Angel Olsen talks about the love and loss that led to her new album, Big Time

Angel Olsen talks about the love and loss that led to her new album, Big Time

Angel Olsen’s new album, “Big Time,” is the rare generation-spanning album type that you could give to your sister, aunt, or grandparents. Her ten lively and seductive songs evoke everything from Dusty Springfield’s 1969 masterpiece, “Dusty in Memphis,” to Shelby Lynne’s 2001 Grammy-winning hit “I am Shelby Lynne,” and from Tammy Wynette to Lucinda Williams—and at the heart of it all. Are Olsen’s loud songs and crystal-variety sound. It’s also a memoir about getting out, about the pandemic and mourning for her parents (who died within months of each other in 2021), without it ever being explicitly mentioned. Around None of these things.

Like most working musicians, Olsen experienced her booming career hiatus in March of 2020, after nearly a decade of continuous tours and five independent albums that garnered growing and varied critical acclaim, culminating in 2019’s hit All Mirrors single. However, she has also been struggling publicly. Somewhat with her sexuality, with men – kind of – prolific – I – gay? Reflections on interviews over the years, she found the answer to that question in her relationship with writer Beau Thibodeaux, which the couple announced last spring. She went out to her mother shortly before her death.

“I think she kind of knew,” Olsen says. “And about a week later, I was there with my partner at my father’s funeral, so that was intense. But my mother was a very loving person and I think she found it in her heart to be understanding. I just want you to be happy,” she said, and that was all I wanted to hear. “.

While Olsen says all of these factors contributed to the bitter tone of “Big Time,” it’s in the lead in the 28-minute companion film of the same name, which the singer directed with Kimberly Stuckwisch (Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour Prom” movie). “Concert” and released Thursday on Amazon Music’s Twitch channel, a day before the album (watch the movie below). “It’s kind of a tribute to my mother,” Olsen says of the movie. “I had a lot of vivid dreams after she passed away. When I saw what Kim did with Olivia Rodrigo, I realized she was already doing short films about music, and I said I’d love to do something like this – talking a little bit about being afraid to go out and my mom dying and all that. It allowed me to grieve in a different way. It’s probably the most personal thing I’ve ever done. I made it to share with the public.”

The album itself is less autobiographical, an exercise in vocal sound led by music producer Jonathan Wilson, who has worked extensively with Lana Del Rey and Billy Strings and recorded a similar (albeit evoking 1940s) old album with Father John Misty, “Chloë and the Next Twentieth Century” , just before ‘Big Time’.

“His studio in Topanga Canyon is truly a loving and intuitive environment,” Olsen says. “It was the first time I’d gone into the studio without any rehearsal or any intense notes on anything. It wasn’t overthinking, and Jonathan was really good at letting my voice steer the ship rather than making it all about doing flip-flops with the production” .

Despite the horns and strings in the arrangements, the initial “Big Time” sessions were fast and fun.

“The studio is state-of-the-art, but we’re in the woods—it’s funky here, you know?” Wilson says. “I brought in First Contact Squad, the people she’s collaborated with for a decade, so there’s a lot of banter and things aren’t very serious — and it just fits in. She told me she was doing her thing in L.A., where she met the producers and she saw the studios, but when she came here, , she said, “This is the place.”

“It’s just such a powerful force when you use that mic,” he continues. “Some singers, you kind of have to struggle with harmony or to get the vibe and performance right – it happens with the best of them. But with her, you’re just like, ‘It’s all good.’ It’s one of the best I’ve worked with.” (Also from the sessions, Wilson mentioned “a whole bunch of really cool B-sides. Some are really jazzy, and others are super rock with the two of us on the drums.”)

Although Olsen has put a lot of herself in public view—and will literally do so on her summer tour of the US with Sharon Van Eyten and Julian Becker kicking off next month—it’s a process she’s reasonably comfortable with. “I feel like sharing these really intimate experiences is too risky,” she allows, “but people always look at [art] Through their own lenses, so I feel like there’s some protection in there.

Plus, there’s so much more to my life than music. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun, but I never get bored of it. And having people join me on that journey sometimes makes me feel a little lonely, maybe maybe There is someone else outside who needs to hear this.”

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