Barrett Anderson

Barrett Anderson
10 Shots with Barrett Anderson

By Georgetown Fats
December 2013

Though his work with Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters and later Monster Mike Welch, I knew of Barrett Anderson long before I had a chance to meet and get to know the man behind the guitar. As is the case with the “10 Shots” series of interviews, I attempt to get an artist or blues patron to reveal a little more about themselves than the standard interview.

While Barrett has been a more-than-willing participant of the “In their own words” feature series, I couldn’t help myself to see if we could “dig a little deeper.”

Georgetown Fats - If it makes any sense at all, your guitar playing does not fit your age chronologically. Yes, it is meant as a compliment, what I am curious to learn is if you have any theories as to what I am hearing.

Barrett Anderson - The music that inspires me is older music. I love and look to Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Skip James, Son House, etc., for inspiration. I'm not a revivalist, I'm not recreating what they did, but that's the music, and it IS older music, that inspires me. I'd like to pretend that Lennon and McCartney, Keith and Mick, Clapton, and Jimi were all my contemporaries, and I'd prefer to be influenced by their influences instead of them. Secondly, my whole relationship with the guitar comes through playing blues music. Blues is the alphabet that I use, the vocabulary that I speak. When I was learning to play the guitar I took lessons from Paul Rishell, and learned how to play the guitar by studying Son House, Charlie Patton, Blind Boy Fuller, and Scrapper Blackwell. When I worked with Ronnie Earl, I learned from the music of Earl Hooker, Magic Sam, and Hubert Sumlin. My relationship with the instrument is through an older music, the vocabulary that I use is from blues. I often lament, mostly jokingly, that "I really blew it; I was born in the wrong decade." I'm afraid that, for the music part, that's not a joke.

Georgetown Fats - Do you have any pre-gig rituals you’d like to share?

Barrett - Well, there's one thing that I've been doing since my very first shows. I don't do it before every gig, but it still makes a fair number of them, goes back to when I was 16, and has seen more pre-shows than any other of my rituals:

Performing live is a big rush, a real thrill, and when you step on stage and the adrenalin hits one has a tendency to speed things up … songs, tempos, etc. I certainly have played things too fast … To try to recenter myself and not rush the first song, I picture Son House, who on a 1969 live recording said "When I die people will say: Son played it nice and easy." I think about that last line and it helps me slow down and play things properly: nice and easy.

Other than that, my main pre-gig ritual involves putting a guitar over my shoulder and doing what I do better than anything else in my life, making music.

Georgetown Fats - If you were not singing and playing the blues professionally, what WOULD you be doing with yourself? Please note that you’re one of the few people to do “Ten Shots” that I would be surprised if the answer didn’t end in some sort of scatological or sophomoric outburst. Surprised, but not disappointed.

Barrett - I'd be living the good life, happy with my family in some snowy New England farmhouse … Music will always be a part of my life. Right now it's very central to me, but if at some point my life responsibilities demand I focus on other, more easily lucrative venues, I'd like to think I'd be able to do what I need in my life while maintaining my personal definition of myself as a musician. I will always play music in a way that is satisfying to me, and I believe that means I will always be playing good music with good musicians and an appreciative audience, whether it's my sole income or not.

I don't plan on stopping; I don't play this music because it makes me rich, I play it because it's what I do. I'm not going to stop doing what I do.

Georgetown Fats - Kudos Sir, not only for your conviction to music, but for also understanding that sometimes a man needs to step up and put his family first.

Georgetown Fats - It is one of my favorite questions I have recycled over and over again, but what will be a a part of your backstage rider when you have made the cross-over from gifted blues musician to “eccentric artist?”

Barrett - Miniature bread and This is Spinal Tap.

Georgetown Fats - The Long Fall dropped last month and you have been filling your time with CD releases and sales. Do you have any updates on how you will be supporting this gem for the fall and winter of 2013/2014?

Barrett - The Long Fall has been an amazing project for me and I am thrilled for people to hear it. Ron Levy, Per Hanson, and I have been playing together since 2010 and The Long Fall really captures what we do. I worked hard on the material, and I'm very proud of it.

I've been busy promoting it, sending it out to DJ's and record labels. I'm keeping busy and will be playing as much as possible. The upcoming shows will be posted on www.barrettanderson.net, as well as other news, videos, blog, etc. Also, I'm looking for a new publicity agent if anyone has any tips ...

Georgetown Fats - If I boosted your CD collection what artist or band would I be surprised NOT to find in there?

Barrett - Led Zeppelin.

Georgetown Fats - *mental high five for just so many reasons*

Georgetown Fats - Did you have to look up the definition of “twerking” after the MTV Video Music Awards like I did, or were you secretly ashamed at just what becomes news today?

Barrett - I had to and I still have to, although after watching the video I *think* I have an idea … I am surprised and confused by what becomes news today but must admit, I'm impressed by how Miley seems to be working the media system. She's sure gotten a lot of coverage for not a lot of coverage ...

Georgetown Fats - The cover art to The Long Fall is one of the more interesting pieces I remember seeing lately, please provide some detail on what we're looking at.

Barrett - Cool, thanks. I'm really pleased by how the packaging came together for the album. A big thank you has to go out to Clifton Whitehead. He did the artwork for both of my albums, 2007's All the Way Down and 2013's The Long Fall, and is totally incredible. He really developed the whole aesthetic for the album. In looking for artistic inspiration wherever possible, I snapped pictures of all my guitars and emailed them to Clif. One of the pictures was of my 1919 Gibson Style O archtop acoustic, a guitar played by Big Bill Broonzy and Robbie Robertson, among others. This guitar was made when Gibson was the "Gibson Mandolin Guitar Co." and manufactured primarily mandolins (this particular model was in fact the 2nd guitar Gibson ever mass produced). The Style O was designed and built to resemble Gibson's mandolins, and had a distinctive "scroll" on the upper bout. Clif saw the scroll and came up with a whole concept around that. He did a great job … Here's one of the pics I sent Clif, that the album cover was based from:

Georgetown Fats - What is your favorite place where I’d catch Barrett Anderson without a guitar in his hands or waiting to go out on stage to perform The Long Fall to a large audience?

Barrett - I like woods and ponds. There are some wonderful spots in Petersham, the small town in central MA where I grew up, where I like to hike or swim while pondering what that next riff or lyric in that song I'm working on will be ...

Georgetown Fats - The Boston Red Sox won the World Series again (man, I can’t get sick of those words) for the 3rd time in 10 years. Does "Sweet Caroline" inspire you to sing drunkenly in a crowd, or go ‘fight club’ on a pink hat in order to quell facial tics brought on by blind rage?

Barrett - I'm not a Neil Diamond fan, but more than that I am a Red Sox fan. When I hear Sweet Caroline any feelings for it are now so informed by memories of the 2004 World Series and while I quietly think "I can't stand this song," I more loudly think "Go Sox!!!!!!!!"

Georgetown Fats - What one artist or act do you find should get a lot more recognition than they currently receive? Please plead your case for the overlooked artist.

Barrett - Dennis Brennan, who as popular as he is, deserves more. He's a passionate musician who always puts on a terrific show, writes great songs, is an unbelievable singer, a killer harmonica player, and constantly performs with the greatest artists in the area. I think he's the best around and should be nationally acclaimed.

Georgetown Fats - Steve Jobs - Technological Svengali, or assassin of the music industry?

Barrett - It's a different world for sure and I don't know if it's better or not for Steve Jobs. I must admit, I'm a Spotify user, and while I lament how one dimensional everything sounds, I'm really excited to have access to 29 albums of Blind Lemon Jefferson!

Georgetown Fats - What is your favorite place to go when you need to ‘get off the grid’?

Barrett - If I told you I'm afraid it would no longer be off the grid …

And there you have it folks, Barrett Anderson. Be sure to ‘like’ Barrett on Facebook, catch him live, or stalk him on www.barrettanderson.net. If the future of the blues is with these chronologically young, but weathered sounding musicians, then the future remains so-very-bright. So do your part by embracing the present and the future of the Boston Blues scene.

www.barrettanderson.net

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