Angel Olsen doesn’t have much of an appetite these days — a summertime thing — which is all right with her, given she’s in a bit of a cooking rut. She’s mastered risotto, she’s mastered curry, she’s mastered pasta as much as one person can. She’s also ruling out alcohol for now, so a quiet kitchen it is, which suits her at the moment.
“I’m just trying to really have a clear mind, and it’s really hard because you want to just feel a little bit of a disconnection sometimes from what’s happening in the world,” she says. “But you don’t want to destroy all of your bandwidth. I’m trying to exercise and go on really long walks, so that by evening time I’m physically exhausted, you know?”
The 33-year-old musician has been in lockdown at her home in Asheville, N.C., since the pandemic began, working a bit on a few movie scores and writing a song here and there, but mostly trying to stay present and not overwhelm herself — easier said than done coming off touring her biggest commercial success to date, her 2019 album “All Mirrors,” and launching into a press cycle for the follow up, “Whole New Mess,” her fifth studio album, which is out this Friday.
“I’m just taking each day as it comes, and there’s a lot of stuff happening in the world and social media, and there’s a lot of stuff going on that is important to shed light on, but right now, whether or not I want to, even if the world is going through a pandemic, and we’re dealing with all of these things, I still have things in my personal life to reflect on,” Olsen says. “So I’ve just been doing a bit of that. And that’s been a process, and been something that I can write about and work on, and I’m still able to write about those things, even though the world is in the state that it’s in.”
The plan had been to continue touring as “Whole New Mess” entered the fray, which would’ve allowed her to keep her shows fresh with an injection of new material into the existing “All Mirrors” sets.
“For me, the positive is that people can just sit with it and reflect on it instead of me performing it right away,” Olsen says. “But I don’t know. I haven’t really had time to think about that. I think I’m just happy to share something with the world that relates to ‘All Mirrors,’ and it’s obviously a lot of the same material, but is a little bit more intimate at this time because it’s such a reflective time for a lot of people.”
“Whole New Mess” is the first album Olsen has done entirely solo, sans any bandmates, since 2012’s “Half Way Home.” It’s billed as a precursor to “All Mirrors,” the record that put her on the map with many larger audiences, and was recorded prior to “All Mirrors.” She views the new album as the origins, what things look like when most authentically her, before anyone else’s hands got involved.
“I wanted to do it this way because I had just gone on a solo tour, and I realized I wanted to reconnect with this part of myself that was more about just singing and playing guitar. It wasn’t about always needing to have this sort of sonic revelation,” she says. “It was just simple.”
Olsen says she honestly doesn’t know what interested people about her music — of course, she’s glad they are — but she’s hopeful that her fans, new and Day-One, will find the space to sink into the new album and feel the way she felt while writing it years ago — feelings that have since left her.
“In some ways, that’s probably partially why I believe it can affect people, because through the process of writing something articulate, you didn’t even understand that you understood. You didn’t even know that you understood in your mind until you wrote it down. I think there’s a power in that, in realizing that, and there’s a lot of magic in that, but it doesn’t make you a better person. It doesn’t make you more interesting. It’s just a process, and it’s a magical process, but then once it’s over, you’re onto the next thing,” Olsen says. “And so for me, I’m curious, yeah. When I put stuff out there, and I feel articulate, and I put the articulate things out there for people to receive, I never really know what will stick with people, or what people are needing to hear at that moment, or if they’re needing to hear it at all, personally. These songs are a little bit more intimate and more raw in this form, and so I guess I hope people listen to the words, and hear the words differently.”
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