Entertainment Entertainment Music

Local Q&A: Angel Olsen

It's a safe bet there was a cache of Twix bars stashed somewhere backstage when Angel Olsen performed last month at the Pitchfork Music Festival.

"It's the one thing I have on my [tour] rider, and if I don't have them I won't go on," Olsen said with a laugh. "Well, that's not true, but it's become a running joke between [my friends and I]."

This laughter might come as a surprise to those who only know the 26-year-old singer-songwriter from her breakthrough sophomore album, "Half Way Home," a heavy-hearted effort dominated by sad, introspective tunes.

In a recent phone interview, however, the Logan Square resident was equal parts thoughtful, charming and, yes, funny (even if she couldn't recall her favorite joke on the spot) as she discussed her festival experience, the place she feels most at home and why she doesn't sweat things like party invites.

How was performing at Pitchfork?

It was really interesting. I think my music lends itself to a more intimate environment, so I didn't know what to expect. Most times with festivals people are sort of half there because they're there to see several things at once, so I was surprised people were paying attention. I ended up having a really great time.

What was the highlight of the weekend?

I saw Bjork. I'd never seen her live. I wouldn't say a festival is the best way to judge a performance from an artist because it's not always the most comfortable and sound is always escaping — no matter how great the sound guy is. But I had a great time listening, even with all those factors in mind. Then I saw Swans the next day, and Swans was amazing.

Sonically they're about as far removed from your sound as a band can get.

Yeah, but I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. I don't go home and listen to my albums. It gives my ears a break sometimes to listen to really heavy, different sounds.

The concept of home surfaces frequently in your music. Where do you feel most at home these days?

With myself, and I guess it should remain that way even when I have a more permanent lifestyle. Right now I'm traveling so often that I have to make myself as comfortable as possible in any situation I'm in, which is both challenging and exciting.

What's the one thing you can always find comfort in when you're on the road?

I always bring something really random that means a lot to me. It's usually not something that's necessary for a trip. It's usually something that reminds me of who I am or what I'm doing. I'm not taking a lamp with me, but I'm bringing something that represents where I'm from. Maybe it's even just a book or something. I was recently in a town and I went to the hotel I was staying in and I took all the pillows off the bed and took all my clothes out of my bag and put them in a dresser, even though I was only staying a few days. I kind of made the room as messy as possible to make myself feel like, "Well this has been lived in and I'm taking up this space and owning this space."
Do people tend to assume you're going to be as sad and introspective as your music? After "Half Way Home" was released, did you find you were getting invited to fewer parties?

[Laughs] My friends know I'm not the records I produce. I am some of that, but that's not all of who I am. I just let people think what they want, and if they want to think I sit around all day crying and reflecting and writing about stuff that's cool, whatever. But I do other things. I enjoy life. I go on walks. I go to the beach. I would even like to maybe get into other artistic ventures, but right now [the music] is the extent of my public self, so I am to blame in some way, I guess.

In terms of revealing another side of you your personality, I was curious if you have a favorite joke at the moment?

A favorite joke? Oh, wow. I heard a good one the other day, but I can't remember it. Jokes are good for passing the time and for filling up awkward moments. But I can't think of anything right now. I wish I could.

Angel Olsen, 9 p.m. Fri., Aug. 16 at Lincoln Hall. $13-$15.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge
    Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge

    An argument over a woman led to one man being killed and another wounded during a shooting inside a South Loop music lounge early Saturday, police said.

  • Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise
    Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise

    Members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity apparently learned a racist chant that recently got their chapter disbanded during a national leadership cruise four years ago that was sponsored by the fraternity's national administration, the university's president said Friday.

  • In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing
    In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing

    Someone may have improperly tapped a gas line before an explosion that leveled three apartment buildings and injured nearly two dozen people, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday as firefighters soaked the still-smoldering buildings and police searched for at least two missing people.

  • Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden
    Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reduced spending and increased fines, fees and certain taxes to shrink the chronic budget deficits left over from his predecessor, Richard M. Daley.

  • Six Flags Great America's lost attractions
    Six Flags Great America's lost attractions

    Not every ride's the Willard's Whizzer. That iconic coaster debuted in 1976 when Marriott's Great America, now Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee, Ill., first opened. And it's still popular today. But for every Whizzer there's a Tidal Wave, Shockwave or Z-Force, rides existing only in memory.

  • Denim's just getting started
    Denim's just getting started

    Five years ago, denim-on-denim defied all of the dire warnings in the "Undateable" handbook: Instead of evoking John Denver or Britney Spears in her misstyled youth, chambray shirts paired with darker blue jeans became as cool as actor Johnny Depp and street-style heroine Alexa Chung.