Songcraft: Spotlight on Songwriters Podcast

David Olney

Ep. 70 - David Olney

Deeper Well: The Songwriter's Songwriter's Songwriter

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Scott and Paul catch up with David to get the scoop on why his childhood paper route shaped his future career; how Kris Kristofferson was responsible for drawing him to Nashville; why touring with Melissa Etheridge gave birth to one of his most beloved songs; the reason he's drawn to give voice to inanimate objects;  what happened when he gave up control and let Emmylou Harris take one of his songs to a whole new place; why actors and songwriters are held to different standards of authenticity; and why good writing is just "chasing your pen down a piece of paper."    

Revered by those in the know, David Olney is a prolific master craftsman who The Los Angeles Times once called “the best songwriter you’ve never heard of,” and about whom the San Francisco Chronicle observed, “In the tradition of Johnny Cash and Tom Waits, Olney has become a pioneer of the Americana music scene.” David was one of the few rockers to emerge from Nashville in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, where he launched his career with The X-Rays, who are best remembered for an appearance on the televised Austin City Limits. He went on to transform himself into a folk-infused singer/songwriter with a rootsy rock edge, releasing more than two dozen solo albums since 1986.

Many of his songs have been recorded by other artists, including Emmylou Harris, who cut “Jerusalem Tomorrow,” “Deeper Well,” and “1917.” The latter was a duet with Linda Ronstadt, who recorded her take on David’s “Women Across the River,” a song that’s also been covered by The Band’s Rick Danko. Other artists who’ve drawn from the Olney songbook include Del McCoury, who recorded “Queen Anne’s Lace” and Connie Britton, who recorded “Postcards From Mexico” for the hit television series, Nashville.

The late great Townes Van Zandt once wrote, “Anytime anyone asks me who my favorite music writers are, I say Mozart, Lightnin' Hopkins, Bob Dylan, and Dave Olney." David’s most recent album is called Don’t Try to Fight It, and he can be seen performing and discussing songs every Tuesday on his live stream cast called You Never Know at       


Songcraft's David Olney Playlist: Spotify users can select the song you'd like to hear below, or simply start the player and enjoy a selection of David's songs. If you don't have a Spotify account, follow the prompts to sign up for free. Click this link to take you directly to the playlist in the Spotify web player.