At first listen (and glance), it might be easy to pigeonhole Olivia Jean and her brand of dark-coated, garage rock as a nostalgic act. But upon a deeper listen, you’ll soon realize her hooks and melodies would pop in any musical format.
Jean’s move from Detroit to Nashville, much like her mentor and Third Man Records’ leader Jack White, opened unseen doors in the music business. She formed and fronted an all-women, goth-pop band The Black Belles (who released their TMR self-titled debut in 2011). After that she joined the Third Man house band playing guitar or bass behind White, rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson, singer-songwriter Karen Elson, and others. That musicianship crash course prepared Jean to write and record all the instruments for her 2014 TMR solo debut (coproduced by White), Bathtub Love Killings. And while she did write all of 2019’s Night Owl, she did recruit some ace musicians to smooth out and expedite the process. She relayed the experience in a late 2019 interview with PG: “I really prefer the live room sound with the whole band in the room. We did ‘Night Owl’ that way, with live sound and bleed in the microphones. That’s my favorite song, production-wise, on the album. Doing things in isolation is necessary, but I prefer doing everything live as much as I can. You don’t have the freedom of saying, ‘Can I do that again?’—just stopping if you make one tiny little mistake. You feel like a jerk, stopping the entire band. You get things done faster, it’s more real sounding, and you can play off each other.”
Just after putting out the split EP Palladium with April March, the longtime Third Man Records artist virtually welcomed PG’s Chris Kies into TMR’s Nashville-based Blue Room.
In this episode, singer-songwriter, guitar-playing frontwoman Olivia Jean details a pair of captivating, 6-string gifts, shows off how her tone is drenched in spring reverb, and explains how a Jack White-gifted “punk” pedal enhanced her feelings on fuzz.