Everything in Olivia Farabaugh‘s life seemed to guide her inevitably into a career in music.

In fact, Olivia told LebTown during a recent telephone interview, she has no idea what she’d be doing now if music wasn’t an option.

“I honestly don’t know,” she says, after a hearty laugh. “Music has always been in my life.”

When she was younger, Olivia says she wasn’t always comfortable admitting her musical aspirations to people.

“I guess, I was always scared to admit – that would be awesome, that that’s what I want to do,” she says. “Even when I was in beauty school, I was scared to tell my clients when they’d come into the school.

“I don’t know what my path would be if music was not an option. All the paths I’ve taken in life have pointed me in the direction of music. My friends saw it before I did.”

“Everything I’ve done in my life has pointed me towards music, or it’s assisted me along the way.”

Now a year-round resident of Nashville, Tennessee, the 27-year-old singer-songwriter is a native of Lebanon County and a 2013 graduate of Palmyra Area High School. Once a regular performer on the stage at the Lebanon Area Fair, Olivia has since competed on “The Voice” and at the Pentagon, and she has her sights set on performing someday at the Grand Ole Opry.

“That’s my big goal,” Olivia says. “I can close my eyes and imagine standing in The Circle.”

In the meantime, she’s content with releasing her first full-length album. “Transparent” will be available sometime early this year, Olivia says, although an exact release date has not yet been set.

Fans of her music can already check out the first couple of singles from the album: “Righteous Dollar Bill,” which came out in October, and “First,” which followed at the end of November. (Watch the video for “Righteous Dollar Bill” here.)

The new album follows on the heels of four EPs: “Prisoner of War” in 2015, “Soakin’ Up Sunshine” in 2016, “Memories to Melodies” in 2017 and “Your Heart of Gold” in 2020.

“My first full-length album was really inspired,” Olivia says. “Originally, it wasn’t meant to be a full-length album. We just fell into that.”

For the songs, she drew inspiration from her own life experiences, as well as the stories of people she’s gathered through social media.

“I went on and asked if anyone had anything they needed a song written about. It can be so therapeutic,” Olivia says.

“I love sharing their stories – they’re all so relatable. We’re all human. We’re all going through this. That’s where the concept, ‘Transparent,’ came from.”

She sees a big evolution in her music since the first time she went into a recording studio.

“My music has changed a lot as I’ve grown,” she says. “I was 19 when my first EP came out. I’ve learned so much about myself since then, and my influences have changed.”

Some “traces” still remain of the younger, less experienced singer she was then, Olivia says. “It’s who I am.” But her music has grown over the years, she explains, into something with a “country-rock-blues-soul vibe … a real melting pot.”

Her writing these days, she says, can be sparked “by whatever strikes me, honestly. Sometimes a word or a phrase will seem super poetic, and I’ll gravitate to it. Sometimes, it’s just letting the song write itself. When I overthink, that’s when I hit writer’s block.”

She is not making plans for her future music-making career, however – because she doesn’t believe it’s her choice to make.

“I surrender to the path. God has better plans than I can imagine for myself. I’m super excited to see where that leads,” she says. “It’s amazing where He’s brought us, and I’m excited to see what’s next.”

Ultimately, Olivia says, “I want people to be able to relate to my songs. I hope to add some peace or clarity to how they’re feeling. … The biggest compliment to me when someone comes up after a show and says a song spoke to what they’re going through.”

Track meets, fairs & talent shows

Olivia began singing in her church choir when she was a young girl, and she started playing guitar (and writing songs) before entering the fourth grade. She played in front of her first audience at a fifth-grade talent show. She started performing in coffee shops as a high school junior and in local bars while attending cosmetology school.

Olivia was a contestant on Season 10 of NBC’s “The Voice” in 2016. Although she had been turned away after three open casting calls for the show, she was selected for a private audition by a casting agent in New York City and sang in a blind audition in Los Angeles for celebrity judges Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams. Her appearance on the show wasn’t televised, but it gave her the chance to interact with some movers and shakers in the music industry – an opportunity that has provided her with personal and professional benefits in the years since.

Since then, she has opened for artists including Rodney Atkins, Chris Janson, Mitchell Tenpenny, Trent Harmon, Levi Hummon and Dylan Scott. She was nominated for Best Female Country Artist and Songwriter of the Year, and her single ”Body Will Break” was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2021 Central Pennsylvania Music Awards.

In 2018, she performed at the Pentagon, and for a while she hosted a regular feature for the Harrisburg radio station Hot 106.7. In 2019 and 2020, she was named Best Solo Artist by the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall of Fame. She also won the 2018 WIOV Radio Showdown Competition and 2016’s Central Pennsylvania Nash Next radio contest.

Olivia says her early years in Lebanon County helped prepare her for her professional journey. Even, she says, honing her stagecraft at the Lebanon Fair.

“Every time I get on a stage, I learn something about interacting with a crowd, how I want to voice something in my performance,” she says. “Hopefully, it will be the Giant Center someday.”

Read More: At just 12 years old, pop star and fair veteran Addi Grace has big dreams ahead

On the other hand, she was a runner at Palmyra, and athletics also played a part in preparing her for a musical way of life.

“It’s so funny, that is often times what I channel – my past self as a runner,” she says. “My coach, Barb Mellinger, was absolutely incredible. She said, and I won’t ever forget this, that running is like life. You will take that mindset into your life, and she was 100% right. It truly is a marathon.

“We want to get to where we’re going, but sometimes there’s roadblocks for a reason. So we can learn what we need to learn and be a better person when we get there.”

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Olivia laughs, and says she recently learned that she and her cross-country teammates – who won the state championship in her senior year – are being honored with a plaque in the Palmyra Hall of Fame.

“I love Palmyra. I will never forget where I came from,” she says. “I’m so honored to have my name on the wall.”

From Lebanon to Nashville

These days, Olivia shares a tiny home – just 12 feet wide and 30 feet long, she says – in Nashville with her husband, Caden Krout, and dog Tank.

Olivia Farabaugh with her husband Caden and their dog Tank.

For a few years, she commuted regularly between Tennessee and Pennsylvania, where they lived for two years with her parents.

“I had the pull to be a full Tennessee resident for a while,” she recalls. “But I had some other things going on in my life. I was diagnosed with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome in November 2020, although I started my health journey back in 2016.”

CIRS symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, headaches, brain fog and blurred vision. But the condition is often misdiagnosed and, for a few years, doctors weren’t sure what was causing Olivia’s various ailments.

Eventually, she says, they determined the source – she had moved into a house with a black mold problem, she explains, and that triggered a gene that about 24 percent of people have locked in their DNA. Because of it, she says, her body is “unable to process toxins the way it should.”

“I felt the pull to come to Nashville in the midst of all of this, but we knew it wasn’t the time,” she says. “My goal was to come down every other month, which I was blessed to be able to do. Then COVID happened. And that changed everything.”

Now that she’s finally there, Olivia says, living in Nashville “has totally changed my life. Not just in one way, really. Musically, it’s been such an incredible opportunity – you’re surrounded by such incredible artists, co-writing is right at your fingertips. It’s been a wonderful time of growth in my music – not just my sound, but what I want to put out into the world.”

Also, she says, “when you’re pulled away from your comfort zones, you find yourself into a totally different way. I didn’t realize I needed to find myself, but I did.”

That means learning to “trust the process, lean into the changes,” she says. “It’s been a total shift for me.”

She returns to Lebanon as often as she can to visit family and friends, she adds. “I try to schedule gigs up there so I can get up there often.”

Coping with CIRS

Although she’s glad to have a proper diagnosis and treatment for her condition, Olivia says CIRS is “still something that on a daily basis I have to monitor.”

“I’m so grateful to have the knowledge, knowing where I’m at. Before, I was scared – not knowing what was happening with my body,” she says. “Now, I’m in a healthier place, but from 2016 to 2020, I didn’t know what was going on.”

Before her diagnosis, she went through symptoms that didn’t go away and treatments that didn’t help.

“When we didn’t know what was going on, it started out with frequent strep throats. I’d get on antibiotics, and they wouldn’t work,” she says. “I was singing through chronic sinus infections … it was scary.”

She had her tonsils removed and other surgeries to try and address the problem.

“It affected me day to day in so many ways,” she recalls. “I was so fatigued. Brain fog and body aches were big for me. It affected me, not just in productivity but cognitively. Getting motivated was very tough.

“But I was stubborn, I would not let this stop me from playing my music. Even when I wasn’t feeling well, escaping into the music was so needed.”

The condition “affects so many pieces of you, and it affects everybody in different ways,” Olivia notes.

“I have to monitor for re-exposure,” she explains. “If I go into a building that has mold, it can restart everything. Sometimes within an hour, or the next day, I’ll start getting headaches and body aches.

“It’s interesting being a musician, going into so many buildings, and constantly having to monitor for re-exposure.”

Her brain is now hard-wired to be afraid of new places, she says, so that sometimes, “even before I go in, my brain starts flooding my body with the bad chemicals.”

Making a difference

Olivia has channeled her fear and frustration into an effort to provide financial assistance and a sense of community to other people with CIRS.

Olivia founded the Transparent Music Project to drive the CIRS Support Fund, which she also founded, with a share of her musical profits, direct donations from the community at large, and a yearly music festival. She also partnered with another nonprofit organization, Malachi’s Message, to raise money and awareness for the cause.

“I love music, and I have this illness. I wanted to combine the two,” she explains. “Most insurance policies don’t cover testing and treatment for this illness. A lot of people can’t get the proper testing and treatment they need because of these hurdles.”

When she was younger, she donated a portion of her music proceeds to Wounded Warriors, to honor Steve Creder, who was her guitar teacher for several years, who refused to let her quit playing when she was trying to cut down on the demands on her time, who co-wrote several songs with her, and who died suddenly from a heart attack when she was a high school senior.

“I wanted to honor his legacy,” she says. “That’s where it started. I realized, there are so many opportunities – music can make a difference for people. One of them is the generosity of people who are listening and moved by the music.

“I see so many needs in the community. God has provided so much for my husband for I, so I wanted to keep giving.”

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Tom has been a professional journalist for nearly four decades. In his spare time, he plays fiddle with the Irish band Fire in the Glen, and he reviews music, books and movies for Rambles.NET. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and has four children: Vinnie, Molly, Annabelle and Wolf.


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