Interview: Kylie Olsson

by Adam Aiken

The return of the Download festival this year was a special moment for the tens of thousands of fans who descended on the east Midlands for what’s usually an annual pilgrimage.

With the exception of those who attended last year’s pilot event as the country emerged from lockdown, it was the first Download for three years.

Those who were there – and those who weren’t – can catch the highlights of the weekend when Sky Arts broadcasts a pair of shows next month – and those programmes will be fronted once again by Norfolk’s Kylie Olsson.

“I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it was as the energy in that field, both from the bands and the fans, was infectious,” she says.

“You could tell that everyone was beyond happy to be back at the spiritual home of rock and metal.”

Kylie Olsson grew up in Norfolk
Kylie Olsson grew up in Norfolk

Olsson’s own highlights were managing to catch headliners Biffy Clyro, Iron Maiden and Kiss (for their final UK show), as well as Twin Temple and Wargasm, although she was unable to see much else as she was working over most of the weekend.

Her love of music was nurtured back in Norfolk while she was growing up.

She was born in London but her family moved to Hellesdon when she was about seven, and eventually she found herself at the University of East Anglia.

“I loved it there as it’s a fantastic university. It wasn’t my plan to stay local but the film school there was the second best in the country at that time, so it was a no-brainer,” she says.

Her stint at the UEA also gave her the chance to enjoy live music.

“They have some great bands coming through at the UEA,” she says.

“One of my favourite discoveries was seeing Coldplay with about 20 people in the audience.”

Kylie Olsson is the face of the Sky Arts coverage of Download
Kylie Olsson is the face of the Sky Arts coverage of Download

But it’s the heavier stuff that really did it for Olsson.

“I’ve always had a huge passion for rock and especially for classic rock bands like Zeppelin, Cream and AC/DC,” she says.

“Basically, if it has lots of guitars in it then you are my band!

“When I was a kid I would listen to bands like The Doors. My dad was hugely into Bowie and then it just grew from there…

“That’s the great thing about music – there is so much history and no band just comes out of thin air. They have influences, so when you are into one you’ll discover another one and then another.

“For me, that’s part of the fun, discovering and understanding why that band you love so much sounds the way they do.”

Kylie Olsson with Doors drummer John Densmore
Kylie Olsson with Doors drummer John Densmore

Before she went to university, she’d already started doing some work at BBC Radio Norfolk.

“I knew that to make a career out of my passion I needed to do both,” she says.

“So the whole time I was at the UEA I was also working at the BBC part-time and then doing lots of work experience in London during the holidays.”

And although she headed back to the capital after completing her degree, Olsson has maintained her links with Norfolk.

“All my family still live in Norwich which means I’m back often to visit them, so I still have a little toe in the city,” she says.

Once she’d settled in London, Olsson began to work in TV production as a runner (“so making the teas and coffees”), and when the first Download festival was held in 2003, Channel 4 asked her to work on their broadcast as an assistant producer.

Kylie Olsson at this year's Download festival
Kylie Olsson at this year’s Download festival

She did that for about four years, and by then she had started presenting on Global Radio and for several other broadcasters.

In 2010, by which time Channel 4 had ended its relationship with Download, Olsson presented the festival for Live Nation online.

And that meant when Sky Arts secured the broadcast rights in 2011, she was the natural choice to present the coverage – something she’s been doing every year since (pandemic lockdowns aside).

Like many of us, Olsson had plenty of time during the lockdowns to do something different, so she taught herself to play guitar and launched a YouTube series called Life In Six Strings, in which she interviews famous guitarists before getting a lesson from them.

The channel features some of the leading players around, including Nuno Bettencourt, Joe Satriani, Joe Bonamassa, Orianthi and Myles Kennedy.

And there might be more to look forward to…

“There is something exciting coming up which I hope to be able to announce soon!” she teases.

The highlights of Download 2022, hosted by Kylie Olsson, will be shown on Sky Arts on July 9 and 10.

2 Responses

  1. Great story! Kylie Olsson is an amazing person, I love her ‘Life In Six Strings’ show in Youtube and her posts in Instagram!!

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