Sunday, February 3, 2013

Interview: Jason Anderson on piano

In the 17 years since his first album (then as Wolf Colonel), Jason Anderson has released somewhere around a dozen albums and played countless shows all over the place. 
He’s done state-specific tours and tours on bicycle. He’s played by campfire, played in people’s houses, played in proper clubs. He’s played with bands of various sorts, though most times I’ve seen him it’s been him alone with a guitar, perhaps standing on a chair in the middle of the audience, most certainly leading enthusiastic singalongs and playing like it’s the last show of his career, or the last night that any of us will be able to experience on this earth.
Right now he’s on a piano tour, meaning he’s playing pianos (or piano-like instruments) while singing his songs. He took a few seconds to answer my questions about pianos and the tour.  
What do you like best about the piano as an instrument (as a performer and/or listener)?
The piano was the first instrument I learned. My grandmother taught me, when I was in third grade. I've always had a special connection with it. To me, there's something lovely about the sound and the feel, the response of the keys and pedals. I am by no means an incredible piano player, but there is a marked difference in the way I emote on that instrument, versus, say, strumming a guitar and singing. I also think there is something irresistibly special, cozy, and quaint about a group of folks sitting or standing around a piano and singing together. It definitely touches on something sweet.
What qualities do you look for in a piano?
It it's (reasonably) in tune and has a working sustained pedal, we're in business. I am certainly no connoisseur. In fact, for much of this tour I am playing a Yamaha digital keyboard (with weighted keys) that my friend Juliet was nice enough to let me borrow.
How does playing the piano change the nature of your performances (for example, can you bring as much energy to it as you do when it's you and a guitar jumping around)?
This is an interesting question as I often get asked the same thing, re: full-band shows vs. solo, acoustic performances. Whatever the set-up, I will always be endeavoring to give the same amount of energy while creating, hopefully, the same amount of intimacy and connection. What is different, as I mentioned briefly above, is the way the songs are shaped on the piano (vs. the guitar). There is something about the piano that, for me, seems to showcase the stories and lyrics in a different way.
It's inspired all sorts of different set lists, covers, etc.
How does playing piano (and, presumably, playing other people's instruments) affect the experience of touring?
Well, shoot, this digital piano is a heavy one, so I get a nice amount of exercise bringing it in and out of venues. I also don't have to change strings on my guitar, which I do a lot because I am always breaking guitar strings (sometimes every show). Other than that, there is not much difference, except, perhaps, for the excitement of showing up to a venue and realizing that they have an actual piano there.
You've only done a handful of piano songs on your albums, never a whole piano album that I can recall. Would you like to do more?
I would love to, and I would also like to make a concerted effort to book the next tour only at venues containing pianos. That would be so special; I love the idea of a tour being shaped by piano-ready places (churches, art spaces, living rooms).
Do you have favorite piano players and/or piano songs?
In the pop pantheon, Page McConnell from Phish is a real favorite. He's so melodic and tasteful. I also love Roy Bittan from The E Street Band.
Are there any other instruments you'd like to build a whole tour around?
That's a great question. Drums someday? That could be weird, but totally awesome.

The rest of the tour dates:

Monday February 4 / Jacksonville FL / 2135 Dellwood Ave
w/Paul Baribeau

Tuesday February 5 / Savannah GA
w/Paul Baribeau

Wednesday February 6 / Atlanta GA / WonderRoot
w/Paul Baribeau

Thursday February 7 / Bloomington IN
w/ Paul Baribeau

Friday February 8 / Chicago IL / Swerp Mansion
w/Paul Baribeau

Saturday February 9 / Madison WI / Indie Coffee
w/Paul Baribeau

Sunday February 10 / N. Manchester IN / The Firehouse

Monday February 11 / Nashville TN / TBA

Tuesday February 12 / Asheville NC / WWC House Show

Wednesday February 13 / Durham NC / Duke Coffee House

Thursday February 14 / Greensboro NC / 711 N Greene St

Friday February 15 / Washington DC / First Trinity Lutheran Church, 309 E Street NW / 7 PM / FREE

Saturday February 16 / Williamstown NJ / 1619 House, 
1619 Herbert Blvd

Sunday February 17 / Skidmore College

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