With her critically acclaimed third album Burn Your Fire For No Witness released last week, folk singer Angel Olsen is coming to Red 7 to play her first ever show in Austin.
Unlike her first two albums, which were full of lo-fi, sparse folk songs, Olsen’s latest finds her delving into rock and roll, recording it with a full band that she is now touring with. The songs hit harder, with more energy than the tender ballads that fans of hers had grown accustomed to.
“I just started writing differently,” Olsen said. “I wasn’t working on being a solo musician anymore so it gave me more opportunities to express myself. I wrote songs that I thought would go really well with a rock band.”
Previously, Olsen played as a member of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s band, and through that met musicians that she collaborated with such as Emmet Kelly of The Cairo Gang. Working with Kelly and other musicians led her to want to find a group of people to tour with.
“I feel like I met the right people,” Olsen said. “All this stuff happened at once. I met my band, introduced them to the old stuff and then introduced them to the new stuff I had been writing over the fall and it made sense to them.”
Olsen plays with a four piece now, and while she will occasionally play solo sets, the addition of a full band allows her to open up her old material on tour without dramatically changing any of the songs.
“There have been some parts on old songs, like “Tiniest Seed”, where we have someone who can play another guitar and there might be an extra guitar break instead of just lyrics all the way through,” Olsen said. “ I think that’s more fun to play.”
Another change for Olsen, besides the addition of a band, was that last year she moved away from her home of Chicago to Asheville, North Carolina.
“I was just ready to go somewhere else,” Olsen said. “I had been living in Chicago for 6 or 7 years and I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I was ready for something new, I had some friends who owned business in Ahseville, and when we recorded there, it felt like someplace I might want to stay, so I decided why not?”
Asheville may not seem like the ideal location for a rising musician to settle down, but Olsen insists that a strong artistic scene is budding there, thanks in part to Jon Hency, who produced her first two records.
“Jon runs a venue there called Mothlight and he’s been opening up a space for people who play abstract and atmospheric rock, not your usual country bands you get in Asheville,” Olsen said. “He’s cultivating a scene there and it feels cool to step in when that’s starting to happen.”
Olsen’s new home of Asheville was also featured prominently in the music video for single “Forgiven/Forgotten,” which contained grainy 16mm footage of a suburb where Olsen was living.
“My friend and I had been working with 16mm for a while and and honestly we didn’t have any vision for the video,” Olsen said. “She came to town and was like ‘Act like you’re in Freaks and Geeks and you’re really angsty and upset with your dude.’ It was two minutes long, so we didn’t need that many shots. I honestly feel like those projects work best when you have no plan. I like the way the video turned out though.”
While Olsen will play her first Austin show at Red 7, she will finish up her tour by coming back for SXSW. She skipped the festival last year, but feels like her new material lends itself to a festival setting more than it used to.
“It’s going to be a shit show, but I hope we’ll have a good time,” Olsen said. “We’ve never experienced it before. I think we’re playing in a couple of cool venues while we’re there. Maybe it’ll be really fun, who knows.”