Born on July 3, 1952; married to Saul Davis (her manager). Addresses: Record company--Smile Records, Los Angeles, CA, website: http://smilerecords.homestead.com. Website--Carla Olson Official Website: http://www.carlaolson.com.
Carla Olson's singing and producing career spans several decades and countries. The custom-made Azureglo-blue Rickenbacker guitar on her hip has become as recognizable a trademark as her long blond hair.
Born on July 3, 1952, and raised outside of Austin, Texas, Olson was obsessed with the Rolling Stones as a teenager. She often went to roadhouses with her father, where he had a few drinks and she listened to the music. In the late 1970s Olson teamed with Kathy Valentine to form the punk band the Violators. After some success, they decided to try their luck in Los Angeles in 1979, where they started the Textones, and released a few singles on IRS's Faulty Products.
Olson and Valentine parted company after it became obvious that their interests had diverged. Valentine went on to join the Go-Go's, while Olson continued with the Textones and branched out with Gene Clark, a former member of the Byrds.
In 1983 Olson got a huge break when Bob Dylan chose her to appear in his "Sweetheart Like You" video. During the filming she began a friendship with guitarist Mick Taylor, who had once played with the Rolling Stones before leaving them in 1975 to pursue a solo career. The Textones made their major-label debut the following year with Midnight Mission. The album won critical acclaim but little airtime, despite studio help from Don Henley, Ry Cooder, Barry Goldberg, and Gene Clark. Response to the album's videos, however, was sufficient to launch a tour of the United States, Europe, and Japan.
During this time, Olson found work in feature films, including Real Genius, Blue City, Sylvester, and A Tiger's Tale. She also continued her recording career, contributing to projects with John Fogarty, Henley Cooder, and Eric Johnson. She also wrote or cowrote songs for other artists, including "Trail of Tears" with Eric Johnson; "The Grand Blvd." and "Why did You Stop" for Percy Sledge, and "Road of No Return" with Swedish legend Mikael Rickfors.
Olson released an acoustic album in 1987 with Gene Clark, So Rebellious a Lover, on Rhino. The recording features tracks on which Olson backed Clark on three of his pieces, and Clark backed Olson on three of her pieces, as well as some covers. The album was well received, and the two played gigs to promote it, often working together. The duo planned another album, but Clark passed away suddenly in May of 1991, before they could follow through.
The Textones also released their second album, Cedar Creek, in that same year. In 1988 Olson released her own self-titled album in Europe, a recording on which she was backed by the hot Swedish rock band Wilmer X. The Textones went on to release Through the Canyon and Back in Time before disbanding in 1989.
Olson began working more closely with Taylor, whom she had known since filming the Dylan video in 1983. "It took a while for us to actually get his confidence, to where he knew what we were going to do was admirable and that we weren't going to exploit him," Olson said of Taylor in the Los Angeles Times. But after several tentative years of working together, the two released Too Hot for Snakes, which they recorded at the Roxy in 1991. "That's the way I like to record," Olson continued, "I much prefer just getting in there, don't rehearse a whole lot. And Mick didn't even have chord charts. He said, 'Just look at me when you're going to change chords.'" She laughs. "He's so instinctive. He's such a natural player. He can just go where he wants to go--quickly."
In 1993 Olson, with help from Taylor, released her second solo album, Within an Ace, on Watermelon Records. The following year she released Reap the Whirlwind, with contributions from both Taylor and Percy Sledge. That same year Percy Sledge's album Blue Night, which included two songs written by Olson, was nominated for a Grammy.
After a few quiet years, Olson began to take an interest in producing albums. Her first serious production work was a 1997 album for singer-actress Mare Winningham entitled Lonesomers. She followed up with albums in many different styles, including Jake Andrews's rowdy guitar, Davis Gaines's Broadway standards, and Phil Upchurch's elegant jazz.
According to Upchurch, Olson's background as a performer makes her an excellent producer. "[B]ecause she is a musician ... [she] knows how to relate to musicians," Upchurch told the Los Angeles Times. "I've worked with producers who have no idea how to communicate with a musician. With her, the communication was always dead-on."
Olson came roaring back into the public eye in 2001, releasing Honest as Daylight: The Best of Carla Olson (1981-2000), followed that same year by The Ring of Truth, an album on which she once again worked with Taylor. The Los Angeles Times called the title song "the kind of thoughtful ballad on age and rebellion that could easily fit into the repertoire of a Jackson Browne or Bonnie Raitt." Olson acknowledged the years that separated her solo albums, saying, "I haven't had a record deal in a long time. And keeping a band together is really tough. When you get older and you get families and people to support, it's not easy to keep a band together. And I like playing with the same people."
Olson lives in Studio City, California, with her husband and long-time manager, Saul Davis. She does most of her work at the Bakery, a North Hollywood recording studio. After decades in the music business, she's happy just to be herself. "Look at me," she told the Los Angeles Times. "Long hair. I've been wearing cowboy boots all my life. I'm just what I am. I can't be trendy."
by Sarah Parkin
Carla Olson's Career
Cofounded the all-girl punk band the Violators with Kathy Valentine; moved to Los Angeles, 1979; cofounded the Textones with Kathy Valentine; released a few singles with the Textones on IRS; appeared in Bob Dylan's video "Sweetheart Like You," 1983; released Midnight Mission with the Textones, 1984; So Rebellious a Lover with Gene Clark, 1987; Cedar Creek with the Textones, 1987; Carla Olson, 1988; Too Hot for Snakes with Mick Taylor, 1991; Within an Ace, 1993; Reap the Whirlwind, 1994; released The Ring of Truth, 2001.
- Selected discography
- So Rebellious a Lover Razor & Tie, 1987.
- Carla Olson Still Sane, 1988.
- Sweden USA Sound Carrier, 1988.
- Too Hot for Snakes Razor & Tie, 1991.
- Live Demon, 1991.
- Within and Ace Watermelon, 1993.
- Midnight Mission A&M, 1994, reissued, Acadia, 2002.
- Reap the Whirlwind Watermelon, 1994.
- Honest as Daylight: The Best of Carla Olson (1981-2000) Gran Via-U, 2001.
- The Ring of Truth Evangeline, 2001.
- As producer
- So Rebellious a Lover Razor & Tie, 1987.
- Lonesomers Razor & Tie, 1998.
- All My Tomorrows LAP, 1999.
- Jake Andrews Texas Music Group, 2002.
- Guitar Player, January 1995, p. 16.
- Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2002, p. F-1.
- "Carla Olson," Houston Party Records, http://www.houstonpartyrecords.com/carla (September 17, 2003).
- "Carla Olson," Smile Records, http://smilerecords.homestead.com/CarlaOlson.html (August 22, 2003).
- Carla Olson Official Website, http://www.carlaolson.com (August 22, 2003).
- "Gene Clark: 1980-1991," Byrd Watcher, http://ebni.com/byrds/memgc6.html, (September 22, 2003).
- Additional information was obtained from Saul Davis, Carla Olson's husband and manager.