Anderson East Biography
Last updated: 05/08/2013 05:07:52 AM
Anderson East wasn’t planning to release his September 18 debut, Flowers of the Broken Hearted, as a two-disc set. Though multiple CDs are usually reserved for anthologies and the like, for East it was a matter of storytelling. After recording the songs for the first set of lovelorn characters, the Athens, Alabama native was compelled to write retellings of the stories, but from the opposite vantage point. The result is a 15-song package that explores two soundscapes. Disc One (White) pulls from soul and Americana rock sounds, while Disc Two (Red) is more modern, dark, and moody.
He originally set out to L.A. to craft his debut album with Chris Seefried, producer for Fitz and The Tantrums among many others. With acclaimed musicians like Don Heffington (Bob Dylan), Charlie Gillingham (Counting Crows) and Rob Wasserman (Lou Reed), East’s first batch of songs and soulful voice were wrapped with classic instrumentation via plenty of old school keys including the Hammond B-3 and Wurlitzer organ, alongside thick electric guitars and retro backing vocals.
Justly happy with the album, it wasn’t until he returned to his studio in Nashville that the other songs came about. In addition to producing The Vespers, East began casually recording the new tracks without any speculation that it would affect the work already on tape. “It was a gradual ‘aha’ moment,” he shares. “It was very organic, the song told me what the music was going to be. But I slowly started seeing that it could blend with the first record, in that the stories, genres and styles threaded together.” The second record came about quickly with local musicians and engineer friends Tim Brennan and Daniel Scobey.
Like most artists, East, who plays both guitar and keys, is an audiophile – but his musical education veers from the backgrounds of the majority of musicians. Instead of growing up with a wealth of music at his fingertips, it was just the opposite. The grandson of a Baptist Preacher, he says, “it was a tiny southern town with no music scene at all. All I can remember hearing was talk radio. The only time I heard music at the house was Sunday morning before church when my dad would listen to country music.
Although profoundly influenced by the sounds of his childhood, East knew early on that his musical landscape was much broader than his conservative upbringing and embarked on a pursuit that would encompass both reverence and rebellion.
“It was hard to find music, so whatever I heard was the most amazing thing on the planet. I heard Led Zeppelin, and then I would hear something like Snoop Dogg,” he says. “I was immediately intrigued with how people made records. I got Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’ single on cassette, and my first thought was ‘how did they get that sound out of a guitar?’” He starting learning how to play music at age 10, but while his friends played covers note for note, East had no patience for playing other peoples’ chords and began writing for himself.
“Better” aptly kicks off Disc One like a revolver tied up in a pink bow. It’s both angry and danceable with Motown undertones. “Lyrically it’s right in line with the other songs, but asked for that Jackson 5 thing. It had to come first, it sets up the album in a positive mood before moving on.”
The soul-tinged title track captures the people that populate his songs. “Flowers of the Broken Hearted” is about an ex sending flowers to his girlfriend, and as East shares, “feeling a little sorry for the guy after the initial shock wore off.”
“New Life/New York” introduces another dynamic on Disc Two, a mournful ballad of the pain of restarting life yet again. It’s followed by the atmospheric and sinister “Fire Song,” about a woman burning down her house to get rid of her old life. Disc two (Red), closes with homage to the gospel music his grandparents so loved.
Bearing an unforgettable voice that range from soulful cries to haunting whispers, he’s been described as sharing qualities of Otis Redding, Ray LaMontagne, and Ryan Adams. Now living in Nashville (“must be present to win,” he says) East has the industry buzzing. He will announce tour dates soon, and was recently interviewed by CNN about the successful PledgeMusic campaign to help fund the release of Flowers of the Broken Hearted. He’s also featured on Balcony TV and will film a segment for The Attic Sessions. East is about to show you what he’s made of.