Years ago Olivia Hamilton was studying journalism and mass communications at a historically black college in the US.
Then one night she and her friends decided to take turns singing at a crowded karaoke bar near to Daytona Beach, Florida — and her life quickly changed.
“I sang ‘At Last’ by Etta James and as soon as I sang the first note the room went silent and when I opened my eyes the people who were sitting outside had come inside to listen,” she said.
“There was this big round of applause when I finished and I realised that was what I really wanted to do with my life. School didn’t fulfil me like singing did and I always felt my most comfortable being on the stage.”
The 23-year-old left the traditional school setting to devote more time to singing. She is currently pursuing her online degree with the University of Phoenix.
The budding singer is gearing up for a special performance this weekend in tribute to music superstar Beyonce at the City of Hamilton’s ‘Summer Sundays’ series.
The event features a variety of contemporary artists and will kick off in Victoria Park on Sunday from 3pm until 8pm; Ms Hamilton will be taking the stage around 5.30pm.
The songstress is set to perform six tunes, including hits like ‘Love on Top’ and ‘End of Time’. She said her team plans to “go all out” for the performance — the artist and her backup dancers are known for doing their routines in four-inch heels, while wearing glitzy costumes and with professional quality hair and make-up.
She said: “I think people can look forward to a great show and I think they are really going to be entertained.
“The whole day is going to be awesome. There is something for everybody and Beyonce’s music is child friendly so kids can bounce to it.
“Our act is also visually appealing, so I think people can really enjoy it.”
The budding singer will also be taking to the stage in a singing contest at Destination Dockyard on Monday. Later this summer she will be performing at the Evolution Fashion Show.
She said her ultimate career goal is to pursue music full time and get paid enough to support herself and her family.
“Even if I am not in the forefront of the music scene, if I was working behind the scenes, to be able to say I have a job that I love and can support my family through my dream would be amazing.”
Ms Hamilton grew up singing at her grandfather’s church Heritage Worship Centre and always heard an eclectic mix of music played around her household.
“My dad would put on old school reggae and hip hop when we cleaned the house on Saturday mornings,” she said.
“My grandmother would listen to country music on the way to school everyday and my mom listens to gospel music and ‘diva’ music, so I heard everything growing up.”
To this day she sings from all types of musical genres, but admitted she is still trying to find her voice as an artist.
As a child she also played the piano for a couple of years and said that experience helped her to identify different singing notes and harmonise better.
“I am also a songwriter. I have written some of my own pieces, but I mostly write and sell it to someone else,” she said.
The first time she heard one of the songs she wrote played on local radio it was a surreal experience for her. She said: “It was the most awesome and validating feeling ever.”
Still, her first love has always been performing and the adrenalin rush she gets from being in front of a good crowd.
“I always get nervous before a performance, but the second I am on stage I am confident and feel completely uninhibited and most like myself.”
Her advice to other young people is to stick with whatever path they choose and don’t let anyone tell them their dream is too big.
“A lot of people told me I wouldn’t be able to do this, but I am and this is my full time job,” she said. “If you stick with it and stay true to yourself you’ll be fine.
“You don’t want to start at the bottom and change yourself to please people and then when you get to the top you are unhappy.
“Stick to the wicket and the runs will come,” she added.