Brian Olive has plenty to be excited about these days, not the least of which would be his sophomore solo album, Two of Everything. The former Greenhornes/Soledad Brothers member is anticipating a busy summer, starting with the first leg of a two-month tour, punctuated by his imminent role as a member of a Rock legend’s band at Bonnaroo.
“I’m playing with the band that Dan Auerbach’s putting together for the Superjam (Bonnaroo does); this year it’s Dr. John,” Olive says over beers at the Northside Tavern. “We’re going to do songs from the first three albums. I met him once. It was terrifying because he’s too cool, but he’s a really nice guy.”
Olive got the Dr. John assignment through his association with Auerbach. The Black Keys guitarist, who co-produced Two of Everything, is producing the next Dr. John album and asked Olive to play on the sessions as a utility sideman.
“I play tenor sax and baritone sax, and flutes, too,” Olive says. “I told Dan I could play percussion or keys or whatever. He just needs somebody, like, all-around. I’m looking forward to it a lot. Kind of. It’s kind of weird. I’ve played large venues and festivals, but it’s playing the same songs I’ve been playing for three years or something. This is 20 songs that I’m learning as we speak.”
In the midst of rehearsing the Dr. John material, Olive embarked on the initial run of dates in support of Two of Everything. Although the new album isn’t a huge departure from his eponymous 2009 solo debut, Olive notes that there are a few significant shifts this time around, at least a few inspired by the first album’s Garage/Pop/Soul diversity.
“Some of the reviews said, ‘Love this album,’ some were saying, ‘It’s all over the place, it’s too much of all these different things,’ ” Olive says.
“I think the album blends and flows together pretty well and I stand behind it, but I was thinking that I want to make it all around what I sound like, and when I pull influences in that I make sure I put myself in there and get myself involved through the whole process. I think that’s what happened with this one. And the sound quality is much better, too.”
The increased sonic atmosphere of Two of Everything is a result of upgrades in Olive’s home recording rig here in Cincinnati and his use of Auerbach’s studio in Nashville, where there were even more toys at his disposal.
“Dan’s place is the coolest, greatest studio I’ve ever been in,” Olive says. “I was impressed with his place in Akron, but this one is just like my studio and he has all the things I’ve been scoping out for the future.”
As far as the physical process of writing the material for Two of Everything, Olive maintained his standard creative methodology, which could charitably be considered scattershot.
“It stayed consistent in the sense that I have no consistency,” Olive says, laughing. “I don’t have a way that I like to do it. There’s one song on the album — and it’s happened to me before — where the idea came and I wrote it down and it was done. It made me wonder if I’d heard it before. I don’t think that’s the case. I hope not. It’s rare for that to happen to me. One of the songs I was writing the lyrics as I was singing it. I was writing lyrics and none of them were good, so I put the paper down and I was like, ‘I’m just gonna sing whatever I feel like singing.’ I think it turned out really good.”
While Two of Everything finds Olive still reveling in a broad range of styles, there is a clearer sense of his musical identity this time around. On the first album, Olive was a longtime band member who’d suddenly found creative freedom; he was free to do anything, so he did everything. With his sophomore effort, Olive still charts a fairly eclectic course, but two years of touring has helped him reveal his own sound among his influences and experiences.
“I want to continue to focus it, but not too tight,” Olive says. “That’s what I was trying to do. As far as influences, I think I did hear things differently, because I wasn’t involving myself in it. More and more, I’m not seeing any difference between my own songs and other songs. I was kind of listening to music like I did when I was 19. I’ve been listening to music without thinking about it. When you think about it all the time, you can’t enjoy it.”
The best indication of Olive’s complete satisfaction with the album is the fact that none of the individual songs on Two of Everything has risen to the top of his consciousness. As a result, he’s not playing favorites in his live set.
“I like them all,” Olive says. “The same thing’s happening with the guys at the label and the publicist. First, they’re like, ‘We really love this song,’ then next week, they’re like, ‘Well, wait a minute, we really like this song.’ That’s good, because that’s how I’m feeling about it. So I don’t have a particular favorite, and neither does anyone else, it seems. We couldn’t pick a single … it was like, ‘Hey, put them all out.’ ”
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