Real World Music

Troy Olsen brings his country music home.

Fortune has been smiling upon local country singer Troy Olsen for the last few years--and not without reason. The 28-year-old singer, songwriter and guitarist is a gifted musician.

This Friday, September 28, marks the release of his debut CD, Living in Your World, an album that is a culmination of his recent luck and talent, and of his childhood.

Olsen grew up on a ranch near the Arizona-New Mexico border town of Duncan, Ariz. In fact, his residence was so rural his parents had to drive 30 miles to the nearest medical facility in Morenci so his mother could birth him.

Olsen draws from a long line of ranching and farming families that worked for generations in Arizona's high desert. He had the blessing of growing up with an extended family, which lived the cowboy lifestyle of raising livestock for the rodeos.

"I was lucky," Olsen said, "to grow up where I did."

Country music infused itself into Olsen's soul during his formative years. The singer listened to country music on AM radio at the ranch. When his grandfather had to make trips into town for supplies, they would stop in at a local saloon so his grandfather could enjoy a little whiskey. Olsen and his cousins would ply the jukebox with the tunes of country greats such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. Olsen was also exposed to the live music played at honky tonks because of his family's involvement with the rodeo circuit.

It wasn't until the '80s, however, that Olsen knew he had to become a country singer. His resolve stemmed from the emergence of new traditionalists Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle on the country-music scene.

Besides loving Yoakam, Olsen said that he loved Yoakam's band as much, if not more.

"They played the sounds that turn me on," Olsen explained.

How beautiful is it, then, that longtime members of Yoakam's band, fiddler Scott Joss and keyboardist Skip Edwards, play on Living in Your World?

"It's a dream come true, really," Olsen said. "It's cool."

Dreams don't come true without hard work, and Olsen is reaping what he has sown.

He began playing Tucson clubs in his early 20s and became the house act for Tucson's popular country music nightspot Maverick King of Clubs in 1997.

Olsen's fan base grew, probably as a result of numerous things: his easygoing stage presence, the quality of his music and lyrics, his endearing smile, his affinity with the crowd. Olsen enjoys introducing himself to the people in the club during performance breaks and feels that by doing so, he is able to help them enjoy the music more.

He says in his bio, "You have to get with the folks. It's just like playing on the front porch. When you're playing on the front porch, you can do no wrong because you are playing with your family. You've got to get on everybody's front porch."

In 1998, Olsen was recording a demo at Jim Brady's studio, where--incidentally--Linda Ronstadt was recording vocals at the same time.

"She heard one of my songs," Olsen said, "and called her manager. The next day, her manager flew out."

Within a month of meeting with Ronstadt's manager, Olsen had signed a songwriting deal with Windswept Pacific Publishing.

Always keeping a residence in the Old Pueblo, Olsen now found himself traveling all over the country, but he mostly worked in Nashville and Los Angeles.

He collaborated with other songwriters for a couple of years while actively working for Windswept, but "nothing ever got cut. I saw time going by," he said, "and I wanted to get back to playing and being an artist."

In January, Olsen resumed permanent residence in Tucson to write songs. According to his bio, Olsen wanted to make "an album of freshly written tunes." He worked with songwriters John Coinman, Billy Bacon, Chris Gaffney, Chris Miller, Chris Hunter, Robert John Jones, W. Seth Russell, Steve and Simon Nelson and Teddy Morgan.

The combination of talents churned out great songs that are true to traditional country. It is evident in "Stronger Than the Wine," with lyrics like, "Just like those old songs, I've been trying to drown your memory--one more time," weaving through the pedal steel styling of Jay Dee Maness and the fiddling of Scott Joss.

Living in Your World is fleshed out with Michael Turner playing electric guitar, James Intveld playing bass and acoustic guitar, Skip Edwards on piano and organ, and the drum work of David Raven and Shawn Nourse. Turner and Intveld also produced the album.

Currently, Olsen is booking shows for his tour, and plans "on being on the road indefinitely. We're trying to do a grass roots tour throughout Arizona, New Mexico, touching into Texas and southern California." Olsen is taking guitarist Kevin Pakulis, bassist Keith Caudill, drummer Bill Dinardo, steel guitarist Neil Harry and keyboardist/organist Duncan Stitt on the road with him.

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