Politics and Music: Jordan Olsen, guitarist with The Gorgeous Hussies

Jordan Olsen, guitarist with The Gorgeous Hussies, discusses politics and music from his perspective.Jordan Olsen, guitarist with The Gorgeous Hussies, discusses his perspective of music and politics. This is the first in a series of interviews with musicians discussing political perspectives.

What role do politics play in your music?

On the whole I don’t think mainstream politics, per se, play a significant role in how I write and perform music. There hasn’t been an issue I’ve been so passionate about that I’d be willing to use my music to preach about it. That’s just not my style. However, I have written a few songs that present a larger comment on society and how we treat each other, which, I guess, is the crux of politics. So in that aspect maybe I have?

On The Gorgeous Hussies’ first CD Oh! Hello I wrote a song called “Dangerously Similar.” It’s based on the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict in the summer of 2006. I was watching CNN and watched Israeli troops fighting with Hezbollah troops and I couldn’t tell who was who. I couldn’t help but think that beyond the politics and ethnic conflict these people were first and foremost fathers and mothers but how at that moment they were “dangerously similar”. It’s not really an anti-war song, rather a comment on people who at their core are very similar but find themselves trying to kill each other.

The Gorgeous Hussies – “Dangerously Similar”

The Gorgeous Hussies, live at The GrindThe other song is one called “Weigh It Out,” which will be on The Gorgeous Hussies’ forthcoming CD tentatively titled Six Radio Friendly Jams & Some Filler. The song discusses how often people focus so intently on our political differences rather than our human similarities. The lyrics are…

I’ve seen the best of every side,
And both proclaim that they are right,
And missed the mark so many times,
I made rash decisions out of spite.
We’ve pushed all reason out the door,
Dug up mistakes we’ve made before,
While ushering in a brand new era of complete disaster!

But when I close my eyes,
I start to realize,
We’re all the same inside.
And is there something more,
That we’ve chosen to ignore,
A greater truth we cannot hide.
You tell me I can do no wrong,
All sense of reason’s dead and gone,
Spinning the words to hide the guilt you’ve felt inside for so long.
I understand the thrill you find,
Free from constraints inside your mind,
The error of our ways will surely bind us all in time!

What role do you think music should play in politics?

If your focus as a musician is to try and use music as a catalyst for political activism then obviously it plays a big role. However, I have a hard time with musicians (and movie stars) who are politically focused. Politics so often drives a wedge between people. People aren’t always able to see the art beyond the politics, you know what I mean? And I include myself in there. Look at what happened with The Dixie Chicks. By voicing their political opinion they drove a huge wedge between them and many of their fans. I’m not saying I agree with their comments one way or the other, I’m just saying you take the chance of alienating a lot of people by exposing your politics.

I learned this lesson first hand. I post regularly on a Salt Lake City based message board full of local musicians. A lot of the threads are often about politics. I have a differing opinion than the majority of musicians on the site. About a year ago I tried booking my band at two SLC venues and the bookers both told me they wouldn’t book my band because of my ‘political views’. I saw first hand how expressing your point of view can impact your career with people who aren’t tolerant or accepting of differing points of view. Since then I try to keep my politics separate from my music. We’ll see if this interview has any negative impact. ;)

Would you ever allow a mainstream political candidate to use your music in campaigning? Why or why not?

Depends on how hard up I was for cash. ;) But really I don’t know that I would. Like I said in my last comment, politics drives a wedge between a lot of people; people who I would normally find a lot in common with when it comes to music and art and basic desires in life. I want to share my music with as many people as possible so I would probably think twice before potentially alienating myself from half the population.

The Gorgeous Hussies, live at The GrindWould you consider throwing your endorsement behind a candidate you were passionate about?

Doubtful. I’m a fan of musicians and movie stars who practice their craft for the sake of art, not because they’re trying to shove their politics down my throat.

Why are the political opinions of popular musicians such a hot topic with their fans?

People are social creatures and I think people like it when their own political opinion is validated by someone they look up to. They like to know they’re part of a group/team and when someone they look up to feels similarly about an issue as they do it helps to solidify that sense of belonging.

Do you think there are major problems with the modern political system? Does celebrity involvement play a part in this?

Yes, I think all political systems have flaws. I don’t think that’s because of celebrity involvement, rather, human involvement. Humans are all imperfect and a system run by humans is ultimately going to also be imperfect. But that’s ok. We shouldn’t be seeking perfection, rather, the best outcome we can create. And I think politicians on both sides of the isle are trying to achieve the best outcome, as they see it. Now, whether you and I agree with the way in which they/we try to achieve these “best outcomes” is up for debate.

Are you following the 2008 U.S. elections? Are there any thoughts you’d like to share on what you’ve seen?

Yes, I follow the Presidential election closely each day. I think both campaigns have very strong candidates and it’s been a very dramatic race. There are two things I really like about this upcoming election as opposed to the past few elections.

#1: These candidates have very differing ideas on how to move our country forward. So often in the past we heard “there’s no difference between the two. I’ll just pick the lesser of two evils”. I think people have a very contrasting choice this election when it comes down to these candidate’s positions on specific issues. Choice is good!

#2: No matter who is elected, this is going to be an historic move forward for women and minorities in the US. I don’t think anyone’s vote should necessarily come down to race or gender and ignore the issues facing us, but it’s great to know we’re all part of a historic event that’ll take place this November.

Share your perspectives on music and politics; comment below and get involved.

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