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Carla Olson Discusses Music: New, Old, and Everything In Between

Written by Randy Patterson

Posted June 2020

Carla and StepehnCarla Olson April 2020.m4a About six or seven years ago, I was searching on YouTube to see if there were any videos of the Rolling Stones performing their song, ‘Winter’, from their Goats Head Soup album. My search turned up an audio file of their former guitarist, Mick Taylor, performing it with a lady I hadn’t yet heard: Carla Olson.

I gave it a listen. Then I gave it another. Then, another. I wound up listening to it countless times that day. In doing so, I because a die-hard fan of Ms. Olson. I knew that I wanted to interview her but it wasn’t until recently that I could check that off of my interview bucket list.

The opportunity came about with the recent release of her latest album, ‘Have Harmony, Will Travel 2’. Because of the pandemic – and along with the rest of the country - we were sequestered in our respective homes – hers in SoCal and mine in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

I was curious about how the pandemic was affecting her and her husband.

“We work from we work from home. I mean, both my husband and I are producers and writers - he's in the music business. I generally am working at home or the studio or a combination of the studio - it's about three miles away. The studio is locked down, so he's doing one or two things if they want to come in and sing a vocal and they're not going to be freaked out by the tight space. It's not really tight, but you know how people are nowadays. It's like if nobody's been in the studio for three weeks, then there's no chance of really getting anything.

“He's been working with everybody from the Taj Mahal to the Railroad album that I'm working on - the Americana Railroad record. That was the last session that we did – actually. It was on March the 13th - that was our last session. At that point, California was in lockdown first, after New York. I'm pleased that what happened happened expeditiously rather than sort of being, 'Oh, gosh. We're California. We're perfect. Nothing is going to happen.'

“We're used to any kind of fire or earthquake. But this is really worrisome only in that it's world-wide and there's not really an escape from it.

“I just heard that, in New York, one in four people tested positive - of the people that they tested. So, I'm actually doing really well, being a Type 1 diabetic and over 65.

“I do constantly wash my hands. And if I'm taking public transit, I've always got my sanitizer on me. I don't drive much anymore. I do take public transit quite a bit. You just get in a routine and used to the routine. I'm just pleased that things are looking better for New York and hopefully will look better for California, too. I know that if you're watching an elderly parent - my mother in law's ninety-seven and she is going to get out. She's very active anyway. So, she's like, 'I don't understand why I can't go to Target and buy a shirt.' I'm like, 'Well, Mom, you better wait on that.'

“I also have, for the last, I don't know, twenty-five, thirty years, taken vitamin C. I have to take Vitamin C and D as a Type 1 diabetic because I don't get enough and if I don't get outside enough, I need to vitamin D. Generally, in the warmer months, I try to swim every day for about 20 minutes so I can get vitamin D and the exercise. I keep myself physically fit so I can go out and do the things that any 68-year-old person would think. 'Why are you still doing this? Why do you want still want to lift amplifiers.' But I digress.”

I shared with Carla that my sister and I keep a close eye on our elderly dad, to which she responded;

“I hope your dad does well because, as I said, my mother-in-law was in a nursing home - not a nursing home; she was in assisted living - for the last two years. She hates it. She's the only one without a walker and a cane. And she's like I said, she's 97, and she’s very kept. Her hair's done and her nails are done. She looks good all the time. This is one of those things that she's trying to figure out, 'Why am I with my son, my young son and his wife?' If she had it her way, she would still be living by herself.”

“We took her out of this home on a rainy, rainy, rainy night about five weeks ago and she was glad to get out of there because they had already had - last fall, they had the flu, you know, like you said, influenza that went around and they had to get all their meals - they couldn't go to the dining hall; they couldn't go to the TV room or do anything. They had to say in their room. So, she was glad to be rescued from that. And then, of course, the virus became public and she was like, 'Well, OK, yeah, I can go back (to the assisted living facility) now, right?' 'Well, no, you can't.'

“The assisted living facility that she was in was one of the ones that people died in. She just has to get re-educated on why things are the way they are. She's read like seven books since leaving. She's just an avid reader. She likes to keep her brain happening. She loves to walk and she doesn't get to do that now because it's kind of up in the hills where she is now.”

I shared with Carla how I came to be aware of her work. She shared the story behind the album that the cover of ‘Winter’ is on with Mick Taylor.

“We cut - that was the first take and it was a scratch vocal. I was guiding the band. Barry Goldberg was on piano, live; and Textones drummer, Rick (Hemmert) playing drums and Greg Sutton, who I've worked off and on for years and played in a band with Barry Goldberg - actually on A&M. He also was in Lone Justice years ago. We just had one other guitar player, Brian Brown. We just cut the first one, which is the longest one. And then Mick said, 'Let's do another one right away.' So, we started another one and that was pretty good. It was alright. And he said, 'Let's do one more.'

“We're all in this room and the headphones are just blasting. I mean, it was really, really loud and I don't care. We got a third of the way through that one or maybe a half and then Mick broke a string. So, we aborted that one and just put it - we could put it to bed at that point. We came out of the room and I said, 'The headphones are so loud! I get a lot of drums and a lot of bass and I got a lot of your vocals. I couldn't hear your guitar.' And he goes, 'But, you know, that's the way the Stones did it. That's the way it's to be done." I just thought, 'Well, we passed the Stones test so I guess we're okay!'”

Then, continuing on about ‘Winter’, Ms. Olson said:

“That's my favorite. That and 'Street Fighting Man' are my favorite Rolling Stones songs.”

I added that they also did an incredible job on another Stones song, ‘Sway’. “Well, you know why I wanted to do Sway even when we planned to do this show together. He (Mick Taylor) was still living in New York and he said, “You know, whatever songs we want to do from your most recent album’ - which was a solo album I put out in Sweden with a Swedish band called Wilmer X - a great band - and they just did a live show the day before yesterday, a live show on YouTube. You should catch it if you like the Stones. They're really great. They sing in Swedish, but they're such an amazing band. I did a record with them in ‘88 in Sweden, had a studio there and. But the reason I wanted to do 'Sway' was because Mick Taylor told me that there was about a five-minute outro on their studio version of that. But Mick Jagger decided to fade it early. You can hear him start to take off in the fade. Then, for some reason, Jagger decided to fade it and he said that at one point there was a cassette that existed of it. There was a cassette of the additional three minutes, but that burned up in Keith's house when he had a fire.

“When they did the extended version of 'Sway', I thought they would come up with it, but they didn't.”

I interjected that I thought that the closest they ever came to it was then when they did the live version of Sticky Fingers a few years ago. She responded:

Carla and Stephen“Yeah, but Mick Taylor didn't play on that so that's the whole point. I mean, that's the whole point between the strings. Nicky Hopkins, Mick Taylor not being on it. And when they tried - they actually contacted me about - when they were gonna do the tour with Mick in 2013 - they contacted me - or maybe it was 2012 that they put it together. They ask me to send him a CD from the Roxy. Why they couldn't go on Amazon and buy it. I don't know. Because what they wanted to hear was how did Mick sound on it. Okay, fine. Mick sounded great on it. And then they decided to include it in a couple of shows, not the one that I went to because they didn't play that one at the Staples Center when I heard them on that tour. Mick invited us and we had tickets to the first night only and they only did Midnight Rambler and he got to be at the end of the show, playing acoustic guitar on Satisfaction just so they wouldn't have to call. You have to do a curtain call. He'd be already on stage.

“To me, it was too fast. They played it really fast. And, you know, the thing about that song that's so interesting is the lyrics in Sway. I think it's I mean, obviously I love the playing, but the lyrics - there's some beautiful poetry in there. ‘Circular time.’ I mean, there's some beautiful, beautiful things on it. That was one of the reasons I wanted to do it and also to hear what Mick would play! We got a pretty good idea. We did three shows, actually four shows with that. I have a vinyl version of it - just the outros from it - coming out in, hopefully, by record store day in November, if it's going to happen, if we get the lacquer done - the lacquer’s done, the artwork’s all done. Yeah, it's all done. Everything's done. We just have to get the lacquer from the pressing plant and get it scheduled with Sunset Boulevard. They're putting it out. They're also putting out a reissue of the Roxy show that's 'Too Hot For Snakes' right now - a disc that'll come out simultaneously.

“But we now know what he played. We went through these songs twice, max, each at rehearsal. I mean, maybe we went through - with the vocal part - I mean, he didn't really stretch out until the show. Our rehearsal takes of it somebody has said, I think one of the vaults has got it. Somebody's got it in-house here of the rehearsals. Where he just barely touched on it, just, 'Okay, yeah, we know what we're doing. There' is another whatever, three, four minutes after that’, and a lot more than that. But at least we knew the arrangement. Everybody knew what they were supposed to do. (Ian) McLagan played piano on it. And, you know, our rehearsals were fairly short versions of songs. He got here.

“We did two rehearsals; one show down in Long Beach. It was good, but it wasn't the Roxy. When you get on stage at the Roxy, you better rise to the occasion. Well, it's an important room. It's not a big room, but it's an important place in history. Everybody and their brother has played there. When you play with Mick, I mean, I hate to say this, not that I'm a slouch, but if when he walks on the stage, man, I'm telling you, that's muscle and you've got to rise to that muscle; you've got to rise to that occasion. And I think my band did. I think we did. We tried to get up there with him as far as his ability to play improv. None of them was - all that stuff was improv. It was all him just going for it. He would tell me in the studio, 'I don't need to hear the song in advance', if it was something he didn't know. 'I don't need to know the chords. Just look at me when you're gonna change chords.' So, through the window, I would look at him when there was a change. If we're all on the same page. I was and there was a change and that he would know to take a pause. That's why you always hear the Stones - I'm kinda digressing, but you hear Charlie kind of plays a little behind Keith. There's a little - because he's waiting to see where Keith's going to go. And that's kind of how Mick Taylor was sort of taught was give him enough breath to where you're not rigid. You're not jumping the gun. You're waiting for what the band is going to present and, as a player, you're going to follow that.”

In the mix of things, somehow or other Carla and I got on the subject of Lisa Fischer, former long-time backup singer for the Rolling Stones.

“Yeah, she was working with Alvino Bennett, who is one of the drummers that I used on lots and lots of records as a producer and Alvino normally plays with Dave Mason. But he produced demos for her years ago when she was thinking of leaving the Stones, she started living out here a little while. Her stuff was really good. She's very talented. There were songs that he had written with her and they were damn good songs. It wasn't jazz or anything. It was kinda hip hop/funky kind of stuff. It's not my cup of tea but it was really good. You'll have to look up her.

Circling back to her work with Micky Taylor, I asked Carla how the two of them met.

“Did you ever see Bob Dylan video, “A Sweetheart Like You”? That's me on guitar on the video. That's Mick Taylor playing on the recording. I was asked by Bob Dylan's Road manager - who was a Textones fan – my band - The Textones from the 80s - if I would be involved in the video shoot that they did for that song. Bob had never done a lip-sync. This is his first music video – in 1983. I pantomimed Mick Taylor's guitar parts. The last 32 seconds of that video is me. Very generous. Bob was very generous to me. He also gave me an unreleased song called ‘Clean Cut Kid’ to record for my album with the Textones that came out in 84, which has Ry Cooder playing on that song, and how I met Mick was through the video shoot; I was asked about six months afterward. Maybe a little longer. They went and did a tour - Bob Dylan did a tour with Mick Taylor playing guitar in ‘84. You might be too young to remember this (Note from Randy: god, I love her for saying that!), but I remember 84, 83 - 84. They toured all over Europe. It was after the Christian material. He did the album, ‘Infidels’, which was produced by Mark Knopfler. And Mark and Mick are the two guitar players, and Sly and Robbie, the reggae rhythm section was the members of the band.

“Mick came to several of the Textones shows to see us play with Greg Sutton, who was the bass player on that tour - Bob Dylan's tour. So that's my Carla Olson Coverconnection with Greg. I mean, I've known Greg for years, but he brought Mick down to see us play in L.A. Mick was living in New York. He got in touch with me and said, 'If you're ever doing anything and you want me to play guitar, I'd love to be involved.' That's how we that's how it happened.

“And a wonderful, wonderful opportunity for me to be in the video, even though I did not play those parts. I learned them. I mean, some people say, ‘You know, look at all the comments in the video on YouTube, they go, 'Aw, that's not her playing. She couldn't play that!' Well, okay, maybe I couldn't play it like Mick Taylor but I did play the licks. It's a pretty convincing pantomime. Enough of a convincing pantomime to where Bob said, 'Yeah. Let's go with 32 seconds of the video with just Carla.'

“He's actually been very, very generous and very kind to me. A lot of people complain that Bob's kind of an asshole, but I think that, lately giving us two songs on the Internet during this whole pandemic thing - and heartfelt! One of the last couple albums, his voice was kinda shot. Can't sing. He did the Sinatra thing. But this is great. We've just got to remember why we listen to music. I'm a fan. I mean, this is the thing that keeps us energized and keeps us wanting to go buy records. I mean, we buy records. We're going crazy not being able to buy records right now. We're in a music store at least three times a week. And there's not that many in L.A. now that are worth their salt. But, you know, there are a couple that we are we're always going to buy records. I just got Gordon Lightfoot.”

Then, shifting briefly to comment on Lightfoot’s constant touring, Olson said:

“He's possessed. I mean, he's like all of us; he's on a never-ending tour. He cannot get enough of pleasing the audience and getting something - It's not just about the song, the writing, and the playing. It's the connection that you make with people and that keeps you alive and vital. I mean, Gordon Lightfoot, He'll die taking his last breath singing on stage.

“I'm doing a record right now - I'm producing a record, ‘Ladies Sing Lightfoot’, and it's all Gordon Lightfoot songs sung by gals. Some of it's rock and roll. Some of it's just acoustic guitar and vocal. But I'm a huge Gordon Lightfoot fan.

“Have you heard or do you know about ‘Have Harmony Will Travel?’ The first one? Well, the first one came out in 2013, and that was at a point where I was mostly producing other artists - Paul Jones from Manfred Mann, Telle Tavaris from the band Tavarez, Claire Winningham, I did blues with everybody and their mother; every guitar player you could possibly imagine. Some of them have departed, unfortunately. I was doing mostly producing at the time and I realized that I really wanted - there were songs from my childhood and songs that I had sort of in suitcases and drug along the life trip that I wanted to record. Singing harmony with people that maybe had never thought of singing the song themselves. I ask a couple of close friends, ‘Would you be interested in seeing a duet with me on it?’ For instance, the song, ‘805’, which is a song that was on a Moby Grape album, that was a ballad that I always loved and I always sang along the harmony parts with all these songs that were the songs of my childhood.

“Another one was the Pozo-Seco Singers - which had Don Williams in it - the song called, 'Look What You've Done'. The gist of the idea of ‘Have Harmony, Will Travel, is singing songs - the harmony parts of songs, with the lead vocal being done by someone that may be either didn't ever sing the song, never heard the song or never thought, 'Oh, wow! I could sing that song with my voice!' So, the first one has Peter Case, Richie Furay. He was great. It was the Gene Clark song that he did.

“The original idea was songs that I had listened to on top 40 radio when I was a teenager, which is the 60s. And obviously, Buffalo Springfield and different people, bands like that that I was wild about. I mean, you know, the Band, the Bee Gees; bands like The Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Who. Those were all my childhood Heroes. So, I picked a grouping of songs that I would ask people - like I asked Peter Pace - there's a Del Shannon song that I've always loved called, ‘Keep Searching’. And he goes, 'Oh, I used to rehearse that song. But I never cut it.' And I said, 'Well, you want to sing the duet with me on it?' So, he was the first person that agreed to sing a duet with me. I got like Scott Kempner From The De-Lords. I don't know if you know the Del-Lords. They were a great band from New York. I got him to sing a song and Ritchie Furay said that he would sing a song. So, then I had like half an album that was duets. And I just finished it off with - I had Juice Newton, who's a friend, and a couple of other people on it that just rounded out the record; a great record of songs that I love.

“I wrote the liner notes for it which kind of tells the story of the radio stations back when we were growing up. We'd play everything from A to Z. It didn't matter what kind of music it was; if it was country or pop or jazz or whatever. I mean, the pop station I listened to in Austin played everything from Paul Murray’s 'If Love is Blue' to The Zombies’ 'Time Of The Season'.

Carla Olson 0012 Cuff“So, we had all that great stuff and being a college town, Austin, we got a lot of the great music coming through because of the University of Texas and also because it was very hip - it was on the hip circuit. We were kind of the San Francisco of the South. A lot of LSD being made there - not that I cared about that. I never took drugs. But you know that it was - Austin was really was kind of the San Francisco in the south. So, this second album. We started it in 2013 and I thought, 'OK, well, the other album had already been out for a little while and I thought, ‘Well, I've got three people I want to do duets with who've said that they're in between recording and touring schedules; they would consent to do a duet with me.’ One was Timothy B. Smith from the Eagles and they were on hiatus. And Peter Noone, who tours constantly, as you probably know. Peter lives in Santa Barbara. He came down the same day.

“So, I organized a session the day that we started this - October of 2013. So, I had Timothy B. Schmit, Peter Noone, and my buddy, Ana Gazzola, who's a Brazilian singer, girl singer from Brazil that lives in L.A., and I, I wanted to cut ‘Uno Mundo’, which I love; a Buffalo Springfield, Stephen Stills song. I always wanted to cut that. So, I have these three people in the studio and this brings me to my story about the fan thing.

“Timothy got there first because he lives in town and it was a big enough studio where there was a waiting area and a big, big console room and then a big room to track in. I did a lot of work in that studio. And so, Timothy's standing in the hall and in the door walks Peter Noone and I could just hear his heartbeat just double. I mean, this is so bizarre because, you know, you'd think of Peter Noone - obviously is - I saw Herman's Hermits twice in Texas and they came through twice in Austin and I was at those shows. But I'd known Peter for a long, long time since the 80s. I've known him since the early 80s. And just as a side sidebar, Phil Seymour sang and did percussion on Peter's one and only solo group. Well, it was called The Tremblers. They did two albums. And so, when the door opened and I'm standing there talking in the hallway with Timothy, who I also knew from being a friend of Don Henley's. I'm from Texas. He and I grew up together.

“So, Peter comes up and says, 'Okay, everybody, we all ready to go?' You know? And Timothy goes. 'Um, um, Excuse me, Peter, I’m Timothy Schmidt.' And he goes, 'Ah! Great to meet you!' 'I, I saw you when I was fifteen in Sacramento.'

“Suddenly, he (Schmidt) became this child, you know, right in front of our eyes. Child. I say child. He became a teenager right in front of our eyes. And Peter isn't much older. Peter's 72, I think. So, Peter was really young when they were touring. He was still in his teens. But it was so sweet and how gracious Peter was to him because he was - he knows, 'Hey! This guy is with The Eagles!'

“So that was just my little moment of putting together two people that probably would never have gotten to see each other again because their world's - their paths wouldn't have crossed. That was kind of cool. Our little moment. Here I tossed around all these names. I bought the first Byrds album when it came out in 65, from the Columbia Record Club. So, to be able to record and perform with Gene Clark was like, 'What?! Wait!' You know? And Vince Melouney, who's on this album from the Bee Gees, he was the original Bee Gees guitarist who played 'New York Mining Disaster'. The first chords you hear, that’s Vince Melouney. Vince and my husband, Saul, have been friends since the 70s and Vince has done some recording with me for different things we've recorded.

“So, those names I toss around like confetti here. But those - that was my childhood, you know. And being a person whose father - my dad was a musician and he was also in World War Two as a pilot. But he was a musician; he was a piano player. I mean, my parents urged me - I'm so lucky. They urged me to continue with music from the age of five. I was playing classical piano by the time I was in the first grade. I was playing Moonlight Sonata - it was my first recital piece. I wasn't that good, but I was good enough to have gotten through it, you know? Those moments are what sustain us.

This album of other artists - 'A Child's Claim To Fame' - that song, a Buffalo Springfield song, a Richie Furay song - was meant to be a surprise to Richie and kind of a tip of the hat and a thank you for recording on the first album with me – ‘She Don't Care About Time’ - the Gene Clark song. It was a secret. We weren't going to tell Richie that we recorded it. Long story short, it took me forever to get the funding to finish the record. And when I finally did get the funding to do it, we got it done pretty fast, you know. And through the years, all the wonderful people I've gotten to perform with, I wanted to have on this on this album, like Mare Winningham. I produced her second studio album in 1999.

“And my buddy, Percy Sledge, who - Saul, my manager - Saul and Barry Golberg from Electric Flag, they produced Percy Sledge album here in 1994 - 94/95 - that was his first recordings in 30 years. First, new recording. He was in the studio and I was cutting a solo album in the studio next to him - the room next to him. And one night I drove him home to the hotel because he needed a ride. They were still working in the studio. And he says, 'You know, Carla, tell me, do you have anything I can sing on that I can put my vocals on? I'd love to sing on your record.' And I said, 'Percy, honey, you can sing on anything you want!' I gave him a couple of choices and the song, ‘Honest As Daylight’, that's the song that he picked and that's the song that I put music to.

“Rick Hemmert - the Textones drummer - he doesn't write music, he writes lyrics. He sent me these lyrics about someone who had been sent to jail for, I mean, a very minimal crime. But, you know, selling stolen goods basically was what the song' about and Percy just wanted to sing on that and Mick Taylor's on it, too! He's playing the side.”

When I shared that it was my favorite on the album, Carla excitedly replied:

“I'm so glad! That was on my second solo album called, 'Reap the Whirlwind' and came out on Watermelon Records. I don't know if you remember Carla Olson 0154 Icon CuffWatermelon. They, unfortunately, went bankrupt, but they did a lot. They did a lot of really good. They did some stuff with Hunter Escovedo, He's an Austin - a kind of roots rocker. He had a band called The True Believers in the 80s. They were, like a cowpunk band. It was a good label, a really good label. A guy from Germany that moved to Austin after going to South by Southwest, decided he was going to move to Austin.

“But that song has also Textones saxophone player, Tom Morgan is on it. And Rick Hemmert, the drummer, and George Callins from the Textones’ on it. Todd Wolfe is on it. It's really great. It was a great recording experience because, even though it was a solo record, I got to use all the guys I love playing with. The only reason I went solo is that the bass player moved back to England because of family reasons - from the Textones. Rick's wife got a job with Roku. Remember Roku? She got a job with Roku in D.C., so he moved from L.A. - went with her to live; lived in Reston, Virginia, and he was there for several years.

“George Callins - the guitar player from the Textones that I have been playing with since the 70s - he was working for Kodak, working the graveyard shift. He was never around, but he got this great job to do editing, you know, put sound to movies and stuff like that. He was making great money and he just stopped playing music for a while. He's back. He's back playing with the Textones. But that song was, to me, it had all the components of what I wanted to sound like - back from one of the Stax sounding recordings. Obviously, I'm not a Stax type vocalist, but Percy had that Stax component. And the lyrics being topical, people really seem to know what it's about.”

What song would Carla point as a calling card for the album?

“Well, it depends on their age. If they're a boomer, they're gonna like the Peter Noone track. It has that very, very English, British invasion sound. It's got a twelve-string guitar on it that sounds very, very - that song, ‘Goodbye, My Love’. That song was recorded by The Searchers. If you remember The Searchers. Love Potion #9. That song was a hit in England, but not in America. However, it just appeared in the movie, Green Book. The first song that you hear in the movie when they're driving. I guess they finally get on the bridge and they're going out of the G.W. Bridge in New York. They're going to south. They're actually heading north. I'm quibbling, It's something I noticed. They're heading south to play concerts. Don Shirley was a jazz pianist, a top jazz pianist in the early 60s and that's what the movie is about. That song is in the movie, not my version of it, but that song is in the movie and nobody knows that song in America. It's a great song. So, I think that's cool.

“But of course, I love all these songs. So, you know, Terry Reid, if you really love Terry Reid's voice, I mean, he has his own appeal. I saw Terry Reid open for Cream in ‘68 in Dallas and he damn near blew them away. His three-piece band - guitar, bass and drums and damn near blew them away. I was with Don Henley, he got us tickets because he lives in Dallas. And we drove up from Austin and Cream opened with White Room, which is another story altogether.

“But I mean, yeah, it's kind of a side bar. I'm writing with the guy who wrote the lyrics to ‘White Room’ and ‘Sunshine of Your Love’. I'm writing songs with him Pete Brown. He's 80 and he's living two hours south of London. His writing partner passed away last year and I got in touch with him about something different, something else. I got in touch with him about something unrelated. He says, 'Yeah, my writing partner died and I don't have anybody to write with anymore.' He's a lyricist. He's a poet. So, I said, 'Well, do you want to write with me. I'm up for it.'

“And now, of course, I've written four songs with him because of the pandemic. We’ve sat at home and finished four songs that I sent to my bass player in London. And he put a rhythm track down and sent it back to me. Believe it or not, I sang a vocal into my iPhone and emailed it to him and he put it into the track. He put a lot of wash on it; a lot of slap back on it. You really can't tell. But it's not a performance vocal, but it's a song running demo. But anyway, these songs - like Terry Reid - there was ‘Scarlet Ribbons’. That was a childhood lullaby my mother used to sing. Well, it was Jimmy Rogers - the Honeycomb guy. And the other track, which is kind of obvious if you are into my work with Gene Clark, you've already heard ‘Delgado’ because that was on my album, ‘So Rebellious A Lover’.

“So, if your friend is, like I said, depends on their age and if they like Johnny Cash kind of country stuff, ‘Shackles and Chains’. That song I did with Vince Malouney. He's playing some chicken pickin’ kind of Nashville - he's Australian playing some chicken pickin’ licks. Kind of James Burton stuff.

Carla Olson 0248 CuffWell, he was in a band called the Aztecs. Before he got in the Bee Gees, he played in the rockabilly band that was a huge band. Kind of like The Shadows or The Ventures that were instrumental; these guys were like instrumental rockabilly. Not totally instrumental, but they did a lot of instrumentals. Vince was a guitar player in the band before he moved to London to play with the Bee Gees. Vince is 70. He's older than Barry, so he's probably seventy-four. And he's still playing all year round with a group that tours - three brothers from Italy. They call themselves the Italian Bee Gees. He plays guitar with them. You know, as a sidebar and his playing - it's not ever been better and he's a great player. He sings, too, but he's not really a singer like the Bee Gees kind of stuff. I mean, doesn't sing like that. He sings rock and roll.

“But it's hard to choose. That's why I picked all these songs to do because they're all my favorites, you know. And the Gene Clark song I did with Mare Winningham, ‘After the Storm’, that's kind of a twelve stringy, Byrdsy, jangly kind of thing, too, if your friend is into that. Most of these songs are short so they can get into all these songs!”

On a dime, Carla shifts to her “Ladies Sing Lightfoot” that she mentioned earlier.

“If you get a chance to check out Natalie Noone. She's Peter's daughter. She's terrific. She's on the Gordon Lightfoot 'Ladies Sing Lightfoot' album and does Steel Rail Blues. I've got a label for it. It's going to probably come out on Sunset Boulevard because we really love them. Susan Cowsill is going to be on it. I've got the Kennedys. You know the band, The Kennedy's? Great band. She's on it. Mara's on it. And Darling West from Norway, they're on it.

“Peter Lewis from Moby Grape, his daughter Arwen, and he do a song together on that, where he's playing an overhand dobro and it's really cool. That album is going to be amazing. Hopefully, it'll come out this year. But Natalie, she lives in Nashville and she's got a couple of - did you ever know Duane Jarvis? He played with Lucinda for years. He went by D.J. Duane Jarvis but he had a band - like an Americana kind of band - called DJ's Back Porch. And he also played with Christina Amphlett from The Vinyls - an Australian band - The Vinyls. Great, great player. I put him together with Natalie because they were living in Nashville together and they were doing a little songwriter's circle at the Bluebird for a while and she's very good. She said she could sing like her dad can sing. And pretty. Pretty as the day's long. Beautiful. Beautiful voice.”

Then, almost reading the unspoken comment in my mind, Olson says:

“Everybody says, 'God, you're so busy', but I'm like, 'you know, life's short. I'm gonna be busy until I'm out of here! I'm like Gordon Lightfoot!'. I don't want to be a doomsayer or anything but, if I'm not here, I mean, if I'm not making music, it's because I'm either asleep, or I'm gone. I want to be making music.

Then, without skipping a beat, Carla segues to another project she’s busy with.

“This Americana Railroad album that I produced. I'm actually on a couple of tracks on that. That was Stephen McCarthy. We did, 'Here Comes That Train Again'. That was a song on the Long Riders' first album. We cut that together. Dave Alvin did a killer track for us for that. I mean, a beautiful song called ‘Southwestern Chief’. That's gonna be coming out on - BMG has a new label called Renew. They just launched this new label. It is an Americana label. They just announced it on Billboard - the release. So, I'm assuming it's all going to happen after the dust settles and everything. But that's got some really beautiful performances on it, too. And some rock and roll stuff.

“I did a track with some - you know Procol Harum's ‘Whiskey Train’? I cut that one with Brian Ray from Paul McCartney's band - the guitar player. He plays all the instruments. Well, the drums he didn't play but he played all the other instruments on it and I sing on it. I walked into the studio thinking he was going to sing it and I was producing it. He said, 'You're singing it.' I went, 'I'm singing it? OK.' So, I mean, I kind of had to, you know, grab that innermost screaming ability of myself to sing a ballsy vocal on it. It was kind of out of my range, but that's going to be on it. And we've got a couple of really cool covers; probably things that you know.”

Wrapping up our chat, I threw my last three questions to Carla all at once:

  • What does she hope people get from the album?
  • Are there any tour plans to support the album? 
  • How does Carla want to be remembered and what does she hope her legacy is?

“Well, what I would want people to take from this is that the joy of singing is only topped by the joy of singing with someone else. And if you play and sing alone - and that floats your boat and you really love it, okay. But when you hear another voice - the timber in that voice matching your own or complimenting your own, there's nothing better than that. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do is record these records - the duet records - is because of that. And that's a joy that I'm certain I share with many, many people.” “We did have plans to do some dates with Steve McCarthy and myself and a couple of other players around. That's obviously on hold.

“My legacy? She would play anywhere, any time with anybody because she loves to play. Playing live is the most wonderful thing in the world I really love.”

If you haven’t yet jumped online to check Carla’s work, do so now. I’m sure that, like me, you, too, will become an instant fan and love the kind of person she is. 

Follow Cara on her website, CarlaOlson.com.