There’s an open mic in the back room at Tootsies Orchard Lounge on Broadway every Saturday afternoon where aspiring singers sign up to play with the house band, lead by one of Nashville’s well-known bass player, Greg Humphry. Recently, Greg introduced one of the singers, “Welcome to the stage, Olia, all the way from Bulgaria.” The good-looking, sexy female singer proceeded to mesmerize the packed house with “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man,” “Two More Bottles of Wine” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” Olia stands out from the herd of aspiring female singers in Music City not only because of her talent as a country vocalist, but also because of the story of her journey from her native country of Bulgaria to Nashville.
Olia was born in the Bulgarian city of Ot Dupnitsa and came from a musical family—her father played guitar and her mother the accordion. Her father‘s occupation as a fisherman took him all over the world, and he always brought home jazz, blues, pop and country albums from other countries. One such album that influenced the young Olia was by a singer named Dolly Parton and was Olia’s first exposure to American country music. In her own words, “As a young child I told my parents, my dream was to go to America and be a successful singer.” In her early 20’s, she signed a record contract with Unison RTM, a major label in Bulgaria, and released an album entitled Yellow Roses, but her dream to come to America was not forgotten.
That dream and her love for music brought Olia to the Windy City of Chicago, where she enrolled to study music at Harold Washington College. Hitting the books during the day, at night she was the lead vocalist for a rock cover band. After 4 years in Chicago, she decided her true passion was country music and relocated to Music City in 2006.
Olia, recollecting her first days in Music City says, “When I first got to Nashville, I was amazed and a little intimidated by all the great singers here. I went to karaoke night at Miss Kelly’s in Printers alley, and the singers performing there were a much higher caliber than those in karaoke bars in Chicago.” From those early days in Nashville, she has proven she can compete with the best, appearing twice on Singer Songwriter Etc., a local TV show hosted by the Mike Jennings, and Karaoke Dokey, a CMT show broadcast nationwide. The Cadillac Ranch on Lower Broadway was the first club to invite Olia to perform her own show with her band in Nashville. During any week, you can find Olia singing as a guest artist with various bands in the Honky Tonk bars on Lower Broadway, and also on open mics and talent competitions around town.
Like many aspiring singers, her long term goal is to get a major recording contract, but her short term goals define her practical side, “I need to find myself a booking agent who can land me some good singing gigs. Of course it would be nice to be rich and a famous, but I’d be happy just singing and making a living doing what I love.”
Her other short term goals are also grounded. “I could wait forever for that recording contract, but I’m not going to sit around twiddling my thumbs. On CDbaby, I’ve released a country album of original songs written by some of Nashville best songwriters and am self-promoting the CD through the internet on social networking sites, internet radio stations and YouTube.”
In closing, check out the Bulgarian queen and her music yourself. You won’t be disappointed. She’s committed to her music, for not many singers know over 100 cover songs, and to America, having recently become a naturalized US citizen. By the way, you’ll be surprised that she loses her Bulgarian accent when she sings, but it‘s thicker than molasses when she speaks.
By: Dan Wunsch