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From The Heart: Drummer's Subjects Range From ''Dancin' Shoes'' to Racing Cars

Written by Chief Editor.

Nigel Olsson recently spoke about his long career with Elton, and also offered thoughts about stage fright and solo work.
 
The Ottawa Citizen interview appears below:
 

Q: Your 1979 song, Dancin’ Shoes, was a hit in Canada. Did you ever tour with it?

A: No, I didn’t tour at all, the reason being that I didn’t really want to be a frontman on a tour because, believe it or not, I get so nervous going on stage, even now. Fifteen minutes before we go on stage, this is since 1968, I can’t talk. I’m that nervous. I don’t know why but as soon as I get on stage, it’s fine. In those days, I couldn’t handle being out there and being the frontman.

Q: Do you experience a sense of relief when it’s over?

A: By the end of the first song, I’m having a lot of fun. I make it as enjoyable for the audience as it is for me. These days and times that we’re going through right now, and having to be very aware of the security and everything, I look out there in the audience and see smiling faces. My job is to make more smiling faces so that people can enjoy a few moments without worrying about anything else other than having a great time. If I see smiling faces, my job is done.

 Q: Let’s go back to the beginning. What was it like when you first met Elton John?

A: We were all kids in those days and it was very exciting to be involved. I met Elton and (co-writer) Bernie (Taupin) when I was with a band that was handled by Dick James Music, who were the publishers for Elton and Bernie’s songs. I would see them in the office, and if they wanted to do a demo of one of their songs and I was around, they would ask me to come play drums. That’s basically how we started our relationship together musically.

Q: Did it click right away?

A: The first time we went into James’ studio to rehearse, and within the first eight bars of the first song, which was probably Your Song, I knew that this was the kind of music that I wanted to play. It changed the whole direction of my life, basically. It was an amazing time in our lives.

Q: What did you like about the music?

A: All the songs that we played at that rehearsal were just so original and different than what was going on at that particular time. We had the Beatles and Stones and the Who and Led Zeppelin, but this was a whole different thing. It was fresh, original, from the heart. The lyrics were amazing. The chords were amazing, and it just gelled together so instantaneously. It was a great time in my life.

Q: Is Elton a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the music?

A: Yes. We all are, actually. We’re all on the same wavelength, especially in the early days when it was Elton and Bernie and Dee Murray and Davey Johnstone and Ray Cooper. When we went into the studio, nobody told us to play like this or play this chord here. We all were all on the same wavelength and we knew where we were going. And it’s still like that. Even with the guys in the band now, it’s a special magic that we all have together. It’s very joyful.

Q: I don’t recall a lot of drum solos from you over the years.

A: No. I hate drum solos. I class myself as a descriptive drummer. I’m not technical at all. I can’t read music. I’m self taught, and I just do it from my heart and my brain. And being a descriptive drummer, I mean that I’ll put a drum fill in where it’s needed, but I don’t want to overpower the music or the lyrics. I love to play the ballads. I’m not too keen on the fast ones because at the end of the day, I’m a romantic. I love the big ballads, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, Candle in the Wind, stuff like that. People sometimes are expecting a drum solo but I’ll leave that out so that it gives light and shape to the music.

Q: You’re a rare creature as a drummer.

A: (Laughs) Thank you. I just love what I do, and it's all from the heart, I guarantee it.

Q: What will life be like for you when there are no more Elton John tours?

A: I'm hoping that we go away for a year or so and then we come back and do one-offs here and there, or maybe a Vegas residency. My time off would be motor racing. When I'm off, that's what I do. I build and race racing cars. I'm an instructor as well, so that's what I'll probably fall back on, and then enjoy being with my family and my little puppy dog. Just chill and have a good time and enjoy life.