Troy Olsen – Rebel of the ranch
Almost from the time Troy Olsen was old enough to drive (that’s age 10 for a rancher’s kid), he’d take a truck up from his family’s canyon home to the highest point around, plug a TV into the cigarette lighter, position the set atop the cab, and watch TNN’s Video PM from a lawn chair in the truck bed. The nightly ritual was the extent of his musical rebellion. His parents, and grandparents, had brought him up listening to, and singing, old cowboy ballads and country standards. They couldn’t understand his fascination with Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle, Willie and Waylon and Vern Gosdin, but he couldn’t get enough.
Olsen got his first guitar at 13, after a year of begging his parents, then learned to play from two seasonal ranch hands who were mariachi in their native Mexico. When the family moved to an agricultural community near Tucson, Olsen hooked up with like-minded high-school mates to form a country band. They gigged at dances and rehearsed for hours on end, but soon it was clear that Olsen was taking the music more seriously, and before long he was getting offers to play with other bands. Once he started his own in earnest, he landed the most coveted regular gig in town as house band at the Maverick King of Clubs. And he found his voice.
“When I started I just wanted to play rhythm guitar in a band,” Olsen says. “[Then] I really started falling in love with singing. I quickly understood that it was the best thing that I could offer.”
Olsen’s an understated guy; he has a voice to silence a room into rapt reveries of Bakersfield. “I sang 24 hours a day, just sang all the time, practicing,” he says. It was an effort facilitated by living alone in the bunkhouse of the family ranch. It’s now rewarded by packed houses at his shows, where the dance floor, too, is often packed, with unabashed fans of original, live country music. There’s nothing alternative about it.
For his debut release, Living In Your World, Olsen attracted some of the best-known sidemen in California country, including Buck Owens’ pedal steel player Jay Dee Maness and Yoakam bandmates Scott Joss and Skip Edwards. James Intveld and his guitarist Michael Turner produced, engineered and played on the project.
Late last November, Olsen opened for Yoakam in Tempe, Arizona, and did his parents proud. A change of heart? “When Dwight first came out it was a bit of a shocker for them. But I think now they understand that he is one of the only guys around that was keeping alive the music they love.” Add Troy Olsen to that list.