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David Olney promises unique sound at the Spur Bar and Grill

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record Staff
David Olney carved his own path in Nashville.
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It’s not about fireworks, dancing and fluff for Nashville singer/songwriter David Olney.

It’s just two guitars, story-telling lyrics and a solid voice resonating in tune.

"It’s pretty much on the basis of songs that are interesting in how they’re written and songs that don’t have to worry about dance moves or hairdos, it’s more of a pure art form," Olney said.

On the other hand, Olney knows he has to captivate the crowd.

"Without being Garth Brooks-ish about it, I think I got to be somewhat entertaining." Olney said. "I just fire a song out, and do it in such a way that people don’t feel like they’re shortchanged without fireworks."

Olney will play at the Spur Bar and Grill Aug. 31 at 8:30 p.m. It will be the second time Olney will perform in Utah. The first time was 17 years ago.

"I played years ago opening for Melissa Etheridge in 1989," Olney said. "At the time, she was hitting it huge, big time and people had spent a lot of money to see her. Then they saw me walk out there with just a guitar and people would stop on a dime. That didn’t happen in Salt Lake. People liked me there and I even got a good review from a critic, so I always have a warm spot in my heart for Utah."

Olney is not well known among the popular genres of music, but he likes it that way.

"I expect at least half of the people that I will be playing for in Park City have not heard of me," Olney said. "That doesn’t speak all that glowingly of the success of my career. But the good thing is, you only get one chance to play for someone for the first time."

Money and fame are not what drives Olney in his music career.

"I think people in the main part of big-time country music business, I think I have a measure of respect with those folks. The most money Nashville made is straight-ahead country songs, which really doesn’t interest me. There are other people, like me, that write these oddball songs, songs that aren’t written for the bottom line.

He admits, however, that potential stardom was a driving force when he began, as it is for most young musicians. Some people are driven crazy to make that happen, he said.

"When you first come to town in your 20’s you want to be famous," Olney said. "Most people leave Nashville and come to the conclusion that that’s not going to happen for them. When I realized that’s not going to happen, that made it interesting for me because I wasn’t doing it for the fans. I was just doing what I wanted to do."

Olney hesitates to label his genre of music because of the uniqueness of his style. He wants people to approach his work without a stereotype.

"I prefer to think of myself as totally unique in the universe," Olney said. "For the most part, I write songs for a very low audience," Olney said. "For the sub-genre I’m in, I’m a big shot."

His songs are almost like screenplays. Olney uses character study to describe a story through song. He said he looks at songs in a theatrical way, using various character studies.

"Its almost like going to a play," Olney said.

Dave Ferman of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote, "David Olney consistently spins spectacular stories in song. Olney is astounding, he gave one of the most magnificent solo acoustic shows I have ever seen and that includes concerts by Bruce Springsteen, Guy Clark or anyone else you’d care to name. He can break your heart but he can also chill your spine, and when the night ended, we had long since crossed the border that separates the great from the merely very good, the masters from the worthy apprentices. Olney is as good as it gets. Period."

Nashville writers have made similar reviews. Michale McCall of the Nashville Scene wrote, "It may be a cliché to compare a songwriter to a screenwriter or a playwright, but if anyone deserves such praise, it would be Olney. His songs are rich with complex characters, unpredictable plot twists, and grand tragedies; they dramatize the brutality of evil and the quiet dignity of goodness. But with Olney, once he’s got a listener’s attention, he’ll never lose it. Indeed, Olney’s work provides the kind of pleasures that make the search for new music worth the trouble."

Bob Dylan was an inspiration for Olney. Dylan’s songwriting helped Olney find his voice.

"I started playing when I was 14. Originally I just wanted to learn some folk songs. I wrote my first song when I was about 19." Olney said. "Whenever I could find a place I could play, I played and never considered doing anything else with my life."

Olney says he especially enjoys his relationship with the audience.

"There’s something very weird about the relationship between the person playing and the audience." He said. "I’ll be playing to people that haven’t heard the songs or me, and they have no expectations, but they’ll think it was worth the price of admission."

Olney is eager for his second stop in the Beehive State.

"I’m really looking forward to this cause Utah’s not in my regular rap. I’ll be sure to dress properly and bathe," he said laughing.

David Olney will perform at the Spur Bar and Grill Aug. 31 at 8:30 p.m. For more information, call 615-1618.


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