Interview with Erika Olson
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Growing up, I always loved music. I studied classical flute and fell in love with musicals early on. I had a crazy eclectic taste in music ranging from singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchel, John Prine, and Crosby Still Nash & Young, to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nirvana, The Fugees, Tribe Called Quest, Alanis Morisette, and the Beastie Boys. Later on I would fall in love with country and bluegrass - Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Patty Griffin, Jenny Lewis and the list goes on and on it goes. But I grew up in a small town and I never dreamed I could build a life around music.
From my vantage point pursuing music looked like only something insanely talented people did. So I stuck to the books and worked my way to a law degree. After having my first child I was drawn back to music and creativity. After countless years of not picking up an instrument I started taking guitar lessons. That slowly expanded into voice lessons, then songwriting, playing in a band or two, and then finally recording my own music. If I had not pivoted to music when I did, I would either be a litigation partner at a law firm having spent countless hours in an office away from my family, or I be a somewhat reluctant yoga teacher!
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I love to do anything I can in nature. I hike, camp, swim in the sea, take my children on adventures, forage for tasty treats, and walk my dog every morning. I feel something is missing when I don’t have my regular connections to nature. You will find references to and reverance for nature throughout my lyrics. The title track to my album, This is How I Pray, is about a spiritual connection to nature.
How long has your band been around?
I began exploring songwriting 8 years ago, but it wasn’t until after we moved to London, I truly put my law practice on hold, and my third child was born, that I really started giving music more focused time and attention. I poured my energy into learning the craft, meeting fellow songwriters, co-writing, and just loving music.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I live in a little village called Buxted in East Sussex. Being in the UK has absolutely influenced my music. My songs are born with just a girl and her guitar and I could have easily chosen a traditional folk and Americana vibe. But living in England and being exposed to all the genre bending, eclectic style of music that go on here - I had to reflect that musically on my album. I wanted folk music merged with a London sensability.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
By honoring the name my parents gave me :).
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
I recently played a Birth Keeper and Wild Soul festival. It transformed my idea of what playing for an audience could be. I played to a gathering of amazingly open and embodied women. I felt as if we were all on a musical journey together. I have never played for such a warm and receptive audience. It was as if each song told every woman’s story - the power of our collective experience that night left a lasting impression on my soul.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
My favorite venue to play is the Evening Muse in Charlotte, NC. I cannot wait to go back and play this album to my hometown crew. The Evening Muse is an amazing listening room, where everyone gets a warm welcome and an attentive ear. Going to shows at the Muse showed me what is possible as a singer/songwriter.
I am really excited about playing the Green Note in London one day. It reminds me so much of the Muse and I certain I would feel at home there.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Joni MItchell, Joy Oladokun, Brandi Carlile, and Donovan Woods
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Just put one foot in front of the other! It is wonderful to have lofty goals and big dreams, but every journey is just one step at a time. There are all kinds of sayings that allude to this idea - like Rome wasn’t built in a day. A friend just told me the other day that you don’t eat an elephant in one sitting - that gave me the creeps and the giggles all at the same time.
I would tell my younger self to go easy on herself - she does not have to catch up to anyone or get anywhere. Everytime she just holds her guitar, strums it for a moment or two, is enough. I would encourage her to settle into the tender moments of her life, because they really do fly by.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Get clear on what you need and what you want and then look for it, ask around for it, and trust your inner knowing when you think you may have found it.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
This is How I Pray is the title track to my album and it means so very much to me. I wrote it during one of our many lockdowns in the UK. Our first lockdown begcan in March, just as winter was giving way to spring. It was the first time in my life when I could recall watching spring unfold and it was magnificent. Every morning I would wake up early and go for a walk on the footpaths behind our house. I walked through forests and fields and watched the bluebells bloom, the leaves on the trees grow lush, the ferns sprout taller than my children, the stinging nettle rise up only for the sheep to thankfully eat them back, and the brambles to grab at my ankles and then offer the most delicious blackberries. I watched the birds and the squirrels steal every cherry on my cherry tree and delighted in the apples turning from green to red. I reflected on how magical and magnificent nature is and the more I thought about it the more I realized, the spirituality of my childhood and my life couldn’t be contained within the brick and mortar walls of a church. I set out to write that song - it felt very ambitious and took me some time - but I love what came together and I Iove playing it for people and feeling them get lost in the imagery and the memories of their own spiritual journeys.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Momma Ain’t Got NoTime is always a crowd pleaser and my most requested song. Hungry Little Bird and This is How I Pray are steadily catching up with Momma. Honestly, I love playing them all - they are meant to be shared!
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
I like to keep writing and challenging myself to grow as a writer and musician. I love to explore new ideas and styles. When I am not involved in recording and releasing music, I write almost daily to prompts or just what is coming up in my life. Now that I am working to finish this record and am releasing singles simultaneously I keep myself accountable by taking writing classes every few months. I cannot always keep to the schedule but being in a group and meeting up with other writers keeps the ideas flowing.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I am annoyingly optimistic so I would say that hope is the message that I most often convey. But I also explore inner strength and perseverance. I am always trying to see things from a new perspetcive or vantage point - to spin a challenge into a triumph, or the mundane into the magnificent. I like to convey that life is happening now and if we don’t pay attention to it we will miss it!
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
The beauty of being a one girl band is that I only have myself to blame!
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I am so excited to be releasing my debut album, This is How I Pray will be out this fall! I can barely contain myself!!
Thank you so much for the amazing opportunity to answer these questions!