Angel Olsen adheres to ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ philosophy

Angel Olsen plays sold-out shows at The Sinclair in Cambridge on May 9, at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on May 13 and at Johnny Brendas on May 14.
Angel Olsen plays sold-out shows at The Sinclair in Cambridge on May 9, at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on May 13 and at Johnny Brendas on May 14.

When Angel Olsen was working on her second studio album, “Burn Your Fire For No Witness,” which came out in February, she says she frequently found herself adhering to the whole “For No Witness” idea.

“It was all written in the same period, so whenever inspiration came to me, I would stop what I was doing because I could, because I was working for myself,” she says. “So it was like, ‘I can go home now — instead of this party — and write all of these things!’”

Wait, so she would literally leave parties?

“I remember weird examples,” she confirms. “I wrote ‘Iota’ when it was the middle of summer and I was having kind of a weird day, and my friends had this family picnic at the park and I left. At the time, we lived in Chicago and we had access to this place that had a rooftop. I went up there and had a beer and a guitar. It was just me by myself and I recorded [it] on my phone.”

The resulting album includes the sort of confessional musings that might occur in conversation between close friends a few beers deep. Her vocals and lyrics are equally intimate.

“Just listening back to stuff of mine, it’s like, ‘OK, I guess I’m pretty obsessed with the idea of death and being alone and losing people,’ but it’s also about finding people,” she says. “I feel like it’s something that we all think about all the time, but it’s not something we all talk about. I don’t know if people get anything from it, but I’m not trying to create a kind of cathartic experience for anyone; it just happens to be the things I write about.

Olsen says the way she writes music has changed because the way she listens to music has changed.

“I would listen to these songs and be like, ‘Why are these people always talking about love?’ They’re just so disappointed and so lonely, it’s ridiculous,” she says. “And then I would listen to it again, and the more you live, the more that these simple thoughts cut deeper. You have more experiences with people and more experiences in general, with your friendships changing; I think that I’ve developed a different perspective on writing songs on stuff like that and embracing it. I think that’s why I tend to obsess over it.”


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