard to remember to reply to texts and make sure you're keeping up with people even if you care about them a lot. So that's been a big struggle for me and I feel like I've lost a lot of sense of community since I started touring frequently. The last time I was on tour, it was my first big one and I was with Daisy the Great and I was still just learning so much about what touring looks like and it was pretty chaotic. On this tour, I've made such a more intentional effort to like, call friends every night, even if that means not hanging out with people after the show or stepping outside when somebody’s sound-checking. I think that it's often easier when you're touring to not keep up with friends. But it's so important and I've found that it's so nice to be reminded that I have a community at home and that I have a community of people that I love and care about, and to be reminded of their lives and not just be completely disconnected. So that's been like the biggest thing for me, making the effort to call people and keep in touch. It was really hard to come home [on my last tour] and feel like I had totally missed out on everything and feel alienated from my community.  

SOS: Thanks for sharing. That's something that other artists with ADHD have expressed to me. How it's really difficult not having stability and not having your community around. It's totally valid, and it's really great that you’re recognizing that it was a struggle for you on the last tour. It sounds like taking those extra steps have helped you feel connected while you’re on this one. 

KLUG: Definitely. Yeah.

SOS: That's awesome. I'm really happy to hear that. I just wanted to ask something that we ask all our artists. Is there any song that has found you at the right time or that you turn to when you need to feel joy or process an emotion or be reminded of home?

KLUG: Oh, man. I’m kind of one of those people who feels comforted by other sad songs when I'm feeling really sad. There's this song called “Steamboat” by Adrian Linker, and it's really good. It's like I really like it because I listened to it a lot when I was in a really, really difficult time in my life and I would just cry to it. The chorus is like, ‘One day I'm going to be a steamboat / One day … the miles won't faze me” and I'll just be able to get through everything but right now like, that's not the reality. That's not the lyrics but that's basically the concept of the song. And so, it's cool to listen to it now and feel like I am at that point [where] even when I get sad, I believe in my strength and my ability to get through this and not be fazed by the challenges that come my way. And so, that's a song that I definitely listen to when I'm going through a hard time. But I'm trying to think of other ones that I listen to. There's a song called “Eulogy For You and Me” by Tanya Davis that is a really good breakup song but it's like a positive breakup song. It's just recognizing the good things you got from a relationship while also being like, ‘Okay, I'm ready to move on.’ So I think that's a really good healthy breakup song to listen to if anyone's like, looking for a breakup song that's not necessarily angry or wallowing. It can hold both perspectives, [so I] think that's a really good one.