An acoustic blast from the past: Relic rocks on
Jason Turner, staff writer
Herald Journal, June 24, 2016

Photo by John Zsiray / Herald Journal

“We feel a special closeness for Summerfest because when we first organized, Summerfest was our first big gig,” said Nelson, a retired professor of accounting at Utah State University.

Ever since winning that competition, performing classic rock at Summerfest has been nearly an annual routine for Nelson, whether it was with The Fender Benders or Relic. Nelson, Steve Roberts and Scott Olsen, three of the four founding members of The Fender Benders, formed Relic, an acoustic classic rock and easy listening band, in 2010.

Relic, which typically puts on 15-20 gigs a year, was back at Summerfest last Friday and performed nearly 20 famous cover songs.

“We’ve played (all over) in Idaho and Utah,” said Roberts, who is originally from southern California, but moved to Cache Valley 16 years ago. “We’ve played down in California and Wyoming, but the most fun (we have) is right here in Cache Valley, where our friends can come and listen. We enjoy that probably the best, and we really enjoy Summerfest.”

Olsen, Nelson and Roberts all take turns as the lead singer of Relic, which prides itself in its ability to harmonize.

“It’s pretty unique, isn’t it? And it gives us three-part harmonies, too, which is really, really sweet,” said Nelson, who resides in Smithfield and currently teaches private piano, guitar, bass and vocal lessons. “And it also gives us three different voices. Our voices are very different from each other, and so the songs sound different. I’ve noticed many times that when you hear a band when there’s one singer, after the third song they all sound the same.”

“I think it’s just serendipitous that we all knew how to sing and could sing harmonies,” said Olsen, who grew up in Young Ward and resides in Garland. “It just worked out well that way. I’ve always wanted to do something like that, be able to sync your harmonies.”

In addition to performing iconic songs such as “Heart of Gold,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” “California Dreamin’” and “Brown Eyed Girl” last Friday, Relic’s three musicians spent a lot of time interacting with and cracking jokes to the audience. This is something Olsen, 55, thoroughly enjoys.

“We realized with the acoustic (band) we didn’t have this big set-up,” said Olsen, who is a truck driver for Hancock Transportation. “I wasn’t so much work, so we could play in smaller venues and we didn’t overpower everything with a lot of loud music. … The Relic band is a lot more intimate, and that’s what it’s all about is the connection with the (audience).”

Nelson, who has been playing guitar in bands since 1976, was just grateful he was able to sing last week. The 62-year-old had been battling laryngitis for nearly three weeks and said he couldn’t even sing the day before Relic took the stage at Summerfest.

Roberts, 64, Olsen and Nelson have more than a combined 100 years of performing experience. Roberts starting drumming when he was 11 — the Providence resident is the drummer for The Fender Benders — and has been playing the guitar for the past 10-12 years.

Olsen’s passion for the guitar started his senior year at Sky View. Ever since he was a teenager, Olsen, who is also skilled with a harmonica, has virtually jammed out on a guitar every day. The fifth-generation Young Ward native even takes his guitar with him when he’s on the road for his job.

“I just never looked back,” said Olsen, who’s love for music started as a youngster when he listened to his grandfather play the accordion. “It’s a part of me. ... It’s who I am.”

Nelson, who grew up in Salt Lake County, took piano lessons when he was 8, and music has been a big part of his life ever since.

The three musicians were eating at the Nelson-owned Pier 49 Pizza in Providence when they decided to form an acoustic band.

Nelson first met Roberts in 2003 when Roberts was playing with a pop rock band. Nelson liked what he saw from Roberts and approached him about starting what would turn out to be The Fender Benders.

Roberts and Nelson posted a flyer at USU looking to find another band member, and that’s how they were introduced to Olsen. Olsen recalled receiving a phone call from his nephew Chris, “and (Chris) said these two old guys are looking for a guitar player.”

Ironcially enough, Olsen and Nelson were already acquaintances as they had worked on a project together for the Stage Stop Theatre — now known as the Old Barn Theatre — in Collinston.

It’s fair to say the three close friends have created several fond memories over the years. Nelson will never forget when The Fender Benders performed at USU’s Performance Hall as the back-up band for the university’s ’70s concert. The building was jammed packed both nights, Nelson recalled, “and people were waving their cell phones. It was pretty neat.”

Arguably Roberts’ fondest memory was when he performed in his native state.

“We traveled down to Southern California and played kind of a big birthday bash down there, and that was a lot of fun,” said Roberts, who designs bridges for JUB Engineers. “I think we all enjoyed that. It was a long way to travel, but it was fun, a lot of memories.”