Ex-Jayhawk Marc Olson Takes Career Into His Own Hands

Releases his own solo debut via website and mail-order.

For a few years during the early-to-mid-'90s, Marc Olson did things the corporate way.

So maybe it's not surprising that the ex-Jayhawk retreated into something completely different when it

came to releasing his solo debut, which he has credited to The Original Harmony Ridge Creek

Dippers.

The 36-year-old singer/songwriter and co-founder of the Jayhawks, who parted ways with the

Minneapolis group a little more than two years ago, went so far in the other direction with the 10-track folksy album he

released last October that it's almost too low-key for its own good. After recording for both indie and major labels, Olson decided to record his solo debut at home and at his own expense.

"We were out on the road with the Lilith [Fair] tour this summer and I saw [No Depression

magazine editor] Peter Blackstock and he jarred me into some serious thinking about putting out my

own record," said Olson, who backed up his wife, folk-rock recording artist Victoria Williams, during

her 10-date stint on the popular all-women tour. "I saw some ads in magazines and it made me realize

that a lot of people are putting out their own records, and since this sounded so different from what a

lot of people are doing now, I thought I should go ahead and do the legwork."

So, instead of searching for a new record label after leaving the country-pop band he helped found with

current member Gary Louris in the mid-'80s, Olson decided to release the album by himself, making it

available only at the Creek Dippers' website (www.thegrid.net/creekdipper/) or by mail-order. Hewing

to his reputation as the rootsier of the Jayhawks' two songwriters, Olson keeps it acoustic and folky on

songs such as the wistful piano ballad "When School Begins" and the countryish

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Olsen,_Mark/Hummingbird.ram">"Hummingbird"

(RealAudio excerpt).

The album was recorded last fall at Olson and Williams' new home-studio in Joshua Tree, Calif., with

an old friend of Olson's from Minnesota, Mike "Razz" Russell. "I finished my record and thought I'd

have this big vacation when I got back home," laughed Williams, who has just released her fourth

album, Musings of a Creek Dipper. Williams, whose album features an alternate version of the

flowery duet "Hummingbird," said instead of a vacation, Olson informed her that Russell would be out

the next day and that the three were going to get right to work. "I thought I'd be communing with the

dolphins or something, but it was really fun to do a low-budget project like this."

A number of the songs on the album feature Williams' distinctive vocals, including a haunting

backing track on

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Olsen,_Mark/Run_With_The_Ponies.ram"> "Run with the

Ponies" (RealAudio excerpt), a melancholy country tune complete with a whistling solo

midsong. "I've always liked duets, like the Gram and Emmylou stuff," Olson said about ex-Byrds

member the late Gram Parsons and country star Emmylou Harris. "I love country stuff with harmonies,

but I'm not a straight harmony singer, so it helps to have Vic here to help me out."

The lo-fi album, which rarely veers from midtempo, is colored by Olson's Neil Young-like harmonica

playing on songs such as "Flowering Trees," as well as Russell's subtle mandolin, violin and viola

playing, especially on the countrified Traffic-like tune "Be On My Way."

Olson, who said he left the Jayhawks because he'd "accomplished as much as he could" with the band,

added that selling his solo album on his own terms seemed like the best way to relearn the ropes of

getting music to fans. "I wanted to learn how to record on my own, for one," said Olson. "And once

[former label] American let me go, I thought 'now's my chance to do this, and sell it directly to people.' "

The adventure has been a learning experience, if a lot of hard work, he said. "It's liberating in a sense

that I want to keep busy. I like to be hands-on, but it's definitely not for everybody."

Color="#720418">[Sat., Feb. 14, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]