Olivia Chisholm, 21, took up the flute in elementary school under a Charlotte-Mecklenburg program, since canceled, that required fifth graders to learn an instrument. Now she’s one of the five finalists on ABC’s summer show “Duets” (8 p.m. Thursdays, Channel 9) and is being mentored by Robin Thicke. A Charlotte native, Chisholm is a graduate of Hopewell High School and has completed a two-year liberal arts degree at Central Piedmont Community College. She reflects on her experience with Observer TV writer Mark Washburn.
On “Duets,” the contestants are superbly dressed. Are those your clothes or are they provided to you? We get them from the wardrobe department. We try out a lot of stuff and the superstar we’re paired with picks out the outfit from three final choices. They have so much to pick from – my first day, it was like “I can’t breathe because it’s so cool.” But we have to give it all back.
What is it like to be coached by Robin Thicke? He’s a great mentor. He works on everything from the hair to the songs. He’s helped me a lot with my stage presence, taught me to loosen up and be more comfortable on stage, to not be afraid. I’ve always been pretty shy, but he’s taught me to go on stage and not show it. He’s told me to quit worrying so much about messing up. He says to go on stage and have fun, don’t hold back.
Have you always been musical? I always sang as a kid and took up the flute in fifth grade. I went to Northwest School of the Arts for middle school and took up the violin and the piano and guitar came later. I write a lot of songs, usually love songs, not depressing, sad stuff.
What do you think sets you apart as a vocalist? I think I have a unique sound. I think that’s what has kept me on the show – my tone. Kelly Clarkson said I don’t sound like anyone, which I liked. I think I can use that to go far.
Did you always plan to go into show business? Yes and no. When I turned 18, my goal was to get a degree before I’d let myself focus on my music. I wanted a degree as a backup in case the music didn’t work out. I got a degree from CPCC that I can use as a basis for health care or communications. This is the year I took off to work on music. I always thought that someday I’d be on national television. I just didn’t know when.