Q&A with Arizona-based harpist-vocalist, R.D. Olson - brings high-energy blues to fill your soul and move your feet

"Blues knows no color at least not with the people I know we never talk about black or white some of the things making news today are not even talked about in my circles. The music binds us together."

R.D. Olson: The Real Deal

R.D. "The Real Deal" Olson brings high-energy blues to fill your soul and move your feet. His new album "Keep Walking Woman" 2017 (recorded as the RD Olson Band) showcases the many talents of harpist-vocalist Olson along with his band-mates, Darryl Porras (guitar), Jamie Waldron (bass), Robert Sellani (drums), and Eric Williams (piano), staying true to the Blues styles of Muddy Waters, Luther Allison, Mojo Buford and Chico Chism, but with a contemporary spin. Olson, who resides in Prescott, Arizona, won the 2014 Arizona Blues Challenge and the 2015 Northern Arizona Blues Challenge, advancing the International Blues Challenge finals in Memphis, TN each year. Olson was inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame in 2015 and currently serves as Vice-President of the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame.

Fast forward to a long career he's continuously spent honing his harmonica chops and polishing his vocals, all of which have led to Keep Walking Woman, which Olson considers his finest, most complete recorded musical statement yet. "It was time for me to write and record my own music,' acknowledges Olson. "The CD has six originals, and I lived all of them. 'Johnnie Walker' tells the story of my dear friend Larry Danielson who took his own life". In October 2017, Olson began collaborating with Beverly 'Guitar' Watkins, who he will be performing some selected dates with for the foreseeable future, backing her with his tight R.D. Olson Band and filling the role as Watkin's Musical Director.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people and culture? What does the blues mean to you?

When I was much younger I played with Luther Allison he taught me so much about the blues and while I was with Luther I met and spent time with BB King Muddy Waters John Lee Hooker and many others. The blues to me is a living form of communication handed down generation after generation. When your time comes you add your chapter.

What were the reasons that you started the Blues researches? How do you describe your songbook and sound?

My sound is a mix of new and old. I like to mix newer sounding styles with the old anything to keep this musical form alive. As far a research I hung with the men and women that made the music as much as I could.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I think Luther Allison was my biggest inspiration he taught me the most but also Mojo Buford and Chico Chism also helped me along the way.

Keep this music alive and if that means creating sounds and rhythms that younger folks can identify with that’s what I’m doing now. The blues as always been about expressing emotions and life’s circumstances. I write about stuff going on in peoples lives in the here and now." (Photo: R.D. Olson & Long John Hunter)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I was playing an outdoor festival with Luther’s band in 1980 there he introduced me to Muddy Waters, I think I was about 25 years old. Later that day after we had played and Muddy had finished his set I was hanging around back stage with all of the great’s BB King was there Albert King and many others, I was in blues heaven!!

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

So many of the old bluesman really were great about giving advice to younger players like myself color was not an issue, keeping the blues alive was. My hope for the future of the blues is to hand it down to the next generation just like it was handed to me.

Keep this music alive and if that means creating sounds and rhythms that younger folks can identify with that’s what I’m doing now. The blues as always been about expressing emotions and life’s circumstances. I write about stuff going on in peoples lives in the here and now.

If you could change one thing in the local (Arizona) scene and it would become a reality, what would that be?

We are working on change here in Arizona by bring more quality touring acts to the state as well as Blues In The Schools programs and more youth jams that will be sponsored By The Arizona Blues Hall Of Fame.

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from Beverly 'Guitar' Watkins?

I met Beverly Watkins about three months ago and agreed to do some shows with her as an opening act and than as her back up band. She is the mother of the tribe that’s for sure!! She is kind and good natured and after every time we talk she prays for me…I guess she thinks I may have picked up some of those old bluesman bad habits along my travels she makes me laugh and cry!!

What is the Impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Blues knows no color at least not with the people I know we never talk about black or white some of the things making news today are not even talked about in my circles. The music binds us together.

"We are working on change here in Arizona by bring more quality touring acts to the state as well as Blues In The Schools programs and more youth jams that will be sponsored By The Arizona Blues Hall Of Fame."

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Where would I like to go for a whole day??? I say Greece could be on the top of my list. I would love to meet the many blues fans already in Greece as well as visit the ancient cities and take in the art and culture.

R.D. Olson Band - Home

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