Red Carpet Interview
Lifetime Achievement Award Music Producer – 21st Annual LA Music Awards
Keith Olsen is one of the more prolific and successful music producers of the second half of the 20th century, with over 200 productions to his credit, yielding sales of 110 million copies on single, LP, or CD, 45 Gold (or Platinum) Record Awards, and six Grammy Awards. Born in Sioux Falls, SD, he later moved to Wayzata, MN, when he was 12 years old, and attended school in Minneapolis. He developed a strong interest in music as a boy — nor was that interest limited to one category or genre; Olsen was as fascinated by classical music as he was by pop and rock music. He took up the bass as an instrument and played with several local bands before he moved to California. He had managed to pick up some experience in recording within the limited facilities available in Minneapolis, but his real introduction to the art of producing came when he met Curt Boettcher, the renowned guitarist/singer-turned-sunshine pop/psychedelic producer. Boettcher was an influence on the younger Olsen, as was his subsequent contact with Brian Wilson. Although Olsen was playing bass in the Music Machine, which enjoyed a huge hit with the single “Talk Talk,” he had already set his sights on production as a career goal.
Fleetwood MacOlsen got a job as an engineer at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles, where his technical and musical knowledge combined to allow him to transcend the typical boundaries of that job. He began recording demos by various L.A.-based bands, including a group called Fritz, that didn’t seem to yield much for anyone concerned. Fate took a hand, however, after Fritz broke up, yielding a performing duo consisting of ex-members Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks — they formed a group called Buckingham Nicks, and recorded a demo with Olsen that the latter helped shop around Los Angeles, getting them a contract with Polydor. Olsen ended up recording their resulting self-titled album, which got buried commercially but received high praise from critics and other musicians — Buckingham Nicks became a favorite underground phenomenon, and Olsen started to get noticed seriously by other musicians as a young producer worth watching. One who found that advice worth taking was drummer Mick Fleetwood, of Fleetwood Mac, who were generally preparing for the recording of a new album and in the market for a studio and came to Sound City — while there, he heard the Buckingham Nicks track “Frozen Love” and became interested in the guitarist; in those days, Fleetwood Mac always seemed to be one guitarist short, and he soon discovered that Buckingham and Nicks were a package deal, and, in fact, already preparing to do a second album. Fleetwood began thinking of taking on both of them, along with Olsen as producer for the forthcoming album. And that was precisely what happened. This resulted in the Fleetwood Mac album, a multi-platinum best-seller that moved a career’s worth of music and put Olsen on the map as a producer. Over the years that followed, he worked with such top talent as the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir, Eddie Money, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Rick Springfield, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Heart, Joe Walsh, Starship, Santana, Kim Carnes, Jethro Tull, The Babys, Ozzy Osbourne, the Scorpions, .38 Special, Bad Company, Sammy Hagar, Russ Ballard, Whitesnake, Foreigner, Sheena Easton, Journey, Loverboy, and Lou Gramm, He also moved into film work during the 1980s, working on the soundtracks to the megahits Footloose and Flashdance, the Disney sci-f/adventure Tron, and the box office smash Top Gun. By the mid-’90s, Olsen had reached the top of his profession as a music producer, and graduated to more of a behind-the-scenes role in the field of audiophile sound engineering, and also going into the field of publishing, including working with the copyrights of Hank Williams, Jr.. He has occasionally worked in television production (most notably in tandem with Stevie Nicks).