Singer/songwriter Al Olender describes the songs of her debut album (Easy Crier, which dropped this past Friday, May 13th) as, “Storytelling truth bombs,” and, “Folky, indie, yummy earworms.” “I just want to connect with as many people as I can,” she tells me during a recent phone chat. The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection actually just got a chance to see Olender this past October, when she was on tour supporting The Felice Brothers at World Café Live, which, despite the newness of her solo career, she tells me already checked off a major box for her: “Opening for The Felice Brothers on their tour was truly a highlight of my life.” Additionally, Al Olender just kicked off a headlining tour — with support coming from James Felice, who produced the album and will be accompanying Olender for a few songs each night — and will be returning to play MilkBoy on Thursday, May 26th.
Although the biggest catalyst behind the songs of Easy Crier was the sudden death of Olender’s brother (and possibly biggest fan), the album balances sadness and grief with the dark sense of humor necessary in the most existentially daunting periods of one’s existence, in addition to a celebration of the everlasting love amongst those who have brought you the greatest joy and comfort throughout your own life experience.
Prior to the release of the album, Olender released a number of singles, my favorite of which is “The Age,” a charmingly quirky folk pop summer jam, which the artist tells me was originally conceived as a daydream, but seems to be actually coming to fruition: “I wrote a lot of sad, sad songs, and I thought, ‘What if I wrote a song about a fantasy summer I wanted to have? Let’s write something about love and sexuality and exploring…’ And now I feel like this is happening.”
During our chat, Olender tells me that she didn’t actually come from a family particularly interested in music (aside from her dad liking The Beatles) and that it wasn’t until she began to grow up that her own interest developed: “My parents never really listened to music, so I started listening to music when I started making friends.” She even tells me that she’s not embarrassed by the fact that she’s unfamiliar with any of my three favorite albums (Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols; The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths; and Tigermilk by Belle & Sebastian): “I love admitting when I haven’t heard something [laughs].” (She does, however, tell me that she fully intends to listen to each album before her show next week.) But she is ecstatic to namedrop a number of albums of the past few decades that have had a profound influence on not only her music, but her life.
“Masterpiece by Big Thief (That’s something that directly influences me.), How I’m Feeling Now by Charli XCX (She’s a star!), Sharon Van Etten’s Epic (I love Sharon Van Etten so damn much it’s unbelievable!), Damien Jurado’s Maraqopa, oh, and the Garden State soundtrack! I think I heard that when I was 15, before I even saw the movie, and I was like, ‘This is so cinematic and I’m moody and angsty like this!’”
Al Olender tells me that she’s psyched to play one of our favorite 200-ish capacity barrooms [“I’m so excited to play MilkBoy… I love when people go to show, and maybe it’s a barroom, and they meet someone and maybe flirt and maybe they go home together… I love that (laughs).”] However, she tells me that the setting of her performances are far less important to her than the rapport she is able to develop with an audience.
“I like anywhere the audience feels comfortable. I like being able to see people. It’s important to make a connection… I think, as musicians and artists, we make a choice to tell the truth in some capacity. When I tell the audience I love them, the love is real, and the connection is real, and I have nothing to hide.”
*Get your tickets here.