Singing for friends
It'll be like singing for old friends when Olivia Harms puts on a country music concert for the folks at Powell Butte Cowboy Church on Saturday evening.
Olivia Harms, who some call an up-and-coming country musician, moved to Prineville in September and will put on a free concert for her friends.
"She was raised on their family homestead in Canby," said Powell Butte Cowboy Church member Amber Turnage, who helps coordinate the music for the church. "She's a true country girl. She's not just a girl singing country music."
Olivia, the 22-year-old daughter of country music singer-songwriter Joni Harms and Jeff Wichman, will put on a free 45-minute concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 24 in the historic chapel at Powell Butte Christian Church. The public is welcome to attend.
"I'll be doing some of my favorite hymns, some of my favorite songs that I've written, and just a good variety of songs that I think can relate to people in or out of a church setting, that can remind them of why we keep Christ in our life," Harms said of the Saturday concert. "It'll be well-rounded. I'm not going to title it a gospel show or anything like that, but definitely include the Cowboy Church flavor in it with my own little spin on it."
She'll sing "Canby," a song she wrote about what it was like for her to grow up in rural Canby.
"I grew up on a Century Farm. It was homesteaded in 1872. I am the seventh generation on the place, so it's been really special to grow up with something like that. It just sums up my experience of childhood," Olivia says of her song.
This won't be the first time the young Harms has performed for the Cowboy Church congregation. She performed there once with her mother and another time by herself.
"It's country gospel, but it's younger. It's young and fresh. She's just such a delightful young lady. She's really, really a sweet girl," Turnage said of Olivia. "And she's beautiful. She's really a pretty girl, inside and out."
Joni Harms also grew up in Canby, near Oregon City, on the family farm with a very musical family.
"Her dad was very musical, and her mom was very poetic, so together, that's where she got her talent for her writing melodies and writing lyrics to go along with it," Olivia says of her mother.
Joni began putting on a few shows in her early teens, launching a life-long country music career that included a couple of singles on the Top 20 Countdown in the 1980s. Her hits include "I Need a Wife," "The Only Thing Bluer Than His Eyes," and "Let's Put the Western Back in the Country."
Olivia says her mother has been on several record labels but more recently has developed her own sound.
"She's more of a traditional country artist — kind of like a female George Strait, if you will," Olivia says of her mother, adding that she's been able to follow in her footsteps. "She shows me a great example of if you know the kind of music that you want to sing and you want to be, then don't go for the cookie-cutter version of it. Stand firm and do what it is that you feel in your heart, rather than just mainstream so you can be on the radio."
Olivia has been singing for as long as she can remember.
"I was on stage with her at three days old, so I started very young," Olivia says.
For many years, Joni took her two young children with her when she was on the road.
Olivia started to branch out on her own in high school when she was involved in Canby FFA and the talent program. Her FFA advisor encouraged her to enter for talent at the state and national levels, and she began traveling.
"I did quite a few things through FFA, which was a really good way to get me started aside from my mom and her career," Olivia says. "I started having the bug to learn guitar and write songs on my own, and I have my mom to get pointers from."
In 2011, as a 16-year-old high school junior, Olivia went to Nashville, Tennessee, and worked with one of Joni's producer friends to produce her first album.
"It was a fun little project. It gave me a good taste of what the music industry would be like. I got to record some of the songs that I had written and a couple that I'd co-written with my mom, and it was a good starting point for me," she says.
Since then, she's been writing new songs and melodies and saving them to eventually take back to Nashville for an album.
Last June, Olivia earned a degree from Oregon State University and is chasing her music career more than ever.
"I make trips back and forth to Nashville, songwriting and having appointments with musicians and producers to see if there's anything that we can make happen in the future," Olivia says.
After graduation, one of her good friends from college was moving to Prineville to take a "grown-up" job at a title company, and Olivia decided that she didn't really want to live in the Valley anymore.
"I was tired of some of the people and definitely the weather, so it was a good opportunity for me to come over east a little bit more, and I had a lot of job opportunities over here, so it just worked wonderful," she says.
When she's not traveling or performing, Olivia works part-time at Desperado, an eclectic Western boutique in the Old Mill District in Bend.
But performing is her first love — she's never worried or nervous.
"I can always look out there and when I see a friendly face, I feel at home. It's always wonderful when I can experience that, and that's what I really truly love about it," Olivia says.
And she's happy to be back at the Cowboy Church on Saturday night in Powell Butte.
"They're such a wonderful group of people. They're kind and welcoming, and I really feel at home when I'm there," she said of the Cowboy Church members. "I feel like I am performing for a bunch of my friends."
Date: Potluck at 6 p.m., concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 24
Location: Powell Butte Cowboy Church, historic chapel, 13720 Highway 126, Powell Butte