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'Sunrise' and Stardom

By Sandy Deneau Dunham

One amazing Sunrise is shining quite a spotlight on Luke Olson ’16.

Olson and his band, The Olson Bros, are the new national champions of The Texaco Country Showdown songwriting contest, billed as the nation's largest and longest-running country-music talent search. The band’s original song Sunrise earned its members $5,000 and a January trip to Nashville, where they will be introduced at the Texaco Country Live Showdown—the competition’s national finals—and spend a day consulting with music-industry professionals.

Known for its onstage energy, original music and sweet-as-pie harmonies, The Olson Bros band is no stranger to victory—it won the 2013 Battle of the Bands at Capital Lakefair in Olympia—but the Texaco title was a big win and a hard win.

The Showdown started in spring and continued for six months; to advance, a song had to land in the top five fan favorites each month. Olson said more than 100 songs were submitted. Once a song made it into the top five, judges picked their favorite.

“We didn’t think we would win because there were so many stages to go through,” said Olson.

More about The Olson Bros

National songwriting champs The Olson Bros, featuring PLU student Luke Olson, plays at 8 p.m. Dec. 14 in The Cave. Find more about The Olson Bros here.

“But we won for July, and (in late November) the judges chose us from the top six of the whole year. We’re really happy.”  

The Olson Bros band—Olson, 20; his brother Isaac, a 22-year-old student at Washington State University; drummer James Blackburn; and bass player Nate Collins—formed in 2012 and has played country/rock music all over Washington: at the Big Whiskey Saloon in Olympia; the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino in Ocean Shores; the Tacoma Cabana and The Swiss; Elma Buckaroo Days; the Rutledge Corn Maze; and in Chehalis, Roslyn and Pullman.

They’ll play at The Cave at PLU at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14.

Olson is a Business major/Music minor from Olympia, and while he’s “leaning more toward the music right now,” he’s finding the business end really helpful. “We don’t have a manager for our band,” Olson said. “We have to handle all the money. There’s a lot of business, so we have to do all that.”

As for the music, Olson takes keyboarding at PLU and private songwriting/recording  lessons with PLU’s Jeff Leisawitz. “He has a lot of experience in the music industry and has been a big help,” Olson said. “I would love to be on tour and stuff and record music, but if that doesn’t happen, I would be happy to record in a studio or have my own studio.”

The Olson Bros band has a solid repertoire of 30 or so cover songs; Olson plays electric and acoustic guitar and piano, and his brother plays mandolin and guitar. Together they write the original music for the band.

Sunrise, like most art that feels truly authentic, arose very organically.

“I had to get up early a lot,” Olson said. “Sometimes I stay in Olympia and go back and forth, driving to school a lot in the mornings, and I saw some really awesome sunrises. That gave me a beginning, and I showed it to my brother and he thought it was awesome, and we wrote the rest of it all together.”

The music video of Sunrise stars a special fan (Olson’s girlfriend, Baylee), and the settings hit close to home, too.

“We filmed most of it at Mud Bay Road in Olympia,” Olson said. “It’s a big field with cow statues, and we thought those were awesome.” They also filmed at Summit Lake and “a little part of (Mount) St. Helens toward the end.”  

The video, the song and the band are drawing a lot of attention near and far, and the possibilities are as vast as … well, a whole-sky sunrise.  

Olson said the band is scheduled to meet soon with a big-time music manager from Los Angeles who’s seen The Olson Bros perform. “One of our friends, his friend was friends with this guy who knew him,” Olson laughs.

And then there are those Nashville meetings with record and songwriting companies.

“That should be pretty cool,” Olson said. “They give you a full free day of consultation, talk with you about your songs. Who knows? It’s the music business.”