Nashville musician Olivia Jean believes in ghosts. In fact, she’d like to think she’s seen one.
“It was probably just a spot on my contact lens,” she jokes over the phone.
What is for sure is she loves scary movies and watches TV shows like Ghost Hunters on a daily basis.
This interest in the supernatural fits nicely with Jean’s somewhat gothic, somewhat vintage-shop sound and aesthetic. Think swinging ’60s garage rock delivered on the edge of a switchblade, with an epic bouffant that would make John Waters fall to his knees in awe.
Back in 2014 with her band The Black Belles, Jean released Bathtub Love Killings on Jack White’s Third Man record label. Reaching that level of the music business, with its notorious dark side, shook Jean up, so she took a break.
“It’s such a rollercoaster ride, the music business,” she explains. “I was kind of in a dark place with music. My entire life I’ve been playing. You really have to learn how to cope with this new generation of technology where people can really tear you down.”
The itch to make music every day never left.
“I snapped out of it. Why am I not playing music?” she asked herself. “I’ve wasted so much time not doing what I love to do. Why am I letting other people control me and my music? I have pretty thick skin these days.”
Jean grew up in Detroit and says the city’s garage rock legacy has had an influence on her.
“When you’re into rock ’n’ roll in Detroit you’re surrounded by the garage rock scene,” she recalls. “I would hang out with older musicians, they would show me albums I should listen to. I got into surf via B-52s. I was 7 when I got my guitar. I was in my first band when I was 8. We knew the fret markers.”
Jean says her new material shows her love of classic surf rock and pop punk.
“I’ve always wanted to do surf music,” she adds. “It never turns out that way. I keep adding stuff. Where’s the surf? It’s gone?” Jean also wrote all the music and played all the instruments for her upcoming release, which is still without a label.
“A lot of the music is explaining a situation,” she says, “not getting in-depth with the story. Anger, sadness, depression — that’s what gets me going.”
For now, Jean’s back on the road with a few opening slots for Jack White in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. She’s warming up with a headlining date at Luckey’s downtown, Eugene’s older bar. Let’s hope she sees a ghost.
Olivia Jean plays Luckey’s with Eugene rockabilly band Real Gone Trio 10 pm Friday, Aug. 10; $7, 21-plus. — Will Kennedy