Written by Ariana Assaf
We recently took a refreshingly blues-y stroll through the world of up-and-coming singer/song writer Hamish Anderson. Currently roaming the US with The Rides (tickets here!)—made up of the one and only Stephen Stills, force-of-nature guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and keyboard extraordinaire Barry Goldberg—Anderson certainly has big things coming. Check the interview below to read all about the surreal experience of opening for B.B. King, the fun of making a laptop demo cover of the Arctic Monkeys, and our mutual lamentation over the disappearance of Frank Ocean.
Festival Squad: Are you currently en route?
Hamish Anderson: We’re just about to leave Chicago to head to Ann Arbor.
FS: Nice! Have you been to Chicago or Ann Arbor before?
HA: Chicago I’ve been to briefly. I got lucky enough to do a tour with B.B. King, and one of the shows we did was at the House of Blues in Chicago, so that was pretty cool. I’ve never been to Ann Arbor before.
FS: And you’re pretty far from home. Where in Australia are you from?
HA: Melbourne, and currently based in LA. Coming over was very strange and very different, it took awhile to get used to but now I really like it. There’s a really great music scene, and I know more people now.
FS: How did you first get in to music, and your style of music?
HA: Mainly my parents. Neither of them played music but they’re huge music lovers. It was really my dad’s record collection…when I was 12 years old I started playing guitar, and through his collection I was hearing The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Zeppelin, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf…just a lot of rock n’ roll and really old blues and folk stuff. The blues still to me is the music that means the most.
FS: Do you agree with other descriptions of your music as this blues-y rock n’ roll?
HA: Its always hard to label it into one thing, but definitely for me, I think rock n’ roll and blues kinda seems like an umbrella. It has a lot of different genres that bleed in to it. Its hard to tie down, but I love everything from blues to soul, folk, rock, jazz, everything.
FS: So your dad’s collection was a big inspiration to you, are there other American or Australian artists that you take inspiration from?
HA: Especially with blues, I think it’s changing a little bit and going somewhere different. Artists like Gary Clark Jr., the Alabama Shakes, and The Black Keys are making it in a new thing and making people rethink what blues really is. Ryan Adams and Frank Ocean too.
FS: Ugh, where is he? I keep waiting for him to come back!
HA: I know! Aren’t we all.
FS: OK, tangent over. How was touring with B.B. King?!
HA: Very surreal. Coming from Australia and always dreaming of that type of thing and never thinking that it could really happen…one of the first guitarists I ever heard was B.B. King. I would constantly play his music, and I came to LA really just to do a couple of showcases and this tour with another Australian band. I came over and met my manager, got assigned to a booking agent, and more and more stuff kept happening so I would stay longer. Booking agents give you a roster of people you might want to open for, and they can pitch it and see what happens. BB. King was on there, and me and my manager were like, “That’s the dream.” We weren’t really thinking it could happen, but it was a good turn of events. It was meant to be seven shows, but turned out to be his last tour so it was super bittersweet. We got two shows in and then it was cancelled because he got sick. It was a strange, bittersweet thing, but 10/10 times I would still have taken it just to have that experience.
FS: So I have to bring up the fact that you covered the Arctic Monkeys because I’m in love with them. What inspired you to do that?
HA: I really love cover songs when people do something completely different with it. Put it in a different style, like a rock song into a ballad or something like that. I was kinda just fooling around with it, just doing it for myself because I was bored and I love the Arctic Monkeys as well. I love that song, I just kinda wanted to slow it down into that psychedelic-y ballad kind of thing. My manager and a whole bunch of people who help out with my music were like, “You have to do something with that!” and I was kind of like…eh. It was just a laptop demo done really rough, but we decided to use it as a free download. It’s still super rough but kind of cool and off the fly. I recorded it mid last year, and we only put it out when the website went up, which was around February of this year.
FS: Sweet! So you’re touring now, how many dates do you have?
HA: It’s kinda split in two, and I’ve only just done the first show. There’s nine shows through May, and four or five in June.
FS: Are you excited? Exhausted? What’s going through your head?
HA: We just started, so I’m pretty excited. Crosby, Stills & Nash was something I grew up on, so opening for Stephen Stills was pretty surreal. I got lucky enough to do some shows with Kenny Wayne Shepherd last year…they’re all just incredible musicians, obviously, but also really nice people. Everyone was really welcoming, the crowds have been really great and respectful and stuff, so yeah, it’s been awesome. Normally I do a load of band stuff but this one’s just solo, so it’s kind of nerve-wracking, but fun to go out and try to win over people.
FS: And do you feel like you’ve been winning people over?
HA: So far, yeah. It’s going really good. I was super nervous for the first show but they were all really respectful and quiet during the songs and really in to it. Everyone’s been really complimentary and nice, welcoming me in to it. I’m looking forward to the rest of it.
FS: Last question: where do you take your lyrical inspiration from? Do you write the music before the lyrics, or how does that process work?
HA: For me, song writing is the part I love the most. Every time it’s completely different. Sometimes it’ll be one word that triggers something, or a little melody or a lyric or a riff. It never seems to be the same process, it’s always changing, so that keeps it fresh.