Mark Olson loves his life, living in the sweltering desert of Joshua Tree, Calif., with his wife, singer-songwriter Victoria Williams, and their two burros, three dogs and two ducks.
It’s their oasis from the music industry and life on the road.
“When we first got married, neither of us had a big enough apartment,” the former Jayhawk said recently, “so we started looking for a house. Vic had a little cabin up here, and I actually went to Tucson where we had friends and got a feel for the real estate. We found a place here (in Southern California) that we really like and it was really cheap. You can get your own ranch out here for the price you rent an apartment for in the city. Since we started, we’ve built on to it.”
Last time around, he and Williams and their bandmates toured for 16 months. Returning to their spread was a welcome respite.
“It’s nice to come here after being on the road, which can be hectic,” Olson said. “There’s a musical community here, two coffee shops where people play. It’s just like a regular town, just a little hotter than most in the summer.”
The break allowed him to get his creative juices flowing again when he and Williams and his Creekdipper band sat down and collaborated on songs that make up his Dualtone debut album, “December’s Child” (released July 23). Olson and Williams drew on their experiences living in the desert and from his memories of growing up in Minnesota and her Louisiana roots.
“I like to have a little punch in the lyrics, throw current topics in there, a little politics and a little religion and try to put it all together,” Olson said.
One of the standout tracks, “Say You’ll Be Mine,” marks a reunion with former Jayhawk bandmate and songwriting partner, Gary Louris.
“We got an offer to write a song for a movie called ‘The Rookie,’ but they didn’t want to use it,” Olson said. “It’s no big deal, because if they had used it, I probably wouldn’t have been able to put it on the record. To me, it sounds like a straight-ahead Jayhawks song, with the harmonies.”
Olson is thankful for his time with the Jayhawks, but he’s happy where he is now, in full control of his career.
“I had been at it for 10 years, and I really needed to do something else – be it move to the desert or go camping,” he said of leaving the group. “Musically, it wasn’t challenging to me to strum an acoustic guitar that I could hardly hear on stage. Now I basically play the bass and I play the piano and the dulcimer and a little bit of electric guitar. In our live set, I get to move around and do a lot of different things. The only way to do something different is either complain about it or do something about it. It’s a nice little four-piece we have right now.”
A real glutton for punishment, Olson is anxious to get back on the road with Williams and the Creekdippers (led by Joshua Grange and Dave Wolfenberger). They plan to begin touring in September, playing songs off “December’s Child” and Williams’ Dualtone debut LP, “Sings Some Ol’ Songs,” a collection of standards that’s due on Aug. 6.
“I think the whole Dualtone thing is going to work out,” Olson said, “because for the first time we’re on the same label and we’ll be coordinated in our touring.”
ON THE WEB: www.creekdipping.com.