Two former Jayhawks make music together again

by Chris Roberts

Gary Louris and Mark Olson performing in the UBS Forum at Minnesota Public Radio. Both say when they started playing together again, it was like they had never stopped.
Gary Louris and Mark Olson performing in the UBS Forum at Minnesota Public Radio. Both say when they started playing together again, it was like they had never stopped. (Photo by Steven Cohen)
  1. Listen Former Jayhawks make music together again

    Feb 20, 2009

In 1995, at the height of its creativity -- and some might say its commercial success -- the band The Jayhawks reached a critical crossroads.

Cofounder Mark Olson decided to leave the band. Newly married, he had just bought a house in California and felt overwhelmed.

The Jayhawks kept going after that, but lost touch with Olson, leading to a sense of estrangement. Olson says he takes responsibility for that.

"I should have picked up the phone more and been in contact a little more. But it was about five years when we kind of lost contact a little bit," Olson said. "And then we picked it up again, kind of right where we started off that led to us eventually doing this record."

The Songs on "Ready for the Flood" are the culmination of a reunion between Olson and Gary Louris which started in the early 2000s. According to Louris, the two reconnected and started writing together with a new sense of purpose.

"I guess we felt like we had unfinished business," Louris said. "We were kind of at a peak you know, and all of a sudden it ended. But Mark and I working together was always one of the most natural things I've ever experienced. So getting back together and working was very easy, and it was like we never stopped."

On the new record, Louris' and Olson's voices still sound uniquely woven together. But there's a new immediacy and intensity to their wistful harmonies.

Louris credits the spontaneous way the songs were laid down in the studio.

"The fact that we recorded it live and sang and played live was something we'd never really done together," Louris said. "And yet the simplicity and kind of the power of the music is a cool thing for me."

Louris and Olson are playing two sold-out shows Saturday and Sunday nights at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. They say they are fortunate and grateful people still want to hear them.

Olson says the Jayhawks got enough support from record companies to stay together longer than the average band, hone its sound and build an audience.

"As time has gone by, people have listened to our music and it lasts," Olson said. "That's the other thing that's happened now. There's some lasting quality about it, and I think part of that is when we were writing songs and recording, we were listening to music that had lasted to us."

Undoubtedly there are fans yearning for a more permanent Jayhawks reunion now that Olson and Louris are making music again. Louris won't rule it out, but, he adds, "it's a little dangerous to try to recapture the past," Louris said.

"I hate to put out anything less than great, and I do see difficulty in really firing up the machine full time," he added.

But Louris says there's a good chance the Jayhawks will get back together for some individual appearances, including some festivals this summer.

And do Louris and Olson plan to continue their renewed partnership as a duo? Definitely.

Resources

Related Stories

  • Louris and Olson perform in The UBS Forum at MPR After releasing seven albums under several incarnations of their band, The Jayhawks, the duo reunited in 2008 to record the heavily acoustic album, "Ready For The Flood."
  • Art Hounds: What's exciting in local arts Each week Minnesota Public Radio News asks three people from the Minnesota arts scene to be "Art Hounds." Their job is to step outside our own work and hunt down something exciting that's going on this weekend.
  • Dr. Billy Taylor comes to celebrate MLK There is a rare treat for Twin Cities music fans this weekend when jazz piano legend Dr. Billy Taylor comes to perform with the VocalEssence.

4 Photos

  • Former members of the Jayhawks Gary Louris and Mark Olson. Louris says a permanent reunion of the Jayhawks is unlikely, but the band plans to reform for some individual appearances.
    Former members of the Jayhawks Gary Louris and Mark Olson. Louris says a permanent reunion of the Jayhawks is unlikely, but the band plans to reform for some individual appearances. (Photo courtesy the artists)
  • Mary Lucia with Gary Louris and Mark Olson. The two say when they play together, a mysterious third voice surfaces, and its name is
    Mary Lucia with Gary Louris and Mark Olson. The two say when they play together, a mysterious third voice surfaces, and its name is "Tony." (Photo by Steven Cohen)
  • Singer/Songwriter Gary Louris.
    Singer/Songwriter Gary Louris. (Photo by Darren Ankenman)
  • Gary Louris and Mark Olson.
    Gary Louris and Mark Olson. (MPR photo/Chris Roberts)
View 3 more photos