Jason Anderson: "Someone Described Me As 'The Andrew WK of Folk Music'"
I feel like a typical singer-songwriter set involves opening with two or three high energy numbers before mellowing out a little bit, so as to not over-exert oneself or the audience. This isn't exactly Jason Anderson's pace. Watching him is like witnessing an indie Bruce Springsteen whose speed is always locked at "Thunder Road" or "No Surrender."
Even his quiet jams are pretty intense. Through constant touring and writing, the folk singer has developed a reputation for creating engaging and emotionally resonant music that has a tendency to drag people in and make them want to sing, scream, and shout along with it. I recently talked with Jason ahead of his upcoming shows in Phoenix.
You are doing two nights at the Trunk Space, one "plugged in" with amplification and a full band, and another just acoustic. You record in a similar way, with some tracks being full band and electric, and others being acoustic. What do you like about performing each way?
That's a great question. I love both set-ups equally and believe that each informs the other. It's fun to play with the contrasting dynamics; during my solo shows, the group sing-alongs will often go so big it almost feels like a full band (in fact, at a recent acoustic gig, someone ((other than myself)) actually crowd surfed (((side note: one of the greatest compliments I have ever received was when someone described me as "the Andrew WK of folk music")))), and sometimes with the band it's magical to bring the levels down to near silence, go off mic, and jump from the stage into the audience.
Regardless of configuration, though, my goal is always to create the most intimate, cathartic, and shared experience possible.
What is your relationship with the Trunk Space like?
I have always had a very special relationship with Phoenix, going back to Leslie and shows at Modified. I've been lucky enough to visit lots of neat places and meet lots of inspiring people; that said, I've seldom encountered folks as open-hearted and supportive as those in Arizona. Some of my favorite show memories (opening for Atom and His Package, opening for Xiu Xiu) and favorite songwriters to share bills with (Asleep in the Sea, Andrew Jackson Jihad, French Quarter) have been centered in and around Modified.
It came to feel like a home away from home--a head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest-except-for-maybe-Kilby-Court-in-Salt-Lake-City highlight of my tours--and I was pretty fiercely loyal. When shows started slowing down there, however, my sadness (re: something lost) was displaced by the wonderful warmth of befriending Steph and JRC, and discovering the wonderful world of Trunk Space (re: something gained).
When I've seen you perform before, people get really into it, sometimes in a cathartic way where they come out purged of a lot of things that were stressing them out that week. Did you ever expect to be a kind of motivational figure as well as a performer?
That's another great question. (And thanks for doing this interview, by the way, it means a lot.) I know two things about why I tour so much. Aside from the in-the-moment adventure of life on the road (National Parks, old friends, mom and pop vegan restaurants ((so stoked to hit up Green and Nami))) performing every night is important to me because a.) I love music and b.) it is a space for me to give in to the present tense and just exist for a few hours. I go all in for that experience, and when it's contagious - when I can act as a catalyst for realizing a fuller, group release--well, those are the moments that keep me getting out of bed every morning, despite the isolating and often terrifying world we live in.
After the jump: If you had to be another Jason Anderson, which one would you be?