How Jon Olschewski Followed the Music

(Reading time: 4 minutes)

Five years ago, avid gardener and blues musician Jon Olschewski was waiting tables, buying guitars and amps with his tips, and playing parties, campouts, and gigs with his band Stonefed. Quietly he wondered whether he could make a living as a musician. He found out when a disagreement with his employer forced his hand: Olschewski had to get to work or go hungry. He's been playing bars and parks throughout the Intermountain West with Stonefed ever since. A working musician.

Olschewski grew up going to park concerts and bluegrass festivals, but never had thoughts of performing. In high school he was a chess geek and champion of Grand County High. He also spent a lot of time shooting pool. He became a quasi-hustler, raking in thirty to forty bucks a night, and he was enjoying himself. Wasn't really looking for much more.

One night while playing the tables, Olschewski met a musician named James Johnson. They ended up at a house party later that evening where Johnson performed his song "Bomb In A Box." The way Olschewski describes it, it was a defining moment. "James's song affected me spiritually. It changed the course of me life," he says. "I wanted the ability to make people feel what I felt."

That's when Olschewski began playing guitar more seriously, learning standard folk and rock tunes on his acoustic. Still, his commitment to music waxed and waned over the years. His guitar playing took a back seat when the '90s rave scene hit, inspiring him to get a Technics 1200 table and start spinning. Then one morning, while listening to Keith Richards wail a solo, Olschewski decided to pick up guitar again. He sold the old acoustic and nabbed a better model.

From then on, Olschewski carried his guitar everywhere. He started playing regularly with bassist Dave Mealy and percussionist Ed Stone. Childhood friend and guitarist Jasper Groff later joined the group, rounding out the ensemble. Stonefed has been running strong now for 16 years. "It's about music, but it's also about this journey with friends," Olschewski says.

Today, the guys are veterans of the Utah jam band scene. And while Olschewski handles much of the band's practical affairs, he hasn't lost sight of his love for music. "I wrote a song two days ago. I cracked out on Amy Winehouse, and that inspired a new tune for me."

For Olschewski, Stonefed is still about music and community, about trying to fulfill that dream that Johnson first inspired. He explains, "Music is a shared from of art. It's one thing to play a song and enjoy it, but it's a whole other thing when you perform in front of an audience. I can watch how others are responding. There's a transfer of energy. You can play a guiding role for the greater good through a song."

And that's all Olschewski ever wanted to do. Ever since he heard that live tune as a teenage boy at some house party back in the '90s.