Thursday, August 16, 2012

An interview with Brian Olive, who plays the Happy Dog on Wednesday

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2012 at 1:44 PM

BrianOlive-studio.jpg

While his former bands the Greenhornes and the Soledad Brothers gained a certain amount of acclaim for their gritty garage rock, singer-guitarist Brian Olive is likely to earn more notoriety for his solo career. After all, his latest album, 2011’s Two of Everything, a mix of garage, rock, and soul that was co-produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, received glowing reviews for its groove-oriented retro-leaning rock. And Olive worked on Locked Down, the recent Dr. John album that Auerbach produced. Olive, who spoke via phone from his Cincinnati home, performs at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Happy Dog. Guardian Alien opens, and tickets are $6.

You were a founding member of the Greenhornes, who had a terrific run that extended even after your departure. Looking back on it, what did you take from that experience with the band?
I was just a kid really. I did manage to learn a few things about human nature that they don’t teach you in school. I also learned about my own nature and the nature of others. When we started that band, I was convinced we were the best band in the world. There were quite a few people who agreed with us. I wish the original five members could have made something more of it but what’s meant to be is meant to be.

And what about the time you spent with the Soledad Brothers?
That was really beneficial to me as well and maybe even more so. That was a slightly less volatile situation with personalities. We got along most of the time. I got to travel the world and play music, so I was happy about that. Playing with that band with [singer-guitarist] Johnny [Walker] brought out a more relaxed side of my playing. I could be content to be a rocker. I met Johnny when he was going to school in Cincinnati and started sitting in with him. When we started touring, we ended up living in Detroit a lot of the time and then London after that. I came back here to stay about six years ago.

So what was the transition like to making your first album?
At the time, it was like a dream come true. If you’re in a band, it’s supposed to be a democratic process but I felt some things didn’t get done that way. Doing it solo, I can make the decisions as fast as I need to.

You embrace such a wide range of music. Talk about your influences.
I think I’ve always been influenced by a wide variety of different artists and genres and that kind of thing. I think a lot of people are but with the Greenhornes we stayed within a garage sound because that’s what we knew we could do. That’s what everyone wanted to do. Now, I can do whatever I want. If I’m into Gilberto Gil, I can let that come out and do a Tropicalia-style song. As long as it still sounds like me, I can let all those influences come out.

What did you try to do differently with Two of Everything?
I brought in a lot of players and got to pick and choose a little more who I wanted to do certain things. I decided to finish the album at Easy Eye in Nashville. That helped. I can record what I want in my studio but it’s good to take it someplace else at least to mix it. Dan Auerbach made a big difference, too.

What was it like trying to manage what your press release describes as “the revolving cast of talent” that contributed to the album?
It’s a nightmare. On one hand, I enjoyed having different people on the tours and having fresh faces pop up. But it’s hard creating a vibe between all the people and making sure that everyone will get along. There’s always that bit of anxiety and hoping for the best. It always seemed to work out.

Talk about the Dr. John experience.
I don’t know where to start. Since I was like 19 years when I heard [1968’s] Gris Gris for the first time, and it changed by whole perspective on everything. I’ve been a fan of his music over the years. I got to meet him in London by chance because a friend of mine was opening for him. He’s the only person that made me star struck and nervous. Luckily, I got that out of the way years before Auerbach asked me about doing the album. I was excited and honored that Dan picked me. Working with him was cool because he started his career doing that same thing we were doing — coming in the studio and working out music with other musicians. When we got there, he sat down at the piano and said, “What do you guys want to do?” He’s a great guy who has music flowing through him. Anytime we got to a point where we couldn’t quite get it and everyone was throwing out ideas, he would just sit there quietly and then say, “What if we do this.” And he’d do the most amazing thing. It was always the right answer. He’s a great guy. Everybody down there had an amazing time working on the album.

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