Interview: Brian Olive


I love being able to learn about musicians who seem to have their musical fingers in everything. These musicians are able to make their talents go beyond such a solo act or even their work in a band. I am not talking solely about session musicians, who in their own right offer talent that is often endless. The musicians that I am referring to here are men and women who somehow help with musical arrangements, production and even subliminal direction of a great piece of work. Brian Olive is one of those musicians I speak of. Luckily, he was able to take some time off of his busy schedule to elaborate more on what he does and his process through it all.

His musical ambitions and path are simple and sweet. “It always felt like the thing to do. Achieving fame wasn’t a really factor yet, I wanted people to hear my music. Maybe it’s just in my blood?” Indeed it is, the more he shared the more I could really grasp the depth of work he has been a part of.

His proudest moment was with a music legend. “Working on Dr. John’s ‘Locked Down’ was one of the most exciting. Mac’s somebody I’ve looked up to since I was a kid. We had some of the best players/singers and the whole thing came together seamlessly. I’ve also enjoyed making my solo albums. Hell, everything’s had its moments: The Greenhornes first album, Soledad Brothers ‘Voice Of Treason,’ and too many others to list.”

As far as performances go, he continued elaborating from his proudest work. “Again, Dr. John. We did three nights at BAM in Brooklyn performing Locked Down. There was a dreamlike atmosphere I can’t really explain. As for the future, yes, I have a few ideas in mind. One is for a kind of show that’s, to my knowledge, never been done. I wish I could tell you about it!” I will eagerly await this show when it comes.

Despite having some great shows, there have been bad ones as well. Brian shared a bit more on one in particular. “I’d have to say the last Greenhornes show. There had been serious ego tension within the group for quite a long time and it finally came to a head in St. Louis. It was like the lid blowing off a pressure cooker. We started out the show ok but, as we were about to do the last song of the set, one of the guys told me not to sing on it, like he was in charge. That was all I could take. I went into some sort of ‘rage trance’ and strummed all the strings of my guitar open for the entire song (while singing). When the song finished I turned around to find Patrick Keeler throwing a snare drum at me. So, I used my Tele as a spear. We both missed and proceeded to beat the hell out of each other. The last thing I remember is hitting him in the head with a mic that was still turned on. Every thump reverberated through the club! Oh well, was probably a good time to move on. There’s also the time when the Oakland chapter of the Black Panthers came to see the Soledad Brothers in SF but that’s a whole other story…” Wow, that is all I can say here.

As an active member of the music world, I was curious to hear Mr. Olive’s thoughts on the whole machine. “The business side of it is kind of a mess but I guess it always has been. It’s a new mess. The digital movement made an already difficult business a 1000 times tougher. I hope that the Department of Justice will update laws so artists are paid when their work is used by others to make money. As for the artistic side, it’s looking better all the time. I’m hearing a lot amazing new bands. I can’t speak for the Top 40 world but that’s something that’s maintained in the underground.”

His passion remains in music. Even when asked if he would partake in another medium, he still returned to the tunes. “It’s possible but I don’t foresee it happening I’m pretty entrenched in music. I have been producing bands/artists at my studio, The Diamonds, for the past 5 years. I get a similar satisfaction from working with other people on their albums as I do making my own. It seems like I end up playing sax or some other instrument on half of them as well.”

My favorite work of Brian’s has been “Stealin’” and “Left Side Rock.” When asked if he would change anything, he was blunt and true to his product, “… I wouldn’t change much. Each album is just capturing a moment. I try to make each one better than the last.”

Brian has tons of influences and I asked if he could give some examples. “Yeah, mostly newer artists, like; Electric Citizen, The Paperhead, Earth Girl Helen Brown, Tongue & Lips, Natural Child, just to name a few. All kinds of people inspire me.”

Probably the next most exciting part of Mr. Olive’s career will be taking off next. “I’m finishing my new LP right now for a spring 2016 release. We’re also about to get started on the second Electric Citizen album. I’ll be touring this winter in Dan Auerbach’s new band, The Arcs. I worked on some of the album back in October and my vocal ended up featured on the last track, Searching The Blue. Great sounds on that all around.” I do not know about you, but Brian’s career is really shining and he has so much more to give. Keep an eye out for his solo pieces and be sure to become addicted to The Arcs as they make their ways across the airwaves soon!


Jam On.

Photo credit: Aileen McGrath