Songwriter stages homecoming show

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Danielle Oliver never stood a chance: Music is in her blood.

Her grandfather on her mother’s side was a professional musician in Austria. Her grandmother on her father’s side was “also musically inclined.” Her mother sang and filled the house with operettas and classical music as Oliver was growing up.

“A lot of my ... first memories were singing and dancing and stuff in German,” Oliver said. “I remember singing ever since I was teeny tiny with my mom.”

Oliver was born and raised in Whitefish but has spent much of her time over the last several years in Los Angeles pursuing a career in music. She will play a homecoming album release show Saturday at the Craggy Range in downtown Whitefish.

Her music is “definitely pop” but features a wide variety of instruments, including the organ and glockenspiel, Oliver said. Saturday’s concert will feature songs from her debut EP,  “Sun for Snow,” which she recorded last year in Whitefish with producer Brett Allen of SnowGhost Music. The album was released in February.

“It will be my first time sharing this record with friends and family in the local area,” Oliver said during a recent phone interview. “This is particularly exciting for me. It’ll be the first time they’ve seen me live.”

Oliver, who has played in front of several hundred people at Los Angeles venues, confessed to being a little nervous about playing for friends and family.

“You know they love you, but it can be really nerve-wracking,” she said with a laugh. “They’re actually listening. They’re really quiet. You know they’re listening to all the lyrics and wondering what they’re about.”

Oliver grew up in the shadow of Big Mountain, where both her parents worked as ski instructors. When she wasn’t singing, Oliver was on the slopes.

“I’ve basically skied since I could stand up,” she said.

She started taking piano lessons at age 6 and wrote her first song when she was 11. The piano became her solace and an outlet by the time Oliver reached her early teens, and music was her primary passion during her time at Flathead Valley Christian School (now Stillwater Christian).

Oliver transferred to Flathead High School for her senior year, where she participated in choir and the school’s elite singing group, the Choral-Aires. The experience, she said, helped solidify her desire to pursue a music career. When she started school at Pepperdine University, Oliver declared herself a music major.

While she enjoyed performing, Oliver soon realized majoring in vocal performance didn’t leave much time for her other passion: songwriting. So Oliver changed her major to creative writing.

“I continued to study music and train vocally, but that gave me opportunity to write contemporary music,” she said.

Oliver’s love for writing is at least as old as her passion for music.

“I had notebooks I would just write in, write stories, as early as I remember reading,” she said. “I really like to just create new ideas and build off what I know and what I read.”

Life-changing events, including her father’s death in 2003, inspired more writing. Oliver wrote music throughout college; some of the songs on her album dates from that time.

“Some of the ideas and the themes are from kind of growing-up type of situations,” she said. “It was interesting getting an EP that is still cohesive but spanning a longer amount of time, especially during a time when you’re growing up. Things look differently [than they did when you were younger]. Your outlook changes.”

Flathead residents can hear those growing-up songs and other selections Saturday when Oliver plays at the Craggy Range with Trego-based Pterodactyl Plains and other guest musicians. The show will launch Oliver’s first-ever tour, which will take her across Montana and the Pacific Northwest over the next several weeks.

“It’s been hectic getting everything together [for the tour],” she said. “Since I’m completely independent, I’m doing a lot of the work myself, but I’m really excited.”

Saturday’s show begins at 9:30 p.m. There is no cover charge.

For additional information or to preview songs from Oliver’s album, visit danielleoliver.com.

Reporter Kristi Albertson may be reached at 758-4438 or at kalbertson@dailyinterlake.com.

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