Music videos played a major part in the presentation of Angel Olsen’s recent album My Woman, which cracked the top 10 of our annual best albums list. Most memorably, Olsen wore a silver wig in the videos for “Intern” and “Shut Up Kiss Me.” In a new interview with former Stereogum dude Brandon Stosuy at The Creative Independent, Olsen delves deep into the ideas behind these videos and reveals some creative tension between herself and her record label, Jagjaguwar.
Olsen begins by explaining the push and pull between musicians and video directors, asserting that ultimately the artist’s creative vision should trump whatever the director has in mind: “It’s an advertisement for your song. You should be in control of it.” She adds, “It’s more intense than a car commercial, because so-and-so wants you to do some weird shit with your hands, or wants you do something where you paint your face. That’s going to be what you project as an artist, not what they project as a director.” She then explains that the wig was her way of developing a character for herself and avoiding paying for a stylist, and that the rollerskating in the videos was inspired by a trip to the rink in real life:
It was right when David Bowie had passed away. At the rink there was a kind of rollerskating procession happening for Bowie. A funeral procession. They just played all Bowie. People dressed up as Bowie from different decades. That’s when I thought of the video, or just the first idea of having a video. Doing a glam kind of look.
From there Olsen details the conflicts with her label: She wanted “Intern” and “Shut Up Kiss Me” to be one standalone film, whereas they wanted the videos split up by song to help promote the individual tracks. After opining that Jagjaguwar should be as hands-off with her videos as they are with her music, she recalls a particular dispute in vague terms:
But they wanted me to do something really weird. I don’t want to tell you because I don’t want it to be published. They wanted me to add something to the video that was totally irrelevant. I laughed when I read the email. I was like, “Oh my god. Are you fucking kidding me?” No way that’s going to happen. There’s no way… like… you’re not going to make me ruin this idea. They were just seeing it from this angle. Everybody has a different perspective on it in this game we’re playing. They see one side, I see one side, my manager sees one side, my PR person sees one side, the audience sees another side. Everybody sees a different side of something in this process.
This is something I created, so don’t fuck with it. Stop fucking with it. This is something you didn’t create. They didn’t think about the process. I don’t think anyone really thinks about it being a vulnerable thing or a thing that’s precious to you. People forget. You want to avoid this thing, because that thing works. Well, I want to disregard all of your decisions because you suggested all of these people who I think suck.
Ultimately, Olsen expresses acceptance that everyone has their own perspective and that sometimes she’ll agree with her label and sometimes she won’t. She also notes how much appreciation she gained for the work that goes into directing and editing a music video:
I ended up doing the wig thing and, of course, I was thinking all these poetic things about making a video. But I was very humbled by all the steps it took to complete these tasks, and see for the first time where maybe Zia [Anger] and Ashley [Connor] are coming from with editing and being like, “Whoa, this is fucking hard.” You don’t really get much pay back. Your pay back is knowing that you made something beautiful.
OK, now let’s revisit Olsen’s My Woman clips and speculate about what Jagjaguwar wanted her to do that was so weird.
UPDATE: Olsen has tweeted some clarifying comments about the interview, which you can read below.
I just want to state that it shouldn’t be headline news to anyone that even independent labels have an opinion on artists’ music videos. The only reason I voiced anything about the label was because I genuinely wondered what it would be like if I had never separated my first two videos.
The bad — or to be more descriptive — the SILLY suggestion that the label had just briefly for my video was that I have my album art mysteriously flash during the end of the Intern video as a “teaser”. I decided against it, and obviously the label let me !
As I stated in the original interview, Jagjaguwar has given me basically full reign over all of my creative decisions, and our relationship continues to be one of mutual trust.
And happy new year everyone!
Some words concerning my interview w/ The Creative Independent and subsequent articles elsewhere: pic.twitter.com/HCrUsiHzDA
— Angel Olsen (@AngelOlsen) December 21, 2016