Interview by Miriam C.

U.S singer-songwriter Angel Olson is back with her new album “All Mirrors”. As you’ll deduce from the following interview, her fourth album represents a real milestone in her career because of the several artistic challenged faced. I was lucky to meet her during her European tour here in The Netherlands on February, so enjoy this nice chat with us.

Hi Angel, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine. How are you and how the promotion of “All Mirror” is going?

You know, it’s going everything good. For every feedback, I get more and more promotion to do, so, it’s a lot. I would prefer to stay with my friends and be happy that I just made a record and I am through it but still, I have to talk about the whole day [laughs]. 

As I mentioned earlier, you are currently promoting your upcoming sixth album “All Mirrors” that will be released in October via Jagjaguwar. Considering that the last acclaimed LP “My Woman” was released back in 2016, I would be curious to learn more about the production of this album and how did it develop throughout this long span of time? 

Well, after I finished with my solo tour, I did publish “Phases” after touring “My Woman” and I went to Portugal, Spain, Italy and I went all over the UK and mostly Europe. I didn’t manage to stay as much as possible but out of that year, I went on a solo tour for three months and it was an interesting experience because I developed a more original writing approach which is more a lyric-based structured and less, a one based on a band. So, I got inspired and I wrote a bunch of songs and I decided to do a solo record because I thought I would be able to record and perform the songs with that particular structure and in addition to that, I wanted to do a big sounding record with the band or some strings. Actually, when I started the recordings I didn’t have my ideas really clear and I just recorded it straight away. I did this recording in Anacortes, Washington at the Unknown where the alternative/indie band Mount Eerie recorded a lot of their work and subsequently since they still live there, I became friends with their producer Phil Elverum. He’s a really dedicated one and I’m sure he’ll be open to recording something for you. Well, it’s just how it happened: I talked with him and I recorded that solo album there. Then I went back home, I started working on the arrangements and how to make these songs sound completely different from the solo recordings. So, for me, all this process was inspired by how I can arrange it completely differently. I asked people to write some string arrangements for me and now I was getting a second job because I never ever learned to think how strings melodies might be performed by professionals since I’m not aware of the theory since I always composed with a piano, guitar or with my voice. Consequently, this has been entirely transcribed to string arrangements and the entire process went back and forth like that for each specific part of the song. It has to do with the fact that the session was entirely lyric-based and also due to the fact that the structure was not fixed and going all around the places. In the end, it was a lot of work and communication and communicating was the hardest part of it because I had to be patient to wait for the draft to come in. My friend Ben and I met and I simply reached to him by explaining my intention and I also told him that I was meeting with the arrangers so, he wanted to give it a try and so, he ended up to write and perform the strings part for “Tonight” and I was literally amazed by the outcome that I ended up collaborating with him. He kept on composing even on songs that I didn’t like, so, I flew out to LA and worked on other parts like the bass. All of a sudden, he was like my backing band God because I was like I won the jackpot thanks to all these new musicians that he introduced me to. Eventually, I had to get Jherek, him and John Congleton in the same room communicating to make sure that everything was progressing and that everyone involved was working accordingly. Mainly, my job was getting these dudes and talk with each other [laughs] but you know, for me it was a real eye-opening experience because everything was previously written and recorded in an original way and I was given a chance to turn it into something much bigger, well, if people wanted to give a crack at it and I was really cool about it since I had its original. Unfortunately, it was a lot of work, sleepiness and waiting for all the pieces to come together owing to the fact I was really strict if I didn’t like something I would totally flip and me and Ben would create centrality and it would totally change. Also, the other difficulty was it was all too precise, I’m not that kind of artist and I won’t ever be that kind of person that changes my work in order to fit a metronome or a tight beat. I think it’s scary and weird all that and I’m just a human that changes things right on the moment and I don’t people around me to get used to being metronomes, this method helped us to move swiftly strings when they didn’t work part but aside that I personally have grown a lot and I have learned to how to communicate with people about strings melodies. Well, it was a lot of fun, however, sometimes the things that create agony might be the most rewarding ones whether it’s a break-up, losing someone in your life or make a fucking hard ass record. I never did something hard like this but it turned out to be quite educational and it’s matching the lyrics really well [laughs]. 

Well, I anticipated a lot of my questions however I’ll try to delve into it because I know that you love to be in control and have everything planned when it comes to your writing session. So, it appears that this time you did let yourself go with the flow and events have chosen for you a different path. How complicated and hard was it for you to manage a free-flowing process then a scheduled one? Which impact had on this new album and what did you learn from it?

Mainly, it was really difficult because I have OCD and I need to know which then plan is, especially if I’m spending money in a studio. I’m not the kind of artist like “Yeah, let’s jam and let’s spend label’s money” to make a record. You know, I’m not that kind of human ever because I don’t want to waste anyone’s time and not my time, either. So for me, I like to figure things out and plan them but sometimes it’s hard to let go and trust people or have this intuition that will match mine or that surprises me and/or my intuition. Honestly, it’s pretty rare that I let people do that and I’m trying to change some things about myself like, for example, the fact that I have a lot of personal expectations and it would be unfair when I collaborate with others to transfer my expectations on them because they won’t understand how anxious I’m [laughs]. Even to myself and how much I expect out of myself, people and I can get really disappointed and I just raise my hands up. So, it’s really hard to open up to collaborate with others particularly, if it’s your first time. Though with [producer] John [Congleton] there was already built to some extent some trust and I was already aware that he would do something great. He and I sometimes we butt heads against things but I trusted that he would create something out of thin air. Everybody who was involved in the record was very clean and intuitive and I felt sincerely lucky to have worked with them. You know, they were serious about it and this meant the world to me, to just let people do that, to open up my music to them and at the same time retaining some control of it.

I remember when I was on tour for my last record “My Woman”, one of my guitarists would ask me: “How is it this solo for this song?” and I would say simply that it sounds great but it needs some final retouching. The thing is that I’m the kind of person that if you ask me if something needs work, I’ll probably say yes [laughs] because there’s always room for things to be improved, so, that’s my mindset and I have really worked on it and it’s always been like “You know what? It doesn’t matter what I think, it just sounds fucking cool” [laughs]. Can you agree with me?

I can totally agree with you, it’s just that you have to change your plans after because if you train to achieve perfection, you know, you’ll go in search of the detail and that can complicate your life a lot…

That’s why I have therapy [laughs]…

On top of all, I had the chance to read both press statements and some general statements that you offered to the media about “All Mirrors” and you candidly admitted that “All Mirrors” is a record about facing yourself and learning to forgive what you see. For experience, I know that trying to face your inner self is always painful and you have to be really courageous to do this. So, this did work out for you and how was this process for you? 

For me, I guess, it’s always a process [laughs] and I think it will continue to be a process for the rest of my life. Nonetheless, for this record I tried to understand the songs in its lyrical context and write something related because the truth is it doesn’t matter what is about to me, other people can run with that and they can say what they want. But the goal is to reach people and hopefully, share something on which they can feel less isolated in their experience, make them feel like they are understood and that people are having similar thoughts, that you aren’t completely alone and feeling those things, you know. That’s mainly the core but as far as “Am I done facing myself?”. Absolutely not because I think I have just started to kinda seek out what I hate, you know? [laughs] and I hope that I can spend some time writing even non-related music stuff like short memoirs and writing this shit down. So, it just happened so fast like rapid hellfire and so many things happened in my life, perhaps it’s the way how I see things happened to me, I just feel the need to write them now otherwise it doesn’t seem they are real and I have to know that they are real and if I put them in a song. A few years down the line, when I’m 10 years older and I listen to that song and everything has already happened, it surprises me and it makes me feel like I have dissolved a secret. The beauty of it it’s not just like putting my song out there but sometimes I do revisit old songs and think “I was 20 years old and I wrote this” and I really don’t understand what I was talking about. However, I think what makes it so interesting. Your writing can change some much that almost like you are singing a stranger’s words and the way you can see the world can be so powerful to how you can interact with people and how you experience it; and your perspective can really broaden your whole universe. It’s something that has to do with the life that changes perspectives in a great way, and like that, I mean it in a devastating way and that shakes your entire life perspective. Sometimes I gotta write the shit down to make sure that ever really happened to you. I feel like that’s the record was about for me, I just needed to right the shit down. 

You also have affirmed that ”All Mirrors” is really “a very and unexpected move” for you, exactly to which aspect of “All Mirrors” were you relating to?

I mean all, I guess. I never thought that “Lark” would be a single or it would be the first song on the record but strangely, it turned out to be my favorite. I never expected that any of it to sound the way it is now and a lot of this, it has to do with collaborating with other people and seeing what they can feel about the music. In a way, I consider it like an interesting exercise as it was a fan that completed my song for me. I think it would be healthy for me to just realize your perspective like, I can write these songs but in a way, these songs aren’t mine anymore. So, that’s totally “unexpected” because it’s not what I was doing with my life, it’s not what I was writing about and I didn’t know that I would be here and I never had the idea to make a record like that.

I’ll take a step back when we’ll talking about fixed plans and being in control, you know, to what I’ve learned this album was supposed to be an acoustic album if I’m not wrong and you did a solo version of the record. So, I would like to ask you when the acoustic version will be out, do you have any plans for this? Because I know it wasn’t supposed to go like this and it did turn out to be even much heavier. So, do you have any plans for this companion album?

I just don’t know when it’ll come out and I’m planning to play both solo and band. 

You mentioned before that you work again with John Congleton and it did happen after six years from your second album “Burn Your Fire For No Witness”. How does it feel to work with him again? 

It feels really great because I developed a relationship over the last few years with him. 

So, I’m almost at the end of the interview, I wanted to ask you this: from “My Woman” to “All Mirrors” there’s a considerable long span of time between each publication. How does this album differ from the last one? 

I mean, I don’t even know where to begin with [laughs]. You know, it definitely feels more self-reflective and personal. Also, it feels angrier and disappointed. 

But angry and disappointed to whom or to what?

I don’t know exactly maybe the world, the relationships, and situations that happened throughout your life that affected me and others. 

So, this was my last question, this is now your space to greet your fans and our readers as you may wish. I really thank you for this interview.

Thank you so much for having me and I hope you’ll enjoy the record as much I did while making it.

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