Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Half Century Down the Road with Singer/Songwriter Eric Andersen

There must have been something in the water back there in the Village scene. When the times began a-changin' in the roiling Sixties, new sounds and new songs sprang forth from a new generation of songwriters, spawned at an oasis in the midst of a massive jungle of concrete and steel called New York City.

This is where Eric Andersen's career began.

In two weeks, on Saturday July 23, Andersen will be making his first visit to Duluth to perform with Scarlet Rivera at Weber Auditorium in what is being billed as the Rolling Thunder Reunion. The two first performed together in the kickoff of Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue at Gerde's Folk City back in 1975.  Eric and Scarlet will be accompanied by Steve Addabbo and Cheryl Prashker among others. Lonnie Knight is slated to warm up the evening for the headliners.

Andersen has produced 25 albums of original songs and performed throughout Europe, North America and Japan. This story of his Stages album shows the caliber of artists whom he's worked with over the throughout his career. From Wikipedia:

Stages is an album by folk rock musician Eric Andersen. The album was recorded in late 1972 and early 1973, as the intended follow-up to Andersen's successful Blue River album, but before it could be released, the master tapes were somehow lost in the Columbia vaults. It wasn't until 1990 that the tapes were discovered, at which time the album was finally released. In addition to the original 1972–73 recordings, Andersen included three newly recorded songs. Guest musicians from the 1972–73 sessions included Leon Russell on organ, piano and guitar, Rick Danko on bass and background vocals, and Garth Hudson on accordion, with Dan Fogelberg and Joan Baez supplying background vocals. Shawn Colvin was a guest vocalist on the 1990 sessions.

In addition to being a gifted musician and singer/songwriter, he is also a respected artist amongst his peers. It's a privilege to share his thoughts, insights and memories here.

EN: You've performed with so many familiar names over the years, opening for The Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary, Ramblin' Jack back in the 60's to being part of the original Rolling Thunder Revue when Dylan kicked off his traveling circus show at Gerdes Folk City. And this was only the beginning. Who have been the musicians you've been closest with over the past five decades?

Eric Andersen: I've been blessed to have worked with many great players over fifty years. Amos Garrett the highly inventive and original Canadian telecaster guitarist I discovered in the Village who played on "More Hits From Tin Can Alley." Howie Epstein from the Tom Petty Band. We worked on my album "Memory of The Future" together in 1991. Robert Aaron. Multi-instrumentalist who has worked many of my albums. He produced "The Street Was Always There" and "Waves" my Village singer-songwriter covers. Norbert Putnam, bass player and producer of "Blue River" and "Stages: The Lost Album."

Andy Newmark, drummer with Sly Stone, Brian Ferry and John Lennon, who drummed on my album "Ghosts Upon The Road." Steve Addabbo who produced "Ghosts Upon The Road" and engineers many of my recent recordings and plays in my band sometimes. John Leventhal, the great, inventive guitar stylist who played on "Ghosts Upon The Road."

Mississippi drummer and slide guitarist Sam Carr and Kenny Brown who played on "You Can't Relive the Past." Rick Danko the bass player and singer from the Band. We did two trio albums together and toured in the nineties with the great Norwegian singer and guitarist Jonas Fjeld.

Larry Campbell. He is a polymath multi-instrumentalist. We did many shows including Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble together and he recorded on my album "Dance of Love and Death." I also worked with Lenny Kaye from Patti Smith's band, both live and in the studio for the same album. He played on the title track.

Michele Gazich, Italian poet, recording artist, and violinist extraordinaire who performs in my band and recordings of my Cologne Concert, Camus's "Shadow and Light" and my forthcoming album "Mingle With the Universe: The Worlds of Lord Byron." Cheryl Prashker, percussionist nonpareil who played on my new Byron album coming out in the fall of 2016. There were many over the fifty years. I had great harmony and live sessions with Joni Mitchell and Lou Reed. Recently at a show in LA I performed with two fantastic musicians who had never played together before, the great violinist Scarlet Rivera and guitarist Steve Postell who works with Jennifer Warnes and David Crosby.

Eric and Scarlet.
EN: When performing you no doubt strive to give your audiences something memorable to cherish. Still, it seems like some moments are especially magical. How does that magic happen?

EA: It's something you can't try and do. You allow or create a space to let the audience come to you to fill the vacuum. Then often a true spell begins. I learned this from listening to old Mississippi blues singers at the Gaslight Café in the Village in the sixties. It has to do with loud and soft; dynamics -- and a subtle but powerful groove.

EN: Your story about how a folk festival crowd cheered at the news that Beatles manager Brian Epstein died is quite revealing of the animosity that existed between the folk and rock worlds. You were standing with John Denver who shared your shock at this behavior. What were the causes of this great divide between the two camps?

EA: I was hurt. I guess it caused a lasting fissure between me and the traditional Sixties folk community. Brian was my manager and it was a huge loss both personally and professionally.

EN: What was that first Rolling Thunder (Dylan) concert at Gerdes like?

EA: The Gerdes Rolling Thunder "debut" was a ramshackle spontaneous event like performing backstage behind a circus tent. I brought Patti Smith along with me as my date.

EN: Your song "Thirsty Boots" ended up being recorded by John Denver, the Kingston Trio, Judy Collins, Dylan and many others. How does it feel to write a song that runs like a grass fire through the playlists of other performers?

EA: They all did great jobs on the song. It's a pretty high honor to have your song recorded by such musical legends and luminaries.

EN: It's interesting that you're bringing Steve Addabbo, since Steve is the one who helped engineer Dylan's Bootleg #10: Another Self Portrait, which has Thirsty Boots on it. How long have you known Steve and how much performing have you done together?

EA: I've know Addabbo since 1988. He's one of those talented, close-friend types you like to have around because they can be trusted personally and musically. He's given a lot to our musical worlds. I like his new album a lot.

EN: Do you have a process for writing songs? Or do they just come to you? My guess is that both things occur, but I'm just surmising as a writer myself.

EA: I keep notebooks in my pocket like Kerouac did. Sometimes an idea pops into my head to revisit later. Other times I just sit down, lean over, and write. Good or for bad something always happens and something comes out of it. I usually write lyrics first to an imaginary beat in my head. The best is when the words and music come together at the same time.

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Follow Eric here at www.ericandersen.com 
Concert and Ticket Information HERE


Photos of Eric Andersen top and bottom by Paolo Brillo.
Photos of Eric with guitar and Eric with Scarlet in L.A. by Carol Rothman.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Get into it.

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