Written by Reed Yearwood
Anders Osborne, acclaimed musician and songwriter responsible for Keb Mo’s GRAMMYⓇ Award-winning Slow Down, Tim McGraw’s number one “Watch The Wind Blow By,” and more is releasing a new record Buddha and The Blues, Available April 26. In this exclusive interview at The Jamwich, Anders discusses the new album, life as a musician, and more with Reed Yearwood.
Anders, thanks for taking time to talk with the Jamwich!
Reed! What’s goin’ on buddy? I’m feeling nice and refreshed after spending a couple of days with my family down in Pensacola. Here we are, right before Jazz Fest (New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival). You gotta clear your head a little bit.
Glad to hear you were able to take some family time for the holiday; balancing life on the road with everything else is an essential part of what defines an artist. Can you tell us a little about your background as a musician?
I started touring in my early 20’s; doing some club gigs and trying to master the art of day & night gigs. I used to be a roadie and I worked up in Fulton, LA doing a little bit of this-and-that. At around 22 I made a decision to pursue life as a solo musician. I talked to a local guy that got me in touch with people who really got the record deals going. My first record came out in 1989 on a label called Rabadash. So yeah man, 30 years of recording this year! That’s the quick summation of what I’ve done. I’ve done some major label stuff and a lot of independent stuff over the years and just have been chugging along trying to make a living!
That’s right! Congratulations on the 30 year anniversary, that’s awesome and inspiring. Will you speak on how you come up with your concert repertoire?
I usually look a couple weeks in advance if there are some upcoming concerts. If I’m planning for a whole tour then I usually write out the first 2 or 3 gigs way in advance to get an idea of what we’ll be doing. I sit on it with my iPad and go through my schedule on my phone… shuffle things around. Is it outdoors? Is it a big venue? Small venue? All that kind of stuff. What time of day I’m playing, etc. If I’m planning for gigs on the weekend, I’ll send material to the band only a week or two in advance and say “Hey, here’s what I’m thinking,” and that way everyone can absorb it for a while. There’s not a method to it, but like I said, I definitely look at the venue, the time of day, the type of atmosphere we’re going to be in and I try to cater to that. Sometimes it’s a big, heavy, LOUD start, fast start, slow start, sometimes it’s acoustic and it all depends on what environment I’m going to be in.
You said you were touring in your 20’s, is that when you began writing your own music? Did you have or do you have any particular inspiration for your writing?
The first songs I wrote I was probably 8 or 9 but they were mostly instrumental. We had a pump organ at the house and I got into guitar early on but I would say the first “cohesive” songs (with lyrics) were written in my mid 20’s. I was listening to a lot of jazz but that style seemed more than I could manage to write at the time, I didn’t have the ability. But I latched on to more reachable music; I was inspired by people like Bob Dylan, you know? Neil Young, Van Morrison, Jackson Brown; these were the artists I was really able to look up to and that I could draw inspiration from. That was where it all started and over the following 15 years, I developed a little bit of a style. To me, I don’t think I developed anything uniquely my own until my mid 30’s; when I started to understand who I was and how I was thinking.
Right on. Sounds like a particular amount of growth there; from 8 to 30.
Yeah, I’m slow!
I only mean that there is definitely a lot of experience behind your growth as an artist. It seems like we’ve got very similar inspiration: the Neil Young… Dylan, of course. When I’m writing, thematically, I may have an idea in mind. How do you go about that part of your writing process?
I have a bunch of different guitars lying around, so I play around with a bunch of different “drop” tunings; “Drop D”, and “open” tunings. Then I noodle a lot. I don’t always have a specific idea, but I’ll find it; you know, the muse hits you. I like to write first thing in the early morning, it’s usually when I’m the clearest. I try to go with something if it feels right, if it really draws me in. Then I’ll put it on a voice recorder so I have all these ideas. I can work on the next 5, 6, or more at the same time over the next few weeks so I don’t get stagnated with just one. It’s how I keep a bunch of them going.
I can dig it. All too relatable, and here we are, with BUDDHA AND THE BLUES, what do you have for us about the new record?
Buddha and the Blues, the concept was thought up in my early inspiration days that I mentioned. I wanted to make a record that sounds connected to the sound of Southern California. A sound related to a lot of the artists I was listening to in the 70’s. Previously when I’ve written records, New Orleans was always so prevalent; that swamp thing had been heavy in there. I wanted to approach it differently so we decided to use a lot of those old cats: Waddy Wachtel, Bob Glaub, Benmont Tench, Windy Wagner, Niko Bolas, and Chad Cromwell who produced it — the session sound was reminiscent of the tunes I grew up on. I wrote with that last piece in mind, the writing process we just talked about. When I went to Ojai (Brethren Studio – Ojai, CA) to Los Angeles to record it, that was definitely my idea, to create a little bit of that atmosphere.
An allstar cast, did you meet these stars through your studio work? Did you hand pick them? How did the group come together?
It was a combination of things: studio work, sessions, festivals, friends of friends, stuff like that. And some I had not met; Bob, the bass player I had never met before but the producer Chad called him. So I made some new friends as well!
That’s what it’s about; building and having relationships and creating a solid foundation in order to make a good, clean record.
I met you briefly back in 2011, but since then I understand you founded Send Me a Friend in 2016 to help artists and people in the performance industry support clean living on the road. We wanted to spread the word to our readers about the organization and I also wanted to ask if your life in recovery appears inside this new album?
Thank you! Life in recovery doesn’t come up here as much as it has in previous records when recovery was a fresh, new lifestyle for me and when there was still a lot of stuff I had to work through in order to understand the changes I needed to make to live sober. Most of that material was kind of passed on this record. There are different kinds of philosophical, existential… intimate questions that I’m trying to raise but still keep it conversational. Like, even if the substance is heavy and hopeful, I still have it in the back of my head. The work with the foundation started a couple of years ago. It’s a network of what we call “sober friends.” If you’re a touring, music-industry person and you’re struggling (usually the first year or so on the road it’s kind of tough to go back to that environment. I know that too well. So we send somebody to be with you while you go to work. If you’re on Bourbon Street and there’s nowhere to get away from it -you’re just sitting at the bar between sets- we can send someone. Up where you live in Virginia, or in Cleveland, or Los Angeles, it doesn’t matter; we find someone that comes out and keeps you company… you have a sober friend and that way you can go to work! So even if you’re new to it or have been 10 years sober, you can always call us. No need to abandon your career because of an environment that is heavily saturated with drugs and alcohol.
Good point about taking care even after years of recovery, you never know when it’ll hit you; just to have Send Me A Friend available is quite the service! It’s inspiring and leads into my next question: I read that you said Buddha and the Blues means essentially the duality of our existence. I believe that all beings experience a kind of existential struggle in one way or another; is there a message in this album that you really want your listeners to understand?
I’m not sure if I am someone who is qualified to teach, but on my own theorem on this record, I’m trying to talk about where I am now and the discoveries I’m making inside of myself. I’ve reached my middle age (I’m in my 50’s), and a lot of the things that I had belief in as my goals or what I wanted from life all of a sudden (within the last few years)… they just didn’t seem to matter much anymore. It didn’t matter how much I was seeking answers about certain things; the existential question, and for lack of a better word, the small little emptiness –that void– that fills your soul sometimes, that’s not being filled by any of the external things that I had been doing. It didn’t matter how many people came to the show or how many records I’d sold or any of that stuff. Now obviously making more money than less can give you some freedom but this whole idea of finding out what really matters in my life changed my spiritual quest for some sort of serenity, & peace. What I think the record is trying to do is have some sort of dialogue. It’s usually with myself! But it’s talking about what really matters and how I can combine this life I’ve lived up to this point with who I am now and what I’m discovering. This record is an internal dialogue that I am having but also encourages that conversation to be had amongst everyone. We’re here to fill the void with what matters.
Not as much of an answer to the question, or a message; as much as it is to encourage a conversation within one’s self about identity and presence…
Incredibly deep, I always need to listen more… to that little voice in my soul, thank you! The Jazz Festival is up next- what else does the future hold?
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival kicks off Thursday April 25 – May 5. We have our album release party at Tipitina’s April 25 and over the course of the festival, I’m getting to reunite with all kinds of artists like The String Cheese Incident, Nathaniel Rateliff, and Melvin Seals for some shows, it’s going to be really fun! Buddha and the Blues is going to be carrying me along this summer so we’ll see how it goes! I’m playing a few shows and a handful of festivals. 2020 may see more extensive touring. I’m excited and hopeful for whatever comes my way!
Good luck and safe travels. We can’t wait for the album! Thanks again for your time.
Thanks Reed! I hope to see you around. Thanks to everyone at The Jamwich!
||press photos: Darren Anzari