Troy Olsen Biography

Troy Olsen photo by Kristin Barlowe, courtesy of EMI Records Nashville.

That Troy Olsen’s songs invoke images of deserts, tumbleweeds and small towns is not by chance. Growing up in rural Arizona, Troy has lived the life of the American cowboy. The work ethic ingrained in him as a child, along with the influence of his musical idols—Dwight Yoakam, Glen Campbell, Steve Earle and Bruce Springsteen—have molded him into a truly unique and driven artist.

Raised in tiny Duncan, Ariz., not far from the New Mexico line, Troy split his time between his parents’ ranch and his grandparents’, where he worked with his cousins. His grandparents didn’t have electricity, but during the day a portable radio pulled in the signal from a local AM station. "The playlist was probably 10 years behind," Troy says of the ‘70s and ‘80s country he heard. "I love that era."

He had become so passionate and obsessed with seeing and listening to more of this music, he would drive a pickup truck to the top of a nearby mesa in order to get reception so he could watch The Nashville Network on a portable television plugged into the truck’s cigarette lighter. It was there that he was exposed to the videos of Yoakam, Foster & Lloyd, the O’Kanes and other late ‘80s stars. "I had to have a guitar," Troy admits with a smile.

He got one and taught himself to play. Emulating his heroes Yoakam and Earle, songwriting soon followed. "Almost from the beginning I realized that I should write songs because that’s what they did," he says. "It felt natural."

Troy soon discovered, by accident, that he could make a microphone out of his Walkman when he inadvertently plugged his headphones in to the input instead of the output. He quickly adapted his cassette deck into a multi-track recorder and his recording career was born. "I was always recording, but I wasn’t really doing anything with it," he says. "It was just something fun to do. Nobody told me to do it. I just loved doing it.

In high school he met two brothers who played in their dad’s band. Troy began jamming with them and his music moved beyond his bedroom. "I was hooked," he says.

After high school he began playing gigs on Friday and Saturday night. "I made 50 bucks a night, $100 a week and I actually lived on that," he says.

While he took some college classes at the behest of his mother, it didn’t last. "My heart wasn’t in it," he admits. "All I wanted to do was play music."

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