Born in a small town in South Dakota then moving to Minneapolis, Minnesota at the age of 12, Keith received a very midwestern cultural education founded in reality and defined with realism. As he became more and more interested in music both classical and pop music of the time, he was lucky enough to earn some valuable experience in a couple of the only recording studios in the Minneapolis area. Playing upright bass with light jazz bands around the University of Minnesota Campus brought him into communication with many other musicians in the Twin Cities jazz, classical, and folk music scenes.
After an audition with recording artist Jimmy Rodgers for a job playing bass, Keith was hired and spent the next 8 weeks on the road with Jimmy and meeting artists such as Gale Garnet, Cass Elliot, James Hendricks, Tim Rose, Felix Pappalardi, and Sean Bonniwell. Once this short 8 week tour was over Gale Garnet asked Keith to join her folk trio and back her for a few week stint at the Ice House in Pasadena CA. During that engagement Gale was signed to a record contract with RCA and a few months later “We’ll sing in the Sunshine” was a number one hit / Grammy winner and the three toured the United States with artists like the Four Seasons, Bill Cosby, Hoyt Axton, Chad Mitchell Trio, among so many others. A wealth of soon to be discovered super talents were touring and co-mingling in the folk circuit like David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, and Chris Hillman, just to name a few, where Keith could feel the energy of the oncoming change in Pop Music and Rock.
While finishing up a tour with Gale Garnett, Keith and Sean Bonniwell put their heads together and formed what turned out to be the Music Machine, a hard rock, very tight, well rehearsed band who had a few hits in the late 60’s. During the Music Machine era Keith met up with a U of M college friend Curt Boettcher and started producing pop records and had success with the Association, Tommy Roe and several others.
This collaboration and partnership caught the ear of Clive Davis who at the time was president of CBS records at the time, and “hired” the two to produce and assist on some of the new “ambitiously electronic” sounds associated with LA bands and studios for CBS. The Collaboration netted several products such as “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” by the Byrds, “At the Zoo” on the Bookends album by Simon and Garfunkel, and of course the Millennium Album, the first 16 track album produced in America linking up two 8 track Ampex machines mechanically.
After working within the confines of CBS and IBEW union oriented studios, Keith and Curt proceeded to be named partners in a new record company venture called Together Records, a subsidiary of MGM under Mike Curb. This gave the two of them the opportunity to use outside studios, experiment with sound and more multitrack recording. Keith and Curt ended their production partnership shortly there afterwards. Keith decided to move on to make sure that the individual artists talents were always held in the highest regard. “A producer should be just a vehicle to get the artists creativity on “tape” in an accessible manner to the marketplace you’re going after” states Keith.
In 1973 Keith wanted to fulfill his understanding of the palette available to producers by honing his engineering skills. Olsen started the production company Pogologo Productions which is still in existence and active today. The first artists he signed to Pogologo Productions were “Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Waddy Wachtel, and Jorge Calderon. The Buckingham Nicks Album was done first and released on Polydor Records, the next release was Waddy’s Single “Go to Beirut” on Anthem Records. Jorge’s talent was signed to Warner Bros. records in Burbank.
From this point on the road is very well documented on Keith’s career by numerous websites, books, and episodes of VH1's "Behind The Music". Keith sensed a change in the direction of Pop and Rock music, and spent the next 25 years helping to define it. With over 120 albums produced netting a 1 in 4 Gold or better ratio, of which more than 24 are Platinum or better, and more than 14 are multi-Platinum, sales from Keith Olsen’s work exceeds 110 million units at retail, equaling more than a Billion dollars in business. To date his work appears on more than 250 albums and is in many feature films. Olsen has always stated “It’s about the music and how it affects the listener at home, in the car, listening on their iPod, The Song, the Performance of that song, and lastly the Sound, are all extremely important. He says ”Remember, we play music, we’re not supposed to work at it”.
During a few year stint as Corporate Director of Global Product Development at Mackie Designs, during their public ownership era, Keith used his first hand knowledge of how production equipment is used, what is needed, how to keep technology out of the way of creativity, to develop their digital products line. He assembled a team of technological super Jedi’s to help with this huge task of specification of high end products. With a full compliment of new and exciting digital products by Olsen and his team, Mackie Designs came out with digital consoles, hard disc recorders, I/O devices, powered speakers and mixers that hammered the death nail in the high end, high priced studio, for most of the recording industry, and helped define how records will be made in the 21st Century.
Being an advocate on issues concerning the recording industry, its problems and challenges, Keith, now with glasses from staring at too many computer screens, ran for the Board of Governors for the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS- the Grammy people). He was elected to the post of National Trustee of NARAS in 2001-2006. From this position he has had ever increasing visibility is areas of Intellectual Property rights, illegal copyright theft, and archival of past works. Being in close communication with noted alliances for the structuring and preservation of these rights, Olsen has working toward solutions to benefit all copyright owners. He states, “The purpose of archival is so important to all artists and record companies alike, so as to not lose the early works, not just of old magnetic tape, but also not to lose current projects of the current generation of artists.” Keith Olsen now produces several albums per year, yet he gives his time and energy tirelessly to the Hawaiian Music scene, as well as the NARAS P&E Wing, the mission of which he strongly believes is so necessary in this era of digital revolution. He currently serves as Trustee from the PNW Chapter, is on the A&N Committee, P&E Steering Committee, P&E Advisory Council.
So that’s the story behind the glass or glasses of Keith Olsen. So what’s in store for him? What will he give us in the future? These questions will be answered each year with new projects of as many varied artists as Keith can fit in. To be true to himself, he tells us, “I’ll never hang it up, making music, regardless of the form or genre, is what I do, it’s what I do best. Life is a game of skill, not a game of chance, and doing records that contain world class artists, great vocalists, wonderful musicians, great songs, great feels, and a uniqueness that makes it special is what production is all about.”