• Nashville Skyline by Brett Engle

Kenny Olson

Written by Ysmay on .

Meet Kenny Olson, the best guitarist you've never heard of. You probably heard Kenny and didn't even realize it. Kenny has played with Kid Rock, Aerosmith, Metallica, Billy Gibbons, Sheryl Crow, and Les Paul, among others.

While you may not have heard of him, his peers definitely have. Keith Richards says this multi-platinum guitarist is "one of the best rock guitarists on the scene right now."

Kenny started a band, The Kenny Olson Cartel, which is an an ass-kicking entity in its own right. "That's my high," Olson says. "I belong out there playing." But the studio is another home, and there will be more where Kenny Olson Cartel came from. The guitarist says he has enough material "for a few more albums at least," with more coming seemingly every day, which means the Cartel is well stocked for a loud 'n' proud future.

"What I like about this situation is nothing can stop it," Olson gushes. "As long as I'm alive and kicking, I can keep the Kenny Olson Cartel going and keep the music coming."

In this candid interview, Kenny talked to us about his career, music, and life in Nashville, where he's currently alive and kicking.

Kenny Olson by Anthony ScarlatiKenny Olson by Anthony Scarlati

We hear your father and uncles were into the guitar. Is that how you got interested?


No.  Gettin' chicks did it.


When did your interest really start to take off?


I always thought about it as a kid. I got my first electric guitar when I was eleven.  I jumped in with both feet and it's all I've ever known since.


Who were some of your inspirations?


It's such a hard question to answer. There are so many amazing artists from blues legends, classic rock, Motown sounds, Detroit Rock City, old school funk, early punk, jazz and R&B.  I let it all pour into me so that I could put that soul in the hole and rock it in the socket.


You've performed and collaborated with some really great artists including Sheryl Crow, Aerosmith, and Metallica to name a few. How did you get involved with such high-profile bands?


It was a long haul, but as my career really launched alongside of Kid Rock, many amazing opportunities came my way in which I embraced.  I've been able to work with so many legendary artists on my own or in various collaborations.

How did you get hooked up with Kid Rock?


We had mutual friends so we met when we were both fairly young but we didn't join forces until 1995 shortly after I moved back from California.

What happened there? You performed with him for 11 years.


We accomplished so many things beyond what I could imagine.  It all happened so fast, and that made it very surreal at times.  Leaving was not an easy decision, but it was time for me to do what I needed to do.  

We heard you left because you weren't following your "ultimate dream". What is your ultimate dream?


There is much music in me and music that I've already created, so I'm on a mission to get it out to the universe.  

Tell us about the Kenny Olson Cartel. How did you start the group and where does the name come from?


I started the band to get in the driver's seat of my own destiny.  It has allowed for me to do what I feel inside me, while keeping a signature sound and I'm blessed with great fellow artists to collaborate with. The Cartel name refers to the amazing artists that are a part of the band and the special guests.  We are all family and that's why it began being know as the Cartel.

How would you describe the sound of Kenny Olson Cartel?


Binging back soul and substance, organic roots vibe, rock 'n' roll.

We understand there are collaborations with Peter Keys (keyboardist from Lynyrd Skynyrd) and Sonia Dada's Paris Delane on the self-titled debut album. How and why did you end up collaborating with whom you've collaborated?


Those guys along with Jon Nicholson, Hugo Ferreira, Billy Cox, Emanuel Cole, John "Wolf" Abel, Brandon Calhoon, Shannon Boone Hurcomb, Todd Harrell, Adam Kury, Donavan McCrary, Toby Wright, and Geoff Koval all contributed to this record in some way.  They're all my brothers. I've been working with them a great deal for the past few years.

Out of everything you've done and everyone you've worked with to this point, what's your fondest memory?


There are many amazing moments that I'm very grateful for, but my fondest moment was being there when my son was born.


What's on your docket for the coming year? What can we expect to see next?


Along with studio work and collaborations, I'm getting out and taking my music to the streets live and continuing to create new songs for upcoming releases. My mission is to make timeless music and play my heart out on stages all over the world.

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