Born in Houston, on June 18,1989, to Rebecca Lynn Jeffries and Christopher Eric Olstead, Renee developed a great love for music at an early age and honed her voice by singing along with the radio. Before long she was entering talent contests and appearing in local musical productions. Her aspirations for stardom were documented on video and became the subject of two E! television documentaries, The Making of a Child Star and The Journey Continues.
She made her first foray in TV in 1995 in Larry McMurtry’s Streets Of Laredo.
In 1998, Renee appeared in the episode Doodlebug in Touch By An Angel
In 2002, she had her first major role in the CBS comedy Still Standing, a four year run.
But, by 2002, Renee’s second career, her singing career, began to take shape. After she saw the movie Pleasantville, she fell in love with Etta James’s At Last, which began a love affair with the music of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day and the Great American Songbook. Then Renee was able to perform with Eddie Reed’s Swing Band playing LA area clubs. In September 2002, she released By Request to commemorate her club performances. At Last being one of the tracks.
Renee gained the attention of Grammy Award winning producer David Foster and subsequently signed a contract with the Warner Records label. In 2003, 13 year old Renee performed at the Playboy Jazz Festival singing At Last to an amazed jazz audience, who gave Renee a standing ovation LA Times. Bill Cosby, whose jazz band backed Renee quipped that “she’s only 13 and knows only one song”.
Finally, in May 2004, all elements of Renee’s career came together. On the Still Standing final episode, of the second season, she performed Summertime, in a dream sequence, the first track on her self-titled CD Renee Olstead, produced by David Foster, released that month. The release started Renee on a whirlwind promotional tour starting with the Today Show and Jazz At Lincoln Center Spring Gala, in NYC. Montreux Jazz Festival, as part of a European tour, David Letterman and finally Oprah ended a busy 2004. Renee’s CD was #5 on the Billboard Jazz Chart, for 2004, after many rave reviews.
In 2004, Renee recorded two songs for movie soundtracks. She recorded Merry Christmas In Love for the Italian movie Christmas In Love and Love That Will Last, a track on her CD, was used in The Princess Diaries 2. Also, in the summer of 2004, Renee’s next film 13 Going On 30 was released (Photo 1, Photo 2).
During and after the end of the Still Standing run, in the Spring of 2006, Renee continued to perform her music around the world. She performed in numerous charity events in the US. Renee again toured Europe, this time with B.B. King, performed in Live 8, in Berlin, and with Chris Botti and at the Unite The Stars charity event, in South Africa.
Performance highlights include the 28th Gift Of Life Celebration hosted by George Lopez, with Renee performing Midnight Man with David Foster, in 2007. The Java Jazz Festival, in 2008, My Baby Just Cares For Me, where Renee received the International Jazz Talent Award, and the Hit Man: David Foster And Friends tribute to David Foster with Renee performing Through The Fire, in 2008.
TV came back in the picture, in 2008, as Renee was cast in the series The Secret Life of the American Teenager, as Madison. In the final episode, of the second season, again her two careers came together, as Madison sang Fly Me To The Moon and Someone To Watch Over Me at a wedding reception.
In 2009, Renee’s long awaited CD Skylark, again produced by David Foster, was released, and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Jazz Chart.
by Ira Rohinsky