“Waving, Smiling” is centered around a simple and familiar — although no less potent — finger-picking pattern with the distinct feel of classic soul. Olsen leaves the riff unadorned, laying only her voice on top of it as she sings, “I’m waving smiling/I’m waving smiling/At love forever alive and dying/The sun is shining, the sun is shining.”
Olsen shared both the official studio version of “Waving, Smiling,” as well as a live performance video recorded at the Masonic Temple in Asheville, North Carolina, and directed by frequent collaborator Ashley Connor.
“‘Waving, Smiling’ in my head is the last scene, a slow-motion realization of love not lost but at peace somewhere within myself,” Olsen said in a statement. “It’s the bittersweet end of a chapter of my life — it is the final acceptance that despite coming to an end, all of that time was not lost or wasted.”
“It’s this very lovely thing that’s been waiting secretly for everyone to hear it,” engineer Michael Harris recently told Rolling Stone of the album. “I love that.”
Whole New Mess marks Olsen’s first fully solo album since her 2012 debut, Halfway Home. Nine of the songs appeared on Olsen’s most recent LP, All Mirrors, in a more fleshed-out form, while Whole New Mess features just Olsen and her guitar.