An Interview with Anderson East

Photo by Brooksy Flynn
Interview by Sara Jane Overby at Sloss Fest, 2016

Michael Cameron Anderson, known professionally as Anderson East, was born in Athens, Alabama. Currently, he is based in Nashville, writing and singing his take on Country music — a rhythmic blues with a rock-and-roll edge. Talking with Michael was something like sitting down with an old friend. Read on to see what all he had to share. Don’t miss your chance to catch him at the Shaky Knees Festival coming up May 13th-15th!

(Sara Jane) You just got off stage a moment ago. How was it?

(Anderson East) It was great. It was really, really hot. But it was fun.

That’s definitely been the statement of the day — how hot it is.

Yeah, I’ve lost some weight, which I’ve needed to. Sweated out all my indiscretions.

(Laughing) I’m sure Miranda will appreciate that. [Miranda Lambert, his girlfriend]

I hope so.

Well, let’s jump right in. Tell me about the artist or the song that inspired you to write, and supplied you with the desire to become an artist.

I don’t know if there was ever a song, or an artist. I was so interested in just recording music. I had A.D.D. really badly and I couldn’t sit down to learn guitar solos or cover songs like that. So, I thought, Well, hell — if I just write my own songs nobody can tell me they’re wrong and I can do whatever I want to them. So it kind of all stemmed from there. And then, you know, you figure out that to make a good recording you’ve got to have a good song and be able to sing and play your instrument pretty well. So it all came from that.

Alright, with that in mind — walk me through the evolution of your music process, from Flowers of the Broken Heart to Delilah.

You know, it wasn’t some kind of crazy change in attitude or mentality. Well, maybe it was. I think, growing up, you’re trying to push boundaries and stretch yourself to find your own voice and sound. And, instead of trying to run away or toward something that wasn’t wholly myself, this one was more about trying to be comfortable and having fun and being honest with myself about the music I wanted to make — and about who I was as a person, too. I think that was the biggest evolution.

When you sit down to write a song, do you always derive it from a personal experience, or do you use other people’s experiences? Where do you find the words?

It really just depends. Sometimes I’ll try to mingle in somebody that I know or a certain situation. But more it’s just trying to have a moment with the song, and “let it lead itself.” Instead of trying to force it to revolve around me or my personal situation, I want to let it be a story. And once you start putting pen to paper everything becomes fair game. Especially if you’re writing with someone else. It becomes a conversation. That’s what I try to go for, anyways.

“Once you start putting pen to paper, everything becomes fair game.”

You’re such a soft-spoken Alabama boy in a tough, sometimes unrelenting industry, especially at your level. What do you find to be the most challenging and inspiring aspects of your work?

Hmm, that’s a good question. Challenging? I think, especially if you’re traveling as much as we do — playing night after night — it’s maintaining that childhood fun. I think that’s both inspiring and challenging. It’s asking yourself, “How do I keep making this fresh and unique for me, and for the audience who’s coming back to see me for the second or third or even tenth time?” Still having fun with it — that’s the challenge and the inspiration.

Growing up, then to now, what advice would you give your younger self to prepare him for the life you lead now?

Probably nothing. I’d say, “Look you’re gonna be fine. Keep your head down and you’ll do alright.”

(Laughing) Okay. And with regards to Delilah, do you have a particular song that was your favorite to put together?

Probably “What a Woman Wants to Hear.”

Oh gosh, that’s a great song! I was listening to that song to prep for this interview.

Oh, awesome! You know, when we wrote that I honestly didn’t think it was that good of a song. I didn’t really know what to do with it. But then when we got in the studio it just kind of came to life. I love the way it turned out. I loved making it, and I love playing it now. It was a shocker.

If there were anyone you’d like to cover one of your songs, who would it be and what would the song be?

Oh man. Really just anybody. Anybody? Dead or alive?

Dead or alive.

If I could hear Wilson Pickett do one of my songs way better, that’d be pretty radical.

Do you have a particular song in mind?

Oh, man. Maybe “Learning,” or something like that would be cool. I don’t really know. If anybody wanted to cover one of my songs that would be awesome. It would be an honor.

Anything you’d like to add? What do you hope your fans will get out of your performance today?

I hope they walked away having a good time. That’s why we showed up, and we hope that came across.

Did you have a good time?

We did. We had an excellent time. So fun.