You can’t sit in a Kristina Olsen concert and not fall at least a tiny bit in love with her.
Clever, funny, insightful, self-deprecating, and musically unique, Olsen is a reminder of how good folk can be.
While Olsen is no stranger at belting out a ballad or two, it’s her comedic songs that seem to bring the audience undone.
Olsen is the master of writing sharp witty comedic songs – something she claims is far harder than it would appear.
For instance, her latest song Preheat the Oven was finished after a decade!
‘People have expectations about comedic songs. Once there is a place where there is a laugh in the song, the audience will expect the same place to have a laugh in the next verse. Comedic songs have a clear structure: in verbal comedy you sound like you are talking – so you have more of an element of surprise.
They expect it in that order, and you want your biggest laugh at the end. It’s hard to get a laugh in the beginning, and to keep getting them through you need a twist – the song is often predicting something and they don’t get it.
Lots of songs use rhyme. The biggest challenge is that it has to get funnier; it’s so disappointing for the audience if it doesn’t. They know how it goes. To a songwriter, it goes on the shelf if it doesn’t work!
‘I put much more work into a story song or a funny song!
‘Almost every songwriter must say this, but it’s easier writing a sad love song; it’s hard to make a happy love song, and especially in Australia, because you can’t brag and be too happy in love!
‘How do you say I am happy and I am great without alienating your audience!’
Of course it was the blues that first captured Olsen’s imagination.
‘It encapsulated emotion and it gave me such joy. Why are we happy listening to something so sad?
It was amazing and I loved it and I think all art connects us to our humanity and our emotions; it’s the real function of art.
We go through our day and we become such automatons; we go to gigs to feel things we haven’t felt for a while.
To remember what a feeling felt like. It’s what people go out for but you can’t just play morose love songs all night. They need to be set like a jewel between the funny songs!
‘I have to have enough sad songs and then a funny one here and there; it helps keep their emotions more open!’
Olsen spends a lot of time crafting her set list. It’s something she believes is a fine art in itself because you are shaping the emotional responses of your audience with every choice.
It’s the whole picture of how they respond to your show that becomes the show.
‘My favourite songs are gifts from the gods. You are just minding your business and alien forces take over your body and write the songs and it takes as long to write as it does to play.
The first time it happened I asked friends if they’d heard this? I get one like that every eight years. The most recent one was Prayer Flags.’
Kristina Olsen is joined by her musical comrade Peter Grayling and promises ‘new stuff, old stuff, humour, lots of exciting cello stuff, new instruments, and one I have brought back into the set – the banjo. I played it back in the 70s and I’ve picked it back up. It annoys me that it’s hip again. Since I failed to grow a beard I grew a banjo!’
Supported by Andrew Morris at St Martin’s Parish Hall, Stuart St, Mullumbimby on Saturday at 8pm.