On May 15, 2024
Arts, Dining & Entertainment

Rockin’ the Region with Anders Osborne

Submitted-Anders Osborne

There’s some great music this Saturday at Okemo, which I highly recommend. Music on the Mountain, a donation-based concert celebrating recovery, presented by The Phoenix, will be from 2 – 7 p.m. in the Jackson Gore Courtyard with performances by Anders Osborne, Dogs in a Pile, and Saints and Liars. I had the pleasure of speaking with Anders, whom I have not seen perform since 1999 in New Orleans at the Dream Palace, an amazing music venue no longer there. Anders said, “It’s been a minute.” That was during Jazz Fest, which Anders just finished up with 2 weeks of gigs.

Anders hails from Sweden but has called New Orleans home since 1985-86. I asked what brought him to New Orleans and he said, “The same thing that probably drew you to New Orleans. You get there and it’s good food, the people are nice, they live in the moment. It’s an easy town to just drift off and live. I was young, I was a teenager. There wasn’t anywhere else you needed to go after getting here.” 

Anders took up music when he was young, in Sweden. His first instrument was the pump organ but he said he wasn’t very talented at it. He tried the flute but it wasn’t his thing. He always wanted to play the saxophone but guitar and drums are his thing. He connected with the singer/songwriter part. He was 9 or 10 when he first started guitar. 

He wrote poetry and some melodies when he was that age too. He said, “I got better at it, wrote more songs, better songs and then I joined a band, as a drummer. I played on the streets, I was busking. I got some gigs but worked odd jobs for many years.” Anders was 23 when he decided to not have any more day gigs and see if he could make it as a musician. “I was working on a horse farm in Folsom, Louisiana and as a dishwasher in the French Quarter. Those were not the jobs I was aspiring for”, Anders said, laughing.

It worked because Anders is still making music, and has been playing music for 40 years. There wasn’t one gig that got him discovered, it was his hard work that did it. Anders said, “It’s thousands of gigs and each thing adds up and one thing leads to another. I wasn’t looking to make it, or break it. It didn’t work like that, I just played music. You don’t have any specific aspirations, you just play. You try to make a record, to get a gig, try and make a living, try to get better, hone your craft. You work on songwriting, on guitar playing, you work on learning other instruments. It just grows. People start showing up and asking questions like “You want a record deal?” Well, what do you got? Or, “I have a festival in NJ, come play there.” How much do you pay? It just leads to things and before you know it, it’s what’s called a career. You’re making a living and you’re touring. You’re popular and then 6 years later, you’re not popular. You figure out how to survive during that time and then you’re popular again. It’s definitely not a moment that made anything specific happen. That’s like an American Idol thing, that’s not what we do. We just play music.”

For Anders, music covers so many parts of life. He said, “When people need to relax, or connect, they’re heart broke or somebody’s passed away or they’re getting married, that’s when they need music. There has to be somebody that plays at all these different situations of life. That’s what we do.”

“The Four Seasons by Vivaldi” is one of the first records Anders heard and is an early musical influence of his. John Coltrane is another. He listened to a lot of jazz and classical and then started listening to Bob Marley in the late 70’s and Black Sabbath for a little bit. Once the singer/songwriter entered the picture, people like Van Morrison, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and CSNY were folk musicians he could identify with. Anders said, “They’re speaking a simple language that’s similar. Those types of artists made it more accessible for me to take my stuff and not think I had to write these extended compositions, and pieces like classical stuff.”

Back then it wasn’t classic rock, it was just rock. Anders said, “Everything I listened to was interesting. It was all fresh back then. You wouldn’t listen to someone in ‘74  and say they sounded like…Today that’s all you hear, ‘You sound like this’ … I’m like, OK.” They had an advantage the first 20-30 years of rock ‘n’ roll because there was no comparison. Now you can’t do anything but copy, I copy. That’s all there is, it’s already been done. You can be slightly different but it’s pretty well documented what can be done.”

Anders has 17 albums to his name and four or five live albums, which is impressive but what blew me away is the fact that he has a couple hundred albums he’s been a part of, or produced. His latest album is “Picasso’s Villa”, which has received rave reviews. He’ll be playing some of that at Okemo accompanied by Chad Cromwell (drums) and Jimmy Earl (bass). Anders spoke about them and said, “Chad is a monster drummer and a friend of mine for the past 30 years. He toured for 15 years with Neil (Young). He was part of the writing for ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’. He’s toured with Joe Walsh, Mark Knopfler, Bonnie (Raitt). He’s been my drummer for 7-8 years and makes me sound better, I like him. Jimmy was in the Jimmy Kimmel House Band for 20 years. The three of us like to play and pretend we’re still 16.” 

Anders, who has been sober for 15 years and loves it, has his own Recovery Foundation “Send me a Friend” which he started 8 or 9 years ago. Anders said, “We’re now under the umbrella of The Phoenix, which is a huge foundation that does great work. They help us out. It’s an effort to raise awareness around that topic. My foundation sends people out to people in the music industry who have recently got sober. We have a huge data bank of names, of volunteers, friends as we call them, they come out and keep you company so you can go back to work and feel more stable, sane and not be too tempted in that environment.”

Anders’ favorite part of his musical journey is the writing and recording but as far as playing live he said, “I love seeing the excitement and making the connection with the audience where we all feel like we’re merging into this universal consciousness. We’re becoming lighter, happier. We cry together, we dance together, we laugh together. We come together and we don’t worry about our differences for a couple of hours.”

Some usefull sites are: musiconthemtn.com, thephoenix.org and andersosborne.com. You can get more information on Send Me a Friend through The Phoenix or Anders website.

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