Song inspired by local commute earns Olympia natives national attention

Commute from Olympia to Tacoma inspires “Sunrise,” earns brothers top award; $5,000 in Texaco Country Showdown Songwriting Contest

Contributing writerDecember 27, 2013 

Isaac Olson, left and his brother, Luke, have been writing songs and playing together for a few years but didn’t form a band until last summer.


Olympia natives Luke and Isaac Olson won the 2013 Texaco Country Showdown Songwriting Contest with a song inspired by the beauty of Western Washington.

“Sunrise,” which won the national competition, was born on Luke’s commute from Olympia to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.

“I had 8 a.m. classes,” said Luke, a junior at the university studying business and music. “I had to get up at, like, 6. One morning, I was just pretty overwhelmed by school. I saw this really awesome, beautiful sunrise with Mount Rainier and all the colors.

“It really inspired me.”

He began working on the song right then, skipping class and watching the sunrise.

“I showed it to my brother a week later, and he thought it was super awesome,” Luke said. “We ended up writing the rest of the song together within an hour.”

The brothers submitted the song to Country Showdown and wound up winning $5,000 and a trip to Nashville, where they’ll be introduced at the Country Showdown Finals and meet with industry professionals.

The brothers have been writing songs and playing together for a few years but didn’t form a band — with bassist Nate Collins, also an Olympia native, and drummer James Blackburn, formerly of Los Angeles — until last summer.

“We got together for the Lakefair Battle of the Bands,” Luke said. “That was about six months ago.”

The Olson Bros. Band won that competition, but it’s a long way from winning Lakefair to winning a national competition.

“We were really confident about our song, but still, we were surprised we won,” Luke said. “There were so many contestants.”

Growing up in Olympia, how did the brothers get interested in country music?

“Our baby sitter used to listen to country all the time,” Luke Olson said.

But the brothers didn’t become country fans until a few years ago, when Isaac moved to Eastern Washington.

“I got really into country when I went to Pullman,” said Isaac, a senior majoring in chemical engineering at Washington State University. “I went to school at WSU, and that’s when I got into country. Luke got into it after that. I pushed it on him, and then he really liked it.”

Luke said, “We think country is just awesome because you can really write about anything.”

The brothers played a show at the Westside Tavern on Saturday, but most of their gigs have been out of town, in Chehalis, Elma, Roslyn and Pullman. Those are areas where you might expect more country fans, but the brothers speculate that that’s not the only reason it’s been easier to get gigs outside of their hometown.

In town, Isaac said, The Olson Bros. Band is just another local band looking for a gig. But elsewhere, “People are like, ‘This band traveled from out of town to be here.’ ”

The Olson Bros. Band

What: The Olympia country/rock band won the 2013 Texaco Country Showdown Songwriting Contest for the song “Sunrise,” written by Olympia natives Luke and Isaac Olson.


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