In 1995, Mark Olson left the Jayhawks after a stormy decade of mounting success and ventured out on his own to continue pursuing his vision of honest, earthy Americana music. The Jayhawks pushed on without Olson and, helmed by new chief songwriter Gary Louris, the band headed off into more pop-oriented territory. Rather than shop for a new label and do it all over again, Olson decided on a more independent route: to simply make the music he wanted to make and sell it himself. With the help of his wife, Victoria Williams (a successful singer/songwriter in her own right), and his longtime friend and fiddler Mike "Razz" Russell, he set up his own living-room studio in rural Joshua Tree, California, and recorded The Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers in 1997. The album was warmly received by the alt-country elite and warranted considerable press in the y'allternative-centric magazine No Depression.
Olson, Williams, and Russell had so much fun with the first album that they recorded Pacific Coast Rambler in early 1999 and Zola & the Tulip Tree later in the year. The partially autobiographical My Own Jo Ellen was released by the roots rock-friendly Hightone Records in late 2000, and December's Child followed in 2002. Along with his solo albums, Olson also recorded with the Creekdippers, releasing Political Manifest in 2004. But 2005 marked the end of Olson's personal and creative relationship with Williams; they divorced following a brief emotional breakdown by Olson. Olson's 2007 solo album, the lavishly packaged The Salvation Blues, dealt in part with his divorce and its aftermath, but while it dealt with the end of one relationship, Olson also reunited with former Jayhawks bandmate Gary Louris on three songs. The reunion gelled, and the two released Ready for the Flood as a duo in 2009. Olson returned with a true solo effort, Many Colored Kite, in 2010, and a full Jayhawks reunion followed in 2011 with the album Mockingbird Time. The Jayhawks toured extensively in support, but in a 2013 interview, Olson declared the band was defunct, and he had begun collaborating with his second wife, Norwegian musician and songwriter Ingunn Ringvold. When visa difficulties (eventually resolved) made it impossible for Olson and Ringvold to both stay in either Norway or America, they ended up working with a music school in Armenia, where they wrote the songs that would form Olson's next solo album, 2014's Goodbye Lizelle. Olson and Ringvold collaborated again on the 2017 release Spokeswoman of the Bright Sun. ~ Zac Johnson