Exclusive IndiePulse Interview
R.D. Olson brings high-energy blues to fill your soul and move your feet. His new album Keep Walking Woman (recorded as the R.D. Olson Band) showcases the many talents of harpist-vocalist Olson along with his bandmates, Darryl Porras (guitar), Jamie Waldron (stand-up bass), Robert Sellani (drums) and Eric Williams (piano), staying true to the Blues styles of Muddy Waters, Luther Allison, Mojo Buford, and Chico Chism, but with a contemporary spin. Olson, who currently resides in Prescott, AZ, won the 2014 Arizona Blues Challenge and the 2015 Northern Arizona Blues Challenge, advancing to the famed IBCs in Memphis each year. He was inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame in 2015 and is currently the Vice President of the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame.
IndiePulse Music had the opportunity to recently interview this highly accomplished musician. Here’s how it went.
IPM: Let’s first get a little background on R.D. Olson – when did you start playing music professionally, and why did you choose the Blues?
R.D.: I started playing music in the early Seventies; I was a drummer than. I played in country bands and some rock. I was eighteen when I started playing in a local blues band led by harmonica front man, James Sandberg. This was my first introduction to blues music.
IPM: How did you connect with blues legend, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, and what will your role be with her in terms of management, future live performances, etc.?
R.D.: I met Beverly Guitar Watkins though a mutual friend, (deejay) Jerry Sweley. After several long phone meetings with Beverly she hired my band to open for her, and also to back her up.
IPM: The live music scene is flourishing in some cities, and languishing in others. You’re based in the Phoenix, AZ area. What’s the scene like there at present?
R.D.: The music scene as far as blues goes in Arizona is in somewhat of a down cycle. As Vice President of the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame, I can tell you that we are working on a marketing plan to change that.
IPM: Talk a little bit about your latest album, ‘Keep Walking Woman.” What are some of your favorite tracks on it?
R.D.: Keep Walking Woman is my first release after many years as a side man with Chico Chism, Buddy Reed, Long John Hunter and many others. It was time for me to write and record my own music. The CD has six originals and I lived all of them. ‘Johnnie Walker’ tells the story of my dear friend Larry Danielson who took his own life. In ‘Baby Boomer Blues’ I speak about the real estate crash of 2007 when I lost my home. ‘Petie Reed’ is a story of a former model I was engaged to.
IPM: As a harp player, who are some of your contemporaries that you have the highest regard for?
R.D,: There are so many great harp players past and present. I think I was most influenced by Big Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter and Kim Wilson.
IPM: On a slightly more existential note, what do you personally see as the role music fills in today’s society?
R.D.: Music of all genres has always served an important role in society as a form of artistic expression. Today is no different, whether that be dancing and swaying to an EDM light show concert or sitting in a lounge enjoying a live jazz or blues show. Simply put, it allows the listener to have an emotional experience.
IPM: Many (if not most) musicians have a Bucket List of venues they’d like to perform at. What places are on R.D. Olson’s Bucket List?
R.D.: I think (my list includes) playing at B.B. Kings again, and I would love to play Buddy Guy’s, and Antone’s in Austin also comes to mind.
IPM: When you’re not pursuing your musical endeavors, what do you do for fun and relaxation?
R.D.: When I’m not playing music, I enjoy supporting other bands, theater and just simple down time with friends and family.
IPM: If all your career aspirations go as planned, where do you see yourself five years from now?
R.D.: We hope to be touring full-time in the future as well as recording many more CDs. I’m really looking forward to working with Beverly Guitar Watkins and I do believe we are embarking on a great new adventure. There is much I can learn from her.
IPM: Best links/websites/etc. for people to keep up on the latest goings-on of the R.D. Olson Band?
R.D.: You can find us on the new web site rdolsonband.com and on Facebook (facebook.com/rdolson53) and Twitter (twitter.com/rdolson).
(Editor’s Note: The R.D. Olson Band will be performing in concert with Beverly ‘Guitar’ Watson at the Prescott Center for the Arts, in Prescott, AZ on Saturday, November 11; and also at The Rhythm Room in Phoenix, AZ on Sunday, November 12. The ‘Six-String Siren’ Diana Rein, opens both shows).