The Current's Guitar Collection: Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen performs in The Current's studio.
Angel Olsen performs in The Current's studio. (MPR photo/Leah Garaas)
  1. Listen Angel Olsen, 'Hi-Five' performed at The Current

    May 2, 2014

When Angel Olsen stopped in to The Current's studio to play some songs the day after her gig at The Cedar Cultural Center, she took a few minutes to tell us about her Gibson guitar and about the cool shop in Nashville, Tenn., where she bought it.

What model guitar is this?

It's a Gibson S-1, and this is a '79, I believe.

It's not a typical folk-rock guitar, I guess, but when the Fender Stratocaster came out, Gibson designed a similar kind of pickup to put out on their own guitars [to create] something that had a lot of options like the Strat, but it still has a totally different sound. It's a lot grittier, it's got three single-coil pickups and it's just solid. It gives me options because we play both really quiet, dirty sounds and then really soft, kind of jangly, reverb-y sounds. It's a nice change.

I was playing a Silvertone, so going from that to this is kind of like a breath of fresh air.

Where did you get it?

I got it in Nashville! I haven't had it very long. I got it at the beginning of the year as sort of a gift to myself to get a better guitar. You need better equipment if you're going to be gone all the time on tour. It's not the best Gibson available, obviously; I just wanted something extremely unique. Like something that wasn't typical — like, a Danelectro probably would have been typical for me to jump to. I guess I already have that kind of sound or I was used to playing guitars that had that sound and I wanted to do something a little bit different.

Do you remember the name of the shop in Nashville?

It's called Fanny's House of Music — vintage clothing and vintage guitars, and they repair [guitars] there, and everyone is super nice. They do lessons. It's a tiny shop.

I think the woman who owns the place is a bassist, and she fixed the guitar right up, she set it up. It was kind of uneven and she set it up right, put new strings on it. We talked for a while, I played it and then came back. It was definitely like, "Man, I don't know if I should get it …"

Had you tried a few other guitars in the meantime?

We went to a lot of different places around town, but a lot of the places in Nashville are larger buildings and they have a lot of new guitars and not as many quality vintage ones. It's more like the vintage guitars that you get [there] are worth so much money, but they don't sound good.

What did you like about the way this one sounded?

It's not like, the most solid guitar ever — it's just, it has more options for me. And I'm not a solo guitarist. I can pluck and do some fancy things sometimes, but [lead guitarist] Stewart [Bronaugh] is more the solo guy. What I wanted was something that allowed me to feel more comfortable strumming chords, and it sounded cool strumming chords.

It gives me a good sound. When I first played it, I was like, "Wow, this is a guitar that is not super bright, it has all these tones to it." If I wanted to make it super bright, I could do that for certain songs. It's really nice.

I'm happy that you asked me about it because I like talking about it!

If you look at the neck, it seems the finish has worn off. Some guitars are sold to look road-worn, but that certainly looks authentic.

Yeah, I think it's definitely been used. We opened it up to check the grounding in it at some point and there was someone's name — I forget the name of whoever owned it, I feel like it was "Jeff" or something — it was Jeff's guitar!

It's definitely been used. I think that's oak, but I'm not sure. It's definitely an older wood that maybe isn't used anymore, so that's cool.

When you're writing songs, do you write on acoustic?

I write on both acoustic and electric, but I start with an acoustic. I just have this kind of beaten-up Seagull that I got as a gift from a friend seven years ago. The neck has been repaired several times, but it still sounds really good. Those guitars, the necks are designed similarly to [the Gibson S-1], but the weight on it is not made to survive, but it's definitely got a good sound to it. I don't know if all Seagulls are like that, but the one that I use is still in good shape.

Thanks so much for talking. Anything else before we wrap up?

Not really — I just love my guitar!

Resources

Related Stories

  • Angel Olsen performs in The Current studio Fresh off playing a gig at The Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis last night, Angel Olsen and her band stopped in to The Current's studio to play a few songs and to chat with Mary Lucia.
  • Angel Olsen entrances at the Cedar Cultural Center At the Cedar Cultural Center last night, Angel Olsen transported the audience to a time before technology and abbreviated attention spans. For every second of Olsen's set, the wall-to-wall crowd stood rapt, as if even inhaling would shatter what she had created onstage.

4 Photos

  • Angel Olsen and her Gibson S-1.
    Angel Olsen and her Gibson S-1. (MPR photo/Leah Garaas)
  • Angel Olsen performs in The Current studio.
    Angel Olsen performs in The Current studio. (MPR photo/Leah Garaas)
  • Angel Olsen's Gibson S-1 in its stand in The Current's studio.
    Angel Olsen's Gibson S-1 in its stand in The Current's studio. (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)
  • Angel Olsen compares the Gibson S-1's headstock to the similarly designed headstock found on Seagull guitars.
    Angel Olsen compares the Gibson S-1's headstock to the similarly designed headstock found on Seagull guitars. (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)
View 3 more photos

comments powered by Disqus