Q&A with Grant Olsen of Gold Leaves

Gold Leaves is ostensibly the solo project of songwriter Grant Olsen, but it doesn’t sound like it. The songs on Gold Leaves debut album The Ornament are baroque ballads sometimes performed before immense walls of sound. Live, Olsen counts on bandmates Brian Wright, Tomo Nakayama and Chris Early to recreate that sound, which the songwriter counters with an earthy reverb-treated croon and lucid lyricism. For the last few months, the band has played the festival circuit while Olsen barks ideas for the next record into his cell phone. The singer also spent the summer preparing for his first child, who was born just a few days before our interview. “The due date was the day after the photo shoot for this magazine, which might be blatantly obvious by looking at me,” he says. Thursday, Oct. 18, Crocodile

You just had a baby. Congratulations!
Thanks, man. Quite honestly, there couldn’t be more cognitive dissonance for me trying to answer questions about myself right now while literally trying to keep this little human alive upstairs. Luckily she’s sleeping and it’s late and my nipples need a break!

You do know that you can’t shave your beard when your kid is in her formative years, right? It freaks the little ones out.
Yeah, I remember when my Dad shaved his moustache. But it’s a good existential exercise for the kids, so I think it’s okay. It’s good trauma. My face ebbs and flows and has since most of my friends and family can remember, so I don’t think they associate it with any music that I play. It’s nice, because my girl is only four days old, but she’s already smart enough to know that just because I have a beard, doesn’t mean Daddy is the Fleet Foxes.

It’s been a year since you released The Ornament. How does it sound to you now?
I just gave it a listen for the first time since the band listened to it together on our first tour. I still feel alright about playing the songs for people at this point, and I feel proud about the work that went into that record. It was a corner I hadn’t sniffed around at yet, and if we go into a different trajectory in the future, I’ll think I’ll still be happy with where that first album went.

What song is currently your favorite to play?
Probably “The Silver Lining.” That’s still the song I feel best about. We play it a bit differently live and leave it open-ended, which really gives the band something to do. I just strum one chord at the end and get to listen to what they come up with, which is humbling, for lack of a better word.

What do you have planned for the Heineken City Arts Fest show?
It’s the last one we have scheduled for a while and we’re gonna play a few new songs, I think. Out of all the local shows this year, I’ve been really looking forward to this one. Even more now. I’m feeling good. Everything looks a bit different.

Photo by Steve Korn.

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