Vanessa Olivarez

Vanessa Olivarez
Birth name Vanessa Denae Olivarez
Born (1981-04-07) April 7, 1981 (age 40)
Sugar Land, Texas, U.S.
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, actress
Instruments Vocals, drums
Associated acts Sugarland, Granville Automatic, Mama's Blue Dress, Butterfly Stitch

Vanessa Denae Olivarez (born April 7, 1981[1]) is an American singer, songwriter and actress. She is the vocalist, songwriter and autoharpist for the country bands Granville Automatic and Mama's Blue Dress, has written songs for the country duo Sugarland, and was in the Top 12 of the second season of the television series American Idol in 2003.[2][3]

Later that year, she released a single, "The One", which peaked at number nine on the Canadian charts. In 2004, she played Tracy Turnblad, the lead role in the Canadian version of Hairspray, for which she was nominated for a Dora Award.

American Idol

Olivarez's friends talked her into auditioning in 2002 for the second season of American Idol. She performed Irene Cara's "Out Here On My Own" in the semi-finals.[4][5] During a following round where contestants write their own numbers, Olivarez impressed the judges with her song "The Only Thing Special About You Is Me". She moved into the top 32 contestants of the season.[6] When she reached the top judges she switched to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody".[4][5] They compared her to singer and actress Bette Midler.[4] She was in the final twelve and she performed The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On".[3][7] Soon after she was eliminated from American Idol, she lent her celebrity status to support animals' rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.[8] She posed naked for their "I would rather go naked than wear fur" campaign.[9] The ad was first unveiled in Herald Square in middle of Manhattan and also ran in Atlanta.[10] She also did a benefit for Atlanta Humane Society and The Station nightclub fire.[10]

Canada and first singles

In 2003, Olivarez was contacted by Canadian songwriter and actor James Collins who brought her to Toronto, Canada, to write and record some new music.[6] Her first single, "The One", co-written by Olivarez, James Collins and Dave Pickell, had "I'm In Love with My Best Friend's Ex" as a B-side, and reached number nine on Canada's single charts & Top Thirty on the Canadian BDS airplay chart.[6] Another of her songs, "As Vain As You" (also co-written with Collins & Pickell), was on the compilation album Girls Night Out 3.[6]

She played Tracy Turnblad in the Canadian version of the musical Hairspray.[11] After Hairspray she returned to the United States and joined an Atlanta musical group Butterfly Stitch which released an EP and live album.[3][6]

In May 2005 she appeared in an American Idol theme week on Family Feud.[12]

Granville Automatic

In 2009 she co-founded Granville Automatic, a country duo, with guitarist and songwriter Elizabeth Elkins who is a grand prize winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.[2] According to their biography at they are named for a 19th-Century typewriter and collaborate to write and perform songs about history.[13] They recorded an eight-song set for an episode of PBS' Sun Studio Sessions (taped at Memphis' Sun Studio) and the digital-only EP Live from Sun Studio is available online. Their self-titled album, Granville Automatic, came out in 2012. Their second album, An Army Without Music, was released in 2015 and is a collection of songs inspired by Civil War battles.[14]

Boys Club for Girls

In 2019 she joined with Amie Miriello to form the Americana duo, Boys Club for Girls.[citation needed] On January 27, 2020, they released a video for the song "The Weatherman" off their album expected to release later in the year.[citation needed]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Result
2005 Dora Mavor Moore Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female in a Principal Role - Musical (As lead Tracy Turnblad in the Canadian production of Hairspray) Nominated[15]



  • Granville Automatic - "Granville Automatic" - Release date: May 1, 2012
  • Granville Automatic - "Live from Sun Studio" - Release date: January 31, 2012


Music Information
The One
  • Released: 2003[16]
  • Charts: Number 9 Canada.
Music Information
The One (The Remixes)
  • Released: 2008


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Night After Night, June 18, 2010", by Ben Olivo, San Antonio Express-News, June 17, 2010. Profile,; accessed April 7, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c “Happy Birthday, Vanessa Olivarez!”, April 7, 2010, American Idol News
  4. ^ a b c "American Idol, The FORT Interview with Vanessa Olivarez", Lobeck, March 18, 2003, FORT.[1]
  5. ^ a b "California Dreamin': You May Sing Like Celine Dion, but You Won't Make It Onto American Idol Without Survivor Stamina", May 1, 2003, People.[2]
  6. ^ a b c d e “American Idol News”, February 4, 2008, American Idol
  7. ^ "'American Idol' final twelve named", March 5, 2003, James Welch, Digital Spy.[3]
  8. ^ "Anoop Desai to Become Spokesperson for PETA?", Desi Hits, Ranj Bath, April 27, 2009.
  9. ^ "'Idol' Chatter: Ruben, Clay, Others Discuss Post-Show Plans", Corey Moss, May 23, 2003, MTV
  10. ^ a b "Interview with Vanessa Olivarez from American Idol.", Scott Meenen, May13th 2003, Liberty Post News.(transcript [4])
  11. ^ Well coiffed: Musical Hairspray Delivers Sky-high Fun", Glenn Sumi, May 13–20, 2004, Vol. 23, No. 37, Now Toronto.[5]
  12. ^ "In Brief", Stephen M. Silverman, January 31, 2005, People.[6]
  13. ^ Granville Automatic Biography,, 17 Oct 2011
  14. ^ "Band releases album of songs inspired by American Civil War". The New Zealand Herald. Associated Press (Atlanta). August 16, 2015. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  15. ^ Kenneth Jones (2009-08-10). "Best of Toronto's Performing Arts Celebrated June 27 at Dora Awards, Honoring Theatre, Dance and Opera". Playbill.
  16. ^ "Chart Beat", Fred Bronson, October 18, 2003, page 51, 'Billboard'. "Chart Beat", Fred Bronson, March 13, 2004, page 71, Billboard

External links