Singer Angel Olsen Goes Electric

by Patrick Bowman / photographed by Jacob Biba
Since Angel Olsen released her 2012 debut album Half Way Home -- a quiet, devastating folk record that recalls the beautiful darkness of her former collaborator, Bonnie "Prince" Billy -- she has been thrust into the indie-folk limelight.

"The album came out, I got a band together, I was on tour, I got a record deal [with indie powerhouse Jagjaguwar], I got a manager and all of the sudden, all of these people were in my face," Olsen laughs over the phone from her new home base of Asheville, North Carolina. 

For her much-anticipated sophomore album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, Olsen decamped from Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood to Asheville with her bandmates in the summer of 2013, ready to work through a handful of demos she'd managed to lay down before the craziness surrounding Home kicked in. 

She teamed up with superstar producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Erykah Badu, the Roots) and went electric, backing her indefatigably gorgeous voice with shit-kicking guitars and organs and a robust rhythm section. Her first single, the searing howler "Forgiven/Forgotten," is a far cry from the stillness of Home, but working with a full band prompted Olsen to overcome her anxieties about moving from a solo act to a collaboration.

"I never felt confident enough to lead anything," she says. "I wasn't sure how to communicate what I wanted, and I'd just become really frustrated and impatient. When I began working with my band and became more comfortable with how that process worked, it just completely fucking rocked."

Rocking or not, Olsen's songs -- and the stories behind them -- are mysterious, even to her. "Eventually, I can't tell if [a song] was something that even happened or something that happened in my head. In a lot of ways, [my songs] aren't autobiographical; they're just very creative lies."

Burn Your Fire For No Witness is out today via Jagjaguwar.

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