BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
Hamish Anderson is ready to unleash another full-frontal assault in 2019 with his second studio release. And, if his recently released videos – “No Good” and “Breaking Down” – are any indications of what is to come, the singer/guitarist will be on the brink of international stardom.
The Australian-born Anderson, 27, describes his music as bluesy, rock and roll, soul music, with influences ranging from J.J. Cale and Richard Johnson, to Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. He opened for B.B. King, the last artist to do so before the legend died, and has shared stages with the likes of Robert Cray and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
His journey started in Melbourne, where Anderson was nurtured by the sounds of the greats courtesy of his father’s record collection. Listening to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and the Rolling Stones piqued his early interest before becoming fascinated in the musicians that influenced those greats, such as Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry. Soon, Anderson had a case of the Blues.
“It really started my love of music,” Anderson recalled. “I just kind of went headfirst into the Blues realm. It’s just so honest, the highs and lows of life. It’s just really honestly written and recorded, and everyone can relate to it. That, to me, I found really inspiring.”
And, once he began playing the guitar at age 12, everything else, like school and sports, fell to the wayside.
“I get really passionate about things that I really care about. I get really driven and kind of obsessive about it – in a good way,” he laughed, “and it’s the thing that I still think about all day, every day. I just constantly wanted to improve and get better.Later in my teens I got interested in singing and songwriting. I didn’t know what was going to come out. I was just really trying to mix the main things that influenced me.”
Hard work and passion paid off. Anderson went on to release a self-titled EP in 2013 and another EP, Restless, in 2014. After relocating to the United States in 2014, he released his full-length album, Trouble, in 2016 to rave reviews. He was named as one of the Top 10 Best New Artists of 2017 by Yahoo Music and was tapped to play at prestigious music festivals such as Firefly, Mountain Jam, Summerfest, High Sierra, Telluride Blues Fest, Ottawa Blues Fest, SXSW, Echo Park Rising, Grolsch Festival, Moulin Blues and Bottle Rock Napa.
So, it stands to reason that Anderson’s much-anticipated release is going to be something special. Produced by Grammy Winner Jim Scott, the album also features Drummer Johnny Radelat, Bassist Chris Bruce, Alternative Bassist Aaron Stern, and Organist Jerry Borge. It’s a natural progression from Trouble, Anderson said, with something in it for everyone.
“I’ve obviously gone through more life and becoming more confident with myself as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist,” he stated. “With the new album, I really wanted it to be very song-oriented and for the songs to be at the forefront of it all. I really wanted the bass and drums to be upfront and just driving every song, whether it’s a ballad or rock song.”
And, Anderson added, his latest is a mixed bag of offerings.
“Half of it is really the kind of blues-rock, with the dirty hard-rock songs,” he said. “The other half is almost all acoustic and kind of explores the harmonies, kind of like the Beatles side of music that I love; so many other influences. It’s great to mix the blues with all the other music I love and make something, hopefully uniquely my own.”
YOU KNOW IT DON’T COME EASY
Anderson plays his songs so effortlessly, so naturally, that it’s hard to believe when he says it he had a hard time writing a few of the songs for his upcoming album. Take “No Good,” for example.
“I had come up with the riff,” Anderson recalled. “Then I only had the opening line. I would play it at sound check, every day I had off.I was just playing that riff, just trying to come up with words and nothing was happening. Seven months of just doing this, again and again over time, and nothing coming! One day it all just fell out in to place. It was frustrating for me, because I always found that the best songs are the ones that come to you almost all at once and you just ride with it. There’s another song on the album that I started writing four years ago and was never able to finish. And so that songwriting process was really different for me.”
On the other hand, “Breaking Down” was one that flowed from his fingers, so to speak.
“It was almost like the length of the song was basically how long it took to write and it!” Anderson laughed. “I was just kind of just strumming the guitar. One day it just fell out of the sky and just happened all at once. And that’s one of the main things I enjoy about songwriting. There’s no real kind of fit practice to it. It’s always different. Sometimes it takes so much work and other times it’s just effortless. And it kind of keeps you on your toes, I think.”
Regardless of the means to the way, Anderson is known for giving 100 percent and more to his music and performances. But, he is admittedly self-critical of himself.
“I never think that I nailed it,whatever forum you’re talking about,” he shared. “I always think there was something that was lacking, or something that I can improve on. It keeps you kind of driven and going. I also found that it was good to kind of put the guitar down for maybe like a week, step away from it. Because when I come back to it, I get that craving again where I really want to do it and I’m just re-energized. If you force yourself, you just kind of keep hitting a wall.”
Another area Anderson cites his ill-luck with is the technical side of his performances, ala Spinal Tap.
“When it comes to amps and pedals and chords, I always seem to have a lot of bad luck,” he shared good-naturedly. “Earlier this year, we played in Europe at a festival. It was a big crowd and they were live streaming it. I had just finished a song.Suddenly, my pedal board decided to completely fry itself! It was making this really weird noise and I was on the ground, pulling out old cables, trying to find out where it was coming from. It didn’t take too long,” Anderson continued, “but it was one of those moments! It just feels like you’ve tried to prepare for every possible thing that could happen. You’ve played gigs in front of practically no one and it has been fine, and then you’re up there in front of a whole bunch of people and something goes crazy!”
Professional and personal mishaps aside, Anderson acknowledged that a lot of trial and error has gone into his career. In fact, Anderson said that he’s still striving to find out what is unique to him.
“It’s a constant thing,developing my own style,” he said. “But, it has to be honest, no matter what. Not exactly perfect, but honest. No matter how hard you try to polish something, there’s going to be mistakes. You listen to the old records and you hear mistakes, and I learned to love that. I found out that mistakes aren’t necessarily bad, but things that can actually turn out to be those wonderful phenomena that are unique to you.”
And, what others may call mistakes can be easily disguised as improvisations, right?
“Yeah, very much that!” Anderson laughed. “That’s the beauty of playing music, whether you’re playing live or recording. A lot of the time it’s very much improvisation. Sometimes it just goes off and you’re like, ‘oh, that was amazing!’ And other times it doesn’t quite hit that mark. Playing music is kind of like a gamble every time,really.”
What Anderson is looking forward to is a successful 2019.
“I’m happy for my music to be constantly progressing,” he stated. “Like,little-by-little building, more people coming to the shows, listening to the music and giving me a chance.”
Anderson recently wrapped up a Fall tour with THE MAIN SQUEEZE and stated that the crowd response was “excellent.”
“It was a really great run,” Anderson enthused. “Definitely had great crowds! THE MAIN SQUEEZE was really, really nice and I think it was a great fit. They also have a rock edge to them and it’s very guitar-driven, so I think it was a really good double bill for people. Plus, on our off days, we got to do a lot of acoustic radio performances. So it was nice doing the full-on rock show and then stripping it back acoustic for radio!”
Anderson said he was heading back to Australia for the holidays. There will be some rest and relaxation, plus some gigs in his native land while waiting for the official release of his yet-to-be-titled album.
“And, after that, there will be a lot more touring,”Anderson closed. “Just really hoping people enjoy it and give us a chance!”