Keith Olsen
Biography Written by Lesley A. Thode.
Additional information was generously provided by Keith Olsen.

Seminal music producer Keith Olsen didn't only produce Fleetwood Mac's self-titled, 1975 "white album," but he played an integral role in uniting the members of the most commercially successful lineup in Fleetwood Mac's long history. This was one step in his phenomenally successful production career.

Born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, he grew up in Wayzata, Minnesota, and went to school in Minneapolis, where he played bass in a few local bands. In the 1960s, he found himself in California. After being introduced to it by Curt Boettcher, producer of the Association's classic, "Cherish," Olsen cast his sights on studio music production. He eventually landed a job as an engineer at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. "I had enough electronic training in college to know what's going on underneath the desk, enough musical training to know what should be going on top of the desk and on the other side of the glass. And then these opportunities to go start working with some bands started coming in . . . ." He was meeting people like Brian Wilson, from whom Olsen says he learned "to envision everything about a production as you hear the song the first time."

The first act Keith worked with as a full producer on his own was the very young duo of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, whom he had convinced to leave their failing, northern California, college band, Fritz, and move down to Los Angeles to pursue music on their own. Olsen helped them secure a record deal with Polydor, started the album, and also invited the struggling duo to be houseguests for a time. "Lindsey and I lived with Keith Olsen, our producer. And then, in order for Keith to get rid of us so he could have his house back, he like, paid me $250 a month to come and clean his house twice a week, [at] which I did an incredibly good job," remembers Nicks. "She looked just like Carol Burnette. It was absolutely hilarious," recalls Olsen, of his famous, former house cleaner. But Olsen also clearly remembers the unique sound and talent of Nicks and Buckingham. "There was a timbre that happened when the two voices would join that was unique . . . you never heard that before. And I don't think you've heard it since. Those two voices sing like that and sound like that for a reason-they were meant to sing together."

The second engineer on Buckingham's and Nicks' album in progress, whom Olsen had originally hired at Sound City in another capacity, was none other than Richard Dashut. Dashut developed a great friendship with Buckingham and Nicks, often even sharing apartments and houses with them. A few years later, he would become an indispensable member of the core support group to one of the biggest bands in the world, first as Fleetwood Mac's live sound mixer, at Lindsey's invitation, and then as one of Fleetwood Mac's producers. Dashut laughingly remembers his short stint as a studio mechanical apprentice, and Olsen's generosity in letting Richard try his hand at something else at Sound City: "I was a total failure at it. They quickly realized I was not cut out for fixing equipment . . . Keith still liked me in spite of all of this and he decided that I might make a good second engineer."

The result of Olsen's production work and Dashut's assistant engineering work with Buckingham and Nicks was the duo's 1973 debut album, Buckingham Nicks. Although the album was a commercial disappointment, its very existence would shortly unite Buckingham and Nicks (and later Dashut) with Fleetwood Mac, changing all their lives forever.

In late 1974 when Mick Fleetwood was looking for a studio to record the next Fleetwood Mac album, he went to Sound City on a recommendation, liked the sound, and hired Olsen to produce and engineer the album. In the process of hearing a demonstration of that studio's sound and Olsen's production work, Mick also stumbled upon two musicians who would soon become members of the band when Bob Welch departed. Lindsey takes up the story: "Mick came down to hear what the studio sounded like. Keith, not really making any sort of connection . . . the farthest thing from his mind was to try to sell Stevie and me to the band (laughs). But he was very proud of the sound on that album. He put on a song called 'Frozen Love' from the Buckingham Nicks album, just to demonstrate his own prowess in the studio, and what the studio sounded like. So Mick is sitting there listening to this song, and uh, one thing led to another and Stevie and I, very shortly, were members of the band." Olsen remembers the phone call from Fleetwood from a Los Angeles airport on New Year's Eve 1974 about locating Buckingham and Nicks, and the duo's initial hesitation about joining: "[Mick said] 'Keith, I've got good news and bad news. Bob Welch just left the band, so I guess the recording in February is off. But do you think those two "kids" you played for me in the studio might want to join my band? Could you go and see if they might want to try it?' I went to Stevie and Lindsey's apartment, the one they shared with Dashut, and spent the whole night trying to convince the two of them to give up Buckingham Nicks and join Fleetwood Mac. Neither one of them really wanted to join. But after hours, they decided to give it a couple of weeks trial. In fact, Mick only wanted Lindsey, but knew that he couldn't split them up, so he had to add two members to the band, not just one." The resulting 1975 Fleetwood Mac was a multi-platinum success and launched the most commercially successful era in Fleetwood Mac's long history, with the lineup of Fleetwood, Buckingham, Nicks, and Christine and John McVie.

Through the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Olsen built a legendary reputation in production. To date his production work has earned him more than 39 Gold or better, 24 Platinum or better, and 14 multi-Platinum or better album certifications. Olsen has been frontline producer of record on over 100 complete albums. In addition to Fleetwood Mac, some of the artists he's worked with include, the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir, Eddie Money, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Rick Springfield, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Heart, Joe Walsh, Starship, Santana, Kim Carnes, Jethro Tull, The Babys, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Bad Company, 38 Special, Russ Ballard, Sammy Hagar, Whitesnake, Foreigner, Sheena Easton, Steve Perry, Journey, Loverboy, and Lou Gramm. He even reunited with an old friend, Stevie Nicks, to do some production work on her 1985 solo album, Rock A Little. He's also been involved in several movie soundtracks, like "Footloose," "Vision Quest," "Tron," "Flashdance" and "Top Gun."

In 1996, Olsen stepped back a little from artist production to concentrate on developing surround sound music mixes for KORE Group record label, licensing existing masters, remixing them for surround sound, and re-releasing them. At the same time, he was opening offices in Nashville to start a publishing venture called Bursen Music Group. "We currently are administrators for over 16 publishing companies, holding over 2500 copyrights, including Hank Williams Jr.'s, Bocephus Music," says Olsen.

Since 1999 Olsen has been at Mackie Designs in Seattle, Washington as Director of the Professional Recording Products Division. He contributed to Stevie Nicks' "Behind the Music" program on VH1. He remains active as a producer with a country artist on the charts in Canada, and a band called House of Dreams whose album is awaiting release. He has also recently contributed to several compositions for a film soundtrack for a movie awaiting release, called the "Knotheads."


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