Angel Olsen has a soft, angelic voice she skillfully maneuvers down laid-back musical back roads, until the situation requires a little more energy, then she stomps on the accelerator and her incredible voice soars.
The Chicago-based singer/songwriter is an entirely self-taught musician. She is currently on tour promoting “Half Way Home,” an 11-song project released last year on Bathetic Records. It’s a follow-up to her debut album, “Strange Cacti.”
Olsen will be appearing at 9 p.m. Saturday at Hangar 9 in Carbondale with Water Liars, Secondary Modern, Williams Feigns and Maren Celest.
A native of St. Louis, Olsen started playing the city’s coffeehouses when she was just 16, but she has since migrated to the Windy City, where she became a fan of Will Oldham and a member of The Cairo Gang with Emmett Kelly.
Creating thought-provoking lyrics as a songwriter, Olsen uniquely covers them with a blues-tinged vocal that is instantly identifiable. Stumbling onto a Skeeter Davis record about a year ago, she said her ear has been attracted in recent months to Mickey Newberry, Dolly Parton and Roger Miller. And although she sometimes visits iconic Carol’s Pub in Chicago for a night of country dancing, don’t expect her music to take a path towards Nashville.
Olsen has just finished piecing together a new band and has been busy rehearsing original material which will be in-cluded in her live performance on The Strip this weekend. Between her busy tour schedule and her constant desire to write new songs, she thankfully found time over the weekend to answer a few questions from the Southern Illinois.
SI: How difficult was the process of putting together a new band?
AO: I thought it would be difficult, but I am blessed with having met up the people I did, and the timing seemed right for us to work together.
SI: How long did it take to write the 11 tracks for you new album, “Half Way Home?”
AO: Part of the album was written before even coming out with “Strange Cacti,” and part of it was written in a six-month time period. So, it took awhile.
I had plenty of time to rethink things and change them around. In some ways, I think taking too much time to think about songs can be sort of a bad habit, so I’m trying my best to get out of it, to not over-think songs, to allow them to change when performing. After all, the recording is the recording, and the performance is the performance —and usually they are not the same at all.
SI: Do you prefer writing personal songs or tunes about external events?
AO: I write songs about personal and external events. I’m very open to the process.
SI: Who are a few of your musical influences?
AO: I listen to a lot of Donny Hathaway lately and also a lot of Michael Hurley.
SI: What is more difficult, the grind of touring or the pressure of creating new material for the “next” album?
AO: Touring and recording albums, they both can be exhausting to think about. The best thing is to try your best to meet every turn or change or conflict with an unassuming face, to not be angry, to not refer back to the past, but to keep going and keep listening to others and asking questions.
I wouldn't say one is more difficult than the other. If you’re in too deep, your psyche can be damaged. It’s pretty important to do other things, things that have nothing to do with music, to think about others and what they’re up to, and not focus too much on creating something important for others, but to create when it’s important to you.
VINCE HOFFARD can be reached at 618-658-9095 or email@example.com.