Angel Olsen Pursues Creativity On ‘Big Time’ Album – ‘I’m Proud Of This Record For A Number Of Reasons’

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Angel Olsen is looking for a cat sitter. She released her latest album, Highligthson June 3, and hit the road in a few weeks for a big summer and fall tour to support the record, his first since Whole new mess in 2020. She had many dates ahead of her — so many, in fact, that her manager joked about taping her verbal agreements so she couldn’t get revenge for the many stoppages later. (Olsen laughs as she shares this detail.) But what’s no laughing matter is that she needed to find someone to watch over her cat as she traveled with Sharon Van Etten and Julien Baker. for their Wild Hearts Tour. Olsen, who is a genre in her own right, breathless and brooding as a singer, poignant and beautiful as a performer, has high expectations for anyone who watches her feline.

“Right now,” she told Americans Song in an interview earlier this year, “I’m just trying to find a cat sitter for all these dates, you know what I mean?”

Of course, Olsen has plenty of additional responsibilities, from doing the press to explaining his creative motivations on the album, which includes topics ranging from the death of his parents to queer revelation. Also, she hasn’t been touring much lately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now she’s ready to hit the road and be in front of the public. It is the mark of a complicated, even dualistic existence, made up of concrete concerns and professional triumphs.

“The goal,” says Olsen, “is that you want [attention] to support the record and lift the record and make this beautiful statement. But that doesn’t always mean I’m in the best place of my life.

Olsen recalls an earlier album cycle where she had to answer questions every day while going through a tough breakup. This time, she talks about death and sexuality. It can be difficult, even if necessary.

Olsen’s musical life began over three decades ago, around the age of 3, when Olsen received a keyboard from his biological uncle. It was then that the world of singing and songwriting opened up.

“From the very beginning,” she says, “I was interested in stepping into this world and creating things.” She’s a visual person, so in song she imagines new environments. “It was a bit like a way of pretending. To enter my own little universe.

She wrote, sang, recorded and listened. This mode is still a big part of his process. When she’s on a creative streak, Olsen writes and records, then shares what she comes up with. By sharing a song, if she feels that immediate pang of regret, she will explore her response and analyze what needs to be tinkered with. As a child, she says, she was “obsessed” with recording and listening to mistakes. This is how she found her voice. His voice. And when she doesn’t back down, she knows she’s got something.

“There’s nothing better than that feeling,” says Olsen. “Almost as if your brain had put together a puzzle. Like, how did I even do that?

Olsen grew up in St. Louis and in the city found small pockets of musicians she could relate to. This brought her to Chicago where her sounds were more appreciated. She played house shows and gigs in lofts and basements. When she started writing, she was more insular and introverted, but she started to spread her wings in the Windy City. Then she started working as a backup singer with Bonnie “Prince” Billy. This took her on tour and eventually to Asheville, North Carolina, where she has lived for a decade. She released music after working on it for so long and almost immediately received management and touring offers. Now, Highligths is her sixth LP, featuring headliners like the assertive “This Is How It Works” and the exhilarating “All the Good Times.”

“I’m proud of this record for a number of reasons,” says Olsen.

In the past, she has actively tried to avoid being “gendered” or boxed. Now, however, she is more comfortable with everything she does. It’s going to be consistent because it’s consistent. She no longer has to struggle to fit a song into a style. In a weird way, the pandemic has helped. Previously, she had constantly “played catch-up”. But after the release of her fifth album, she had the chance to “sit with myself” and merge.

“It does a number on your handwriting,” she says.

Today, the 35-year-old is stretching her creativity, thinking about journaling and even trying her hand at a screenplay. It may be scary, but what else is there? Olsen is not afraid of challenges. Even when it comes to finding the perfect song or cat sitter.

“It’s important to always gather information as a writer,” she says, adding, “I love that music can change your mood. It can create a space that you can step into – it’s not even a space, it’s just a sound. I love that about it.

Photo by Angela Ricciardi

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