Troy Olsen

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2011 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

It’s reassuring to know that there’s still room for young artists whose music takes us to a specific time and place without sacrificing its appeal to the broad base of listeners. Troy Olsen, for example. His self-titled and self-produced debut EP, with co-producers and co-writers Brett Beavers and Jim Beavers joining him on “Tumbleweed,” has an epic regional feel reminiscent of Dwight Yoakam or Marty Robbins. Brushes stir a gentle but restless snare rhythm on the debut single, “Summer Thing,” written by Olsen, Ben Hayslip and Jimmy Yeary, with lyrics that recall a seasonal idyll. There’s a dose of Glen Campbell too, in the yearning of Olsen’s vocal and chords that roll like freight down tracks on “Ghost Town Train,” which Olsen penned with Marv Green.

The vistas conjured in Olsen’s songs recall his early years in Duncan, a tiny Arizona town near the New Mexico border. He spent a lot of time there with his grandparents; though their home had no electricity, the music beckoned to Olsen through a battery-powered radio and images from The Nashville Network flickering through a TV hooked up to a cigarette lighter in a truck. Inspired, he got himself a guitar, taught himself to play, wrote songs modeled initially on the work of Yoakam and Steve Earle and began recording demos on his Walkman.

He started performing while in high school, picking up enough work to lead him to seek greener pastures in Nashville. Arriving in 2002, Olsen made the right connections, eventually co-writing Blake Shelton’s “I’ll Just Hold On” and “Ghost Town Train,” which Tim McGraw recorded for Southern Voice.

The final, essential step came in late 2009, when Olsen showcased six original songs and walked home with a deal as the first artist signed to EMI Records Nashville. Judging from the evocative content and material packed onto Troy Olsen, his future is clearer even than the sky stretched wide over those mesas back home.

IN HIS OWN WORDS Q&A

SONG YOU’D SECRETLY LOVE TO COVER
“‘Watching the Wheels,’ by John Lennon.”

DREAM DUET PARTNER
“Linda Ronstadt.”

PET PEEVE
“Pet peeves.”

FIRST GIG
“At a livestock auction. It went really bad. I forgot the words to most of the songs because I was so nervous.”

TITLE OF YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY
“The Eternal Optimist.”

MUSICAL HERO
“Dwight Yoakam.”

BOOK ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND
“Into the Wild.”

On the Web: www.TroyOlsen.com

Country Music Association

Troy Olsen Photo by Kristin Barlowe/Provided by Country Music Association

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