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Interview: Branson Anderson

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your latest album, and what themes or
stories you aimed to convey through your music?

My last release was a six song EP called Keep It Moving. It was an all acoustic record which was something I had wanted to do ever since I got in the game but somehow it just never worked out that way. The cover is of me in hobo-clown makeup like you’d see in a circus in the thirties and forties. There is something simultaneously serious and silly about the hobo-clown from that era that is moving. I like the cross of the silly clown and the sternness of a traveler who rides the rails and only works when he has to. I thought it fit well with a group of songs that were only the acoustic guitar and my voice.

Music often has the power to transport people to different places and times. Can you
describe a moment in your life when a particular song or album had a profound impact
on you?

As a teenager I was discovering Woody Guthrie’s songs about train-hopping and hitchhiking. I romanticized the lifestyle so much that I tried it out for myself. Not out of necessity but out of experience. This gave me quite a culture shock, a kid from a small town in Nevada, riding around with people from all walks of life. The impact of the music led me to more impact of meeting people and learning about the world and other perspectives I never knew existed and had certainly never considered.

Many artists have rituals or routines they follow before performing or recording. Do you
have any unique or quirky pre-show or pre-recording rituals that you find help you get in
the zone?

I just like to have some solitude and warm up before a show. Though, one time I did record half of my Graydog record in the rafters of the studio. We laid a door flat on the trusses of the ceiling where I sat in a chair with microphones set up while I tried not to move.

Your lyrics often tell a story or convey a message. Can you share the story behind one
of your songs and the inspiration that led to its creation?

One story-song I have out is called ‘The Ride Of Lackadaisy’, on my « Keep It Moving » EP. I don’t play it often because the audience is rarely right for story-songs. Typically audiences want to have a good time, not experience a story so it’s not one of my popular songs but it is one that I’m proud of. It tells the story of a rider on the run from a posse. I wanted it to have a Western feel but I didn’t want the audience to know what time period it was taking place in. Listening to the song you can hear that it must be some dystopian future or something. I took inspiration from Peter LaFarge’s storytelling and guitar picking patterns as well as from Bob Dylan’s songs ‘Isis’ and ‘Tin Angel’ where a similar thing happens; you don’t know what time period the story takes place in. There are old elements but then new things like electricity. Also drew inspiration from Stephen King’s « The Gunslinger », now that I think about it.

If you could curate a music festival with a lineup of your dream artists, who would be the
headliners, and what would the theme of the festival be?

Dave Van Ronk, Justin Townes Earle, Bob Dylan, Robert Johnson, Johnny Cash. This would be my perfect festival.

Music can be a powerful tool for advocacy and change. Are there any social or political
causes that you’re passionate about, and how does your music play a role in promoting
these issues?

I try to keep my views to myself. I never cared to be any kind of an influencer. If I ever have an opinion or a comment on a social issue, it’s in the song and that’s all I have to say about it. I get turned off when I hear topical songs by current artists because I find it hard to believe what they’re saying or that they believe it themselves. It’s a cheap way to appeal to the masses in my opinion. So I never wanted to give a person that impression of me as an artist.

The music industry has evolved significantly with technology. How do you see artificial
intelligence and emerging technologies impacting the creation and distribution of music
in the future?

I personally feel that music quality is going to suffer because of AI. I think we’ve been seeing that for a while. But it doesn’t matter. Masses of people will still consume cheap music with cheap lyrics and people will make more money doing something easy and cheap so why would they work harder for something that will pay less. I don’t blame them. As for emerging technologies and distribution of music, I have been asking my followers for pre-saves on a new song coming out. I just discovered that when you sign up for a pre-save, you give the distributor permission to « add and remove items in your library, create, edit, and follow playlists, and manage who you follow on Spotify ». How can I reconcile that? How can I ask my followers to be ok with that? Now I’m back to square one with song promotion.

Many recording artists evolve over time. How do you see your musical journey changing
and growing in the next decade?

Only time will tell. I’m just taking it a day at a time. I write what I write and like what I like.