“I went from working in a coffee shop 40 hours a week, and maybe performing a show of mine once a month or something at a house, to working three hours a night on a tour with Will Oldham,” says Angel Olsen, a gifted singer/songwriter from Chicago, in a recent phone conversation.
It’s easy to see why Oldham, aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy, wanted Olsen to sing with him on that 2010 tour — her voice is a compellingly expressive instrument, subtle and intimate one minute, big and raw the next. The now-26-year-old Olsen says she learned a lot from her touring experience with Oldham, an artist who revels in the unexpected — especially in a live setting.
“What I really, really like when I see a performance is somebody who does something really unexpected and it just punches you,” Olsen says. “It’s like, ‘Oh, you’re a human being. You actually feel what you’re singing.’ I think that’s missing in a lot of things.”
Olsen’s full-length debut, Half Way Home, is not one of those things. Released earlier this year by tiny indie Bathetic, Home is an impressive showcase for Olsen’s evocative, gothic-tinged Folk songs, which bring to mind a female Roy Orbison doing Moon Pix-era Cat Power covers.
“Why should I be afraid to show people that I want to put my thoughts to melody and that maybe they are personal?” Olsen says when asked about the seemingly first-person nature of her songs. “Like, why should I be afraid? I just want to live transparently.”
Olsen’s minimalist approach — her songs to date feature little more than her versatile voice and sparse guitar playing — is evolving into something more expansive: Her next album, to be released by Jagjaguwar sometime next year, features a full band.
“We finished this new material and we’re really, really excited,” Olsen says of the band, which is with her on the current tour. “I was like, ‘Man, we really did something that I didn’t realize we could do together in this room.’ I’m really stoked about playing with them.”
ANGEL WILSON performs with William Tyler Saturday, Aug. 25 at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. Check out performance times and get venue details here.