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Karen the LairMistress / Bio

I learned to write songs in the 1970's and 80's, in the topical tradition of contemporary folk songwriting, and I have continued in this vein since folk songwriting became more mainstream. My songwriting models have been many and varied, from Judy Small and Holly Near to Tommy Makem and Mari Boine. Strings and hand percussion are my instrumental choices; I have a guitar, violin, bodhrán, tablas and an avocado-shaped rattle at home. However, I am also broadening my experience with the voice as an instrument and as a vehicle for deeper self-expression. Thus I have been experimenting with Sami joik vocalizing, Irish sean-nos motifs and other singing styles from around the world.

In addition to writing and performing original music, I also try to preserve songs by other songwriters, especially those by folk songwriters who are less well-known in mainstream music. Many of these people are musical heroes and role models of mine; and I play their songs as tributes to those from whom I learned the craft of songwriting and performance.

My own performing experience began as a teenager, singing and playing in high school instrumental performances and church programs, local Broadway productions and ethnic festivals, and the Deer Creek Fiddlers' Convention. I have played in coffeehouses and open mikes wherever I have traveled as a student and contract archaeological worker-- in Virginia, Arizona, Wyoming, New Mexico, Washington, and two college semesters in Ireland. I have performed at the Pike Place Market and at Songwriter Showcases, as well as the Northwest Folklife Festival and Seattle Rhythm Festival/Days of Percussion. I always seek to learn new styles of traditional and contemporary music; and to find other musicians to work with and learn from. I am also in continuous search of recording and performance opportunities, in order to fulfill a never-ending desire for new creative outlets.

I'm doing some crowdfunding my recording project! If you'd like to help, check out the campaign profile here: http://www.gofundme.com/1xbp40

General Info

Band Members
Karen Olsen - vocals, guitar, fiddle, keyboards, hand percussion
Artist Name
Karen the LairMistress
Home Page
Active Since
Folk / Celtic / Multilingual

Contact Info

Seattle, WA

Similar Artists

  • Judy Small
  • Anne Feeney
  • Sally Rogers
  • Holly Near
  • Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer