Earlier this year, Evan Olson made a discovery.
“A lot of ‘90s nostalgia around I found out. People were like, ‘Oh, this is so ‘90s! I love it,’” Evan says.
He’s talking about a song he wrote back in the 1990s. It was at a time when U2 was the biggest band on the planet and the Canadian group, Barenaked Ladies, scored a series of hits.
Evan says he never really listened to the Barenaked Ladies much (and you couldn’t avoid listening to U2 back then) but he wrote a song that was a bit reminiscent of them both.
It’s called “So Much Better.” It was on his CD, “One Room.” It got a fair amount of airplay and then just … disappeared.
Tyler Gillett is a filmmaker in LA but back in the late ‘90s when the song came out, he was a teenager in Flagstaff, Arizona, and heard the song … then couldn’t seem to forget it. On the way home from a party, one night fairly recently, he tried to play the song for his wife but couldn’t find it anywhere.
That’s when finding it became his obsession.
“It’s musically, just really smart,” Tyler says of the way the song’s chorus reminds him of the Barenaked Ladies’ song “One Week” and its chorus is reminiscent of the soaring vocals of U2. “I mean, Evan is mixing together sounds that you wouldn’t think would go together well.”
Evan isn’t so sure.
“I don’t really know how to describe it. It does have its own kind of sound,” he says.
I spoke to Tyler over Zoom and asked him about the search for the song – he had found a guy in Trinidad and Tobago who had posted something about it on the internet, but that’s about it. I asked him if he was expecting it to be by some fairly big New York or Los Angeles-based artist.
“I think so,” says Tyler. “For it to be playing in Trinidad and Tobago and northern Arizona at the same time with enough frequency that I could remember it as well as I remembered it, it had to be a big hit. So then, naturally, you kind of extrapolate that, well, if it’s a big hit, this musician has probably worked at a big recording studio – it’s probably LA, it’s probably New York.”
When he couldn’t find it himself, he enlisted the help of a popular podcast called “Reply All.” That’s where PJ Vogt and his podcast partner, Alex Goldman, went to work. They just didn’t realize it would be so much work – PJ thought a few well-crafted Google searches would do the trick.
“Yeah, it was surprising to me,” PJ said when that didn’t turn up the song. “Because I feel like, a lot of time when you have a question without a clear answer, you plug it into Google or whatever, the answer appears or at least the expert appears.”
He, too, thought it would be more of a big city artist.
“I was shocked,” says PJ, “and that’s what pop music does, it’s this little spell of a thing that’s like a memory of a feeling that gets locked into your brain long after you’ve forgotten a lot of other things and, to me – I don’t know, to me that’s the magic of it.”
“Knowing that people enjoy something you created is the ultimate payoff, for me,” says Evan. “It makes me think maybe it’s ahead of its time!”
Hear from all three men and see Evan perform the song, live, in this edition of the Buckley Report.