HOUSTON IS A HOT SPOT FOR TALENT: Beyoncé, Travis Scott, Megan Thee Stallion, Slim Thug—the list is as big as Texas, and quadruple threat Laryssa Olivares is adding her name to the list. The Houston-born singer, songwriter, model, and actress, who goes by the stage name LaRyss, has almost 1 million views on YouTube with a follower base of over 30,000 across Instagram and Twitter.
“Not sure how anyone in Russia or the UK or India has gotten ahold of my music but I ain't mad at it one bit,” she says.
She jokes she came out of the womb singing, and hasn’t “shut up since.” Growing up, Olivares sang in church and did theater, musical theater, and choir throughout school. Her music, which you can stream pretty much anywhere, including Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music, can be described as acoustic pop meets R&B.
Olivares also has a background in fashion merchandising, and inspiration from art and fashion shapes her songwriting and music videos, which you can tell in her ’50s fashion-inspired December music video for single “Rich In Love.”
Considering she expresses herself through creative work, Olivares says she hopes others can do the same while also connecting with her own art. “When someone puts on my song, and they hear themselves and their own story and emotions in my lyrics, and feel that connection and relatability, I just pray that it's an experience that heals,” she says.
We chatted with the up-and-coming star about what inspires her and how Houston has guided her music.
How did growing up in Houston guide your music?
Let me preface this by saying that I love Houston so, so much. It will always be my home, and I love all of the culture we have here, music included. But Houston’s music scene is predominantly rap so I did feel the need to move to LA to be more understood creatively and find more people to work with that were on the same page with me creatively.
That being said, though, Houston has guided my music in the way of being the place I grew up, the location a lot of my story unfolded in, the city I found love in, the city I've made mistakes in, the city [where] my family's roots run deep in, and a place I’ve learned what I do and do not want for myself in. Houston has guided my music solely by being a part of me, woven into the intricacies of my life. That is undeniable.
Which artists did you grow up listening to?
So many. Though no one in my family has a musical bone in their body, they somehow found a way to expose me to a plethora of genres. I can remember listening to Mary Mary, a soulful gospel group. A lot of gospel, praise, and worship music: My parents would put it on for us to fall asleep to. Shakira—"Underneath Your Clothes” is a song of hers I remember singing and pretending I was in a music video to when I was 8. Celine Dion: My mom loved her and now I do, too, especially her French album. Alicia Keys. Country music: Both of my parents were born and raised in Texas, so that’s a given. One thing I do wish I was further exposed to growing up, though, is Spanish music. I’m half Mexican and my grandparents listen to Tejano music, and I love Reggaeton and bachata and other Spanish music that I’ve exposed myself to by choice as an adult. But since I didn’t grow up spending a ton of time with my Mexican side of my family, that part of my culture isn't ingrained in my childhood like I wish it would've been.
What is your inspiration for your music and music videos?
Every song is different and every visual is different. But I’m very inspired by art and fashion visually. I aim to keep all of my visuals in the space of high art and to always pay respect to art in what I do. When it comes to songwriting, I am simply a vessel: A song will either flow freely through me like a dream I was meant to share, or it will be an exact and genuine representation of my own life and experiences that I have been prompted to share.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
In 2020 I had my first song put into rotation on Houston's NGEN Radio, which was a huge blessing, so that is a very close second. I would have to say that my proudest achievement would be being asked to sing the National Anthem at the Rockets Game right before the quarantine hit. I think it was just the most surreal moment I’ve had yet because it was the biggest crowd I’ve ever sang in front of, it was a cappella, the entire stadium was full, totally silent and focused on me (under a spotlight … on the jumbotron), and to top it off it was my hometown. And not to toot my own horn, but I crushed it (toot, toot).
So for that, I say it is my proudest achievement because in that moment, I proved to myself that I showed up and killed it, regardless of nerves and with an audience bigger than I had ever been prepared for. I was also just super honored that they reached out to me. It felt like I was doing something right to have been sought out and asked to do such an honorable performance in my eyes. My whole family bought tickets to the game, so they got to be there and watch me sing. It was awesome.
“Rich In Love” sends a timely message during this pandemic. How has the pandemic affected your writing and career?
Thank you for saying that. I felt really strongly about that when this song was being written. Taking an opportunity to point people back to what’s important in life is one I didn’t want to miss, and it makes that song really emotional for me because when I listen to it, it brings to mind all of my blessings and all of the ways God has been good to my family that have nothing to do with money or the current political climate. The latter of which I think we all just needed a mental break from. The pandemic has actually given me a chance to really focus on working on my career in the digital space.
I had the time to get my fashion juices flowing by making a bunch of dope new merch for my website, laryss.com, which I really enjoyed and was a blessing for the revenue. Though I know there has been so, so much anxiety and loss and just plain crappy stuff due to this pandemic, I am thankful for the things it allowed me to focus on and the time it gave me to self-reflect, be with family, and create.