Prizefighter Profile Week: Whitney Olson-Williams
Our week-long series continues where we profile band member from MNSKA band The Prizefighters, we introduce you to organist Whitney Olson-Williams. Stay tuned for more bios from the band as Prizefighter Profile Week rolls on, culminating in the big Triple Record Release show on Friday night at the Triple Rock at 9pm!
Name: Whitney Williams or Whitney Olson depending on who you ask
Home Town: Apple Valley, MN
Band Role: Piano/organ
Years active in the band: 5 years
Instrument of choice: Piano, voice, or guitar
Do you play any other instruments: Guitar, harmonica, and a bit of mandolin
How’d you get started in music: My older sisters took piano lessons so there was always someone playing in our house. I learned how to use our tape and record player when I was really young and was obsessed with listening to music. I took 14 years of classical piano before I branched off into other genres!
How’d you discover ska/reggae/rocksteady/etc: I got into punk rock around 13 – 14 and sometime after that I discovered The Specials. I loved them like crazy and eventually I discovered a bunch of their songs were covers, and looked further into that music. I think the first Jamaican artist I listened to was probably Desmond Dekker. I also listened to a bunch of shit that I am embarrassed to admit to now, but I really liked Sublime and Less Than Jake in those early teen days. I know calling those bands shit is probably going to offend a few people, but I’m ok with that.
What other music genres are you interested in: Delta Blues, Old Country like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, ‘77 style Punk and Oi, Rhythm & Blues, Cuban and all kinds of Latin music, folk and weird jazz from the ‘20s… basically all the music I like was recorded before the 70s or between 1977 – 1983
What other hobbies do you have outside of music: These days it seems like none, but I’m ok with that. I like to paint and do other kinds of crafty art. Bike riding. Sitting by the river and drinking beers with my friends.
Favorite band: Ever? Jeez. X I guess. Their sound is so insane to me and I love Exene Cervenka. I wish I was that crazy.
Favorite book: My first thought was Grapes of Wrath so that must be my favorite.
Favorite movie: I can’t pick a favorite. I like westerns and I’m a sucker for an old black and white with a beautiful lady in it.
Favorite TV show: Star Trek Original Series, yo. Or Cops. You know, the classics.
What has been your favorite performance/show you have played: The Jamaican Oldies shows in Chicago this past year have made my life complete. The Prizefighters backed Roy Panton & Yvonne Harrison, Stranger Cole (I got to sing a few duets with him!) and this past month I went down to sing with Derrick Morgan. That was amazing, and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my life. As far as local shows go, I think our CD release show for Follow My Sound in 2010 was the best. The Triple Rock was packed and when we took the stage I realized…”hey, all these people are here to see us!” That was also the first night I sang in front of anyone really. I was so nervous!
Has there been a show where you just didn’t feel it/What did you do to improve on it next time: Yeah…there have definitely been shows where I’ve just been bummed out and not in the mood to play. But, I try to remind myself to enjoy the moment and let the music make me feel better. Also it wigs me out when certain people show up to shows, like I’m more nervous when I know most of the crowd. Which is silly because people I know keep coming back, so we must be doing something right! Also, sometimes I get too drunk and can’t play well. Yikes! I have definitely played enough sloppy drunk shows to know that I can only have one beer before I play
What are you must proud in your musical career: Everything that is happening right now. The Prizefighters are putting out a 7” series which I think is pretty damn good, I just got to sing with Derrick Morgan the Conquering Ruler, and my other band The Sterling Roots is starting to play shows around town. Exciting things are happening!
What would you like to improve upon: As a musician? Performance. When I’m just singing it’s easy to interact with the audience. When I play organ I’m usually concentrating and look like I’m pissed off. I’ve been trying to smile more on stage these days
What would you like to see happen for your career: I want to play with more Jamaican artists, I want to sing, I want to do lots of recording projects, I want to travel the country with my Sterling Roots and play in little towns, I want to learn how to play the blues on a 12-string guitar, and I want to play music all the time!
What would you like to see happen for the future of MNSka: It would be awesome if MNSKA kept going strong. I would really like to see another MNSka compilation, and/or a celebration sometime this year. I think this year is the ten year anniversary! We’re definitely due for a party. All of us have known each other for so long, it’s high time we get straight drunk together.
If you could have one super power, what would it be and why: I wish I could fart and cash would fly out my ass so I could put out new 45s once a month and fly in any Jamaican artist I wanted to perform in Minneapolis. For real, yo.