Carla Olson Discusses The First New Textones Album in Three Decades

Every city in every era probably evokes a sense of musical delight to a newcomer, and that was certainly my sense when I arrived in Los Angeles in the 80s. The multi-flavored range of music in the city’s stew was intoxicating.

KROQ-FM was a national force, a veritable tastemaker. Clubs were bursting with tremendous music. The list of magnificent music being generated then by dozens of new bands is lengthy.

Crazy cool days in LA in the 1980s: Textones, Del-Lords, Cruzados and Kathy Valentine
Backstage at Club Lingerie Photo by: Lester Cohen

One band from that era that still warms the hearts of many is the Textones. The band was a thrilling blend of jangling guitars and straight ahead rock. (Fun fact: their drum set appeared in Nick Lowe’s video of “Cruel to be Kind,” one of the first songs played the day MTV launched on August 1, 1981).

I had a chance to chat with Carla Olson recently, a key member of the Textones, on the eve of their long-awaited new album. The new album Old Stone Gang is an excellent blend of what the band does best: solid songwriting, chiming guitars, sterling production values and memorable melodies.

Mick Taylor and Carla Olson
Photo by: Glen La Ferman

For perspective, the Venn Diagram that includes an eyebrow-raising number of artists and Olson includes The Byrds, The Stones, Eagles, Poco and The Go-Go’s to name a few. She has recorded some great music with Gene Clark (founding member of The Byrds), and with Mick Taylor (the often overlooked musical foil during the Stones’ most fruitful period of Let It BleedSticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street). Olson’s long-time friend and former bandmate Kathy Valentine added a needed edge to make the Go-Go’s music so infectious, and Olson’s teenage best friend is Don Henley. Oh, Bob Dylan gave her “Clean Cut Kid” before he recorded it on Empire Burlesque.

Once asked to describe the Textones, Olson said “A hard-rockin’ The-Who-Meets-The Stones kind of band, with a little Byrds or Beatles jangle thrown in.” 

The new album fits right into that description. “All That Wasted Time” would not out of place in an E Street set list. “20 Miles South of Wrong” features a label-mate and special guest, Poco’s Rusty Young. You’ll also hear Allan (The Hollies) Clarke on harmonica.

Brad Auerbach: Good to chat with you again. Tell me how the new Textones record came about, it sounds great.
Carla Olson: Thanks! There’s barely a ballad on the record, this was a group effort. We never had the opportunity [to do a lot of co-writing] when we started out, most were my songs, but I’m really pleased about the new record. It was a long slog. George [Callins, guitarist] and I have always been writing, we did projects together with Mick [Taylor] or Gene [Clark]. George and I would exchange lyrics or a melody. In 2012 I had been mostly producing other’s music. All work for hire, but so much fun. Taj Mahal, all these guitar players. [It is generally accepted that Olson has produced more guitar players than anyone in the music business]. But George and I eventually realized we had some songs, Joe [Read, bassist] threw in a couple songs, and came back to LA from London. We got together to play, we cut four tracks and that was the start. Time flew by, other obligations were always there. We all got together again two years ago, and added three more tracks. That made seven. Joe returned to America as part of a ski trip, and then we added three more songs. An album started to emerge. Blue Elan came along and was interested in signing us to their label. We finished the album, but had no time to play a gig. The record release party is coming up on September 21, with all living Textones on the album. Even original member Phil Seymour is on there posthumously.

The Textones today

Auerbach: So much has changed in the music business since you started.
Olson: No question, but it had to change. My solo albums sold more overseas, because of better promotion. As to the first two Textones records, they were lost at the record label. I recall Sting’s solo albums took all their promotional attention. You can actually have a longer life today with a record, because radio no longer drives sales. [Back in the day] if you had no radio adds, you were done. In some ways, it is more artist friendly today. The album has a longer life. Its really a double edged sword today.

Auerbach: You seem really happy.
Olson: I am the luckiest cat in the world. I have had the best time in life, there’s been a few bumps. I love playing music for people, playing live is the deal. If you make that one connection with that one person, it is the cat’s meow. The people I have worked with were my idols, I bought the Byrds album from the Columbia Record Club, so I knew about Gene [Clark] early on. I was into John Mayall and knew Mick Taylor before he was in the Stones. I met Mick when he and Bob [Dylan] came to see the Textones. I was so lucky to be in Austin to see all the bands come through on the Chitlin circuit, Freddie King, all those guys.

Auerbach: I recall seeing Gene Clark play a solo show at the Roosevelt Hotel in LA, it was shortly before he died.
Olson: Mick and I were going to work with Gene, but Gene died. He was a million seller artist, but he had no health insurance.

Auerbach: Any plans to tour beyond the record release party?
Olson: Textones will try to get some dates together after the album comes out, we’d all love to do a string of dates. Texas, SoCal and London.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.