By Brian Turk
Anders Osborne set foot in New Orleans 30 years ago, and his style is as diverse as the sounds that are constantly colliding in the Big Easy. Whether he is sitting with an acoustic guitar and pulling heartstrings with a song like “I’ve Got A Woman,” or wielding an electric like a Norse god of thunder on a track like “Boxes, Pills and the Pain,” Osborne’s music explodes with emotion.
His first studio effort was released in 1989, but it was the 2010 release of American Patchwork that put his name on many people’s lips. In 2012, Osborne worked out some demons on Black Eyed Galaxy, and the intense realism of the album is staggering. He recently released a six-song EP, Three Free Amigos, and the album further shows that Osborne can take his music in virtually every direction.
Three Free Amigos’ songs couldn’t be more different from each other, and the album has a purposeful demo style to it. “Making it was fast. I wanted to make something that had a demo feel to it, something that sounds like what I do when I prepare to make a record,” Osborne said in a recent interview with The Marquee. “We went into the studio for a few days, and I brought a bunch of acoustic guitars. No big guitar rig whatsoever, just a couple of simple amps. I would record the song by myself, acoustic guitar and vocals, and then we would stack in a few other things to get a feel.”
Three Free Amigos covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time, from an infectious reggae groove on “Marmalade,” to a gritty Bo Diddley rhythm on “Jealous Love.” Whatever style Osborne presents his material in, it comes off authentic.
Osborne’s writing is intensely introspective, and he pens songs for others as well as himself, but has a different process for the two different situations. “The main difference when I write for myself is that I write the songs in groups. So there will be like four or five songs going on at the same time. That way, the songs kind of stick together. They have some kind of continuous feel. The songs are a bit like siblings. When I write for myself, lyrically and emotionally, I try to take a bite out of things that are unexplored emotionally. I want to discover things about myself and my life. It’s a very introverted process. When I write for other people, I try to figure out what they want and I relate it to something I have experienced, and I try to put myself in their shoes. One is a catering to, one is catering to unexplored areas of myself,” he said.
Songs like “Black Tar” or “Mind Of A Junkie” pull no punches and reveal Osborne’s most inner thoughts, and according to Osborne, their power sometimes keep them off a set list. “Sometimes it’s hard to perform them live. In order to do certain songs justice, I have to be in a certain headspace to play them live. Sometimes I just don’t play a song or a few songs for an extended period of time. Each time I perform them, it’s a very emotional experience, and very gratifying,” he said.
Osborne’s consistent outpouring of emotion into the microphone and on the fretboard has earned him the title of one of New Orleans’ favorite sons, and he has been adopted as a favorite at the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival as well, playing there more than any other artist.
“I don’t know what it is, but I have been blessed with a lot of visits to Blues and Brews,” he said, before telling a story of one particular year at the festival. “It was cold, a snowy day, and everyone was all bundled up but still freezing, and I started to improvise the Grateful Dead tune ‘Cold Rain and Snow,’ and sang a couple lines acappella. As soon as I did that the sun came out on the audience, the snow melted, and it turned into a beautiful day in the high 50s. It was a pretty special moment.”
Those special moments are created in part by the deep connection Osborne has to his instrument, which is staggeringly obvious when he plays. Osborne started his musical journey playing other instruments, but learning one song on guitar opened a huge door. “When I was in my late teens I discovered open D tuning for guitar while learning ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ by Joni Mitchell,” he explained. “So when I learned that tuning, I looked at the instrument totally different. It seemed to fit my temperament. Something just felt more natural to me. From then on, it started to make a lot more sense. I must have been 18 or 19. Being influenced by jazz horn players, combined with some of my guitar heroes, I think that shaped my playing. Early ZZ Top, Black Sabbath, and a little Zeppelin. Eventually, Neil Young, Jerry Garcia and The Allmans. You combine that with jazz, and there is a lot you can do.”
:: Anders Osborne ::
:: Red Rocks Amphitheatre ::
:: (supporting Rodrigo Y Gabriella ) :: July 28 ::
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