Like so many other musicians, Kasey Anderson is taking his career one record at a time, one tour at a time.
He’s approaching his life in a similar way.
“Everything is sort of one day at a time for me now,” admits Anderson.
In recent years, the singer-songwriter-guitarist was treated for substance abuse and a bipolar diagnosis. More widely known was Anderson’s prison sentence in July 2014 following a guilty plea in August 2013 to charges of wire fraud related to a bogus star-studded benefit album and concert series, among other nonexistent music projects.
Since his release in October 2015, Anderson has received plenty of support from family and friends, among them Jordan Richter. Once Anderson felt ready to record some new material, it was Richter — an engineer for two Anderson studio albums in the early 2010s — who served perhaps the biggest role. Not only did he play guitar on From a White Hotel, the debut by the Anderson-fronted Hawks and Doves, Richter also set aside plenty of time at his Room 13 Recording Services in Portland, Oregon, for the band to make the album, which arrived in July via Jullian Records.
The Oregon-based Anderson recently checked in to talk about writing songs while in prison, resuming his music career and more.
Medleyville.us: Friends and colleagues encouraged you to return to music after your release from prison. Was there a determining factor or feedback from a certain person that ultimately made it OK in your mind to begin playing again?
Kasey Anderson: “There were two. There was Peter Ames Carlin, who wrote that book Bruce, the Bruce Springsteen biography. Pretty much since Day 1, he had been really encouraging and really adamant about me not giving up writing songs or recording songs or releasing songs.
“And then BJ Barham from American Aquarium; he came through on a solo tour, and I spent most of the night talking to him. He was the one who sort of tipped the scales and said, ‘I think once people see the changes that you’ve made and the way in which you’ve tried to live your life, they’ll be little more receptive than you’d expect to you [making new music].’
“So those two just kept after it. And I had the guys in the band and my support system here, and once it was this chorus of encouragement, then it felt a little less weird to me and felt a little more appropriate to be something I could take more seriously and think about doing.”
About half of the songs on From a White Hotel were written while you were in prison. What were the circumstances and conditions under which you could work on music in that environment?
Anderson: “The first prison I was at was a federal detention center, which is where they hold incarcerated people until they’ve been designated to the prison where they will be spending a majority of their sentence. And at the detention center, we didn’t resources, so I was doing a lot of free-writing there.
“At the second place where I ended up, [a medium-security federal correction institution in Sheridan, Oregon], they had an actual music room with instruments and time you could set aside to writing and working on stuff. I fell in with a group of people — not all of them were musicians by trade, but they all played music. And it was through informal playing around, getting to know people and the place where I was, that I started to write again.
“The majority of the writing that I did with an instrument in my hands came in common areas during our rec time. Once I had a skeleton or an outline, the songs were finished back in my cell or at my bunk when I knew what I was working with and I just had to some editing or finishing.”
At the first few shows you performed after your release from prison, were you ever heckled for your crime?
Anderson: “No, I wasn’t. I’ve been lucky in that I don’t think too many people want to pay money to come see a show to heckle somebody. I think most folks who want to pay to come see a show are there in support.
“I also think that one thing that’s sort of played in my favor is that I have tried really hard to be respectful about the way I came back to performing and recording, and that I have tried to be really transparent with my recovery and my restitution and where I am with both. I think that’s made a difference in the way I’ve been received. I think if I had just been released, and then a week later tried to go on tour or been a little less transparent about where I was in my life, then I probably would have run into a few more roadblocks.
“It’s really been to my benefit to just be honest about everything. I’ve addressed my [mental health and substance abuse] issues but have worked hard to not make it seem as though they excuse the things I’ve done. I think people are willing to be more forgiving if they see somebody take full responsibility.”
Is it fair to say that the album From a White Hotel— and the band Hawks and Doves — wouldn’t exist without Jordan Richter’s involvement?
Anderson: “Yeah, absolutely. Jordan was not only generous in opening up his studio and being understanding of the fact that I didn’t have a budget to record [but he was also] willing to work long days, late nights and early mornings — as was everybody in the band. His input musically and from a production standpoint really [made a difference].”
You’re a newlywed. How is the married Kasey Anderson different from the single Kasey Anderson?
Anderson: “I would say not especially different if you take into consideration the amount of time I’ve been with my wife. We’ve been together since I got out of prison, so our lives have been intertwined for the past several years, so not a lot has changed.
“I would say that the sober and medicated and treated Kasey Anderson is very different from the [one who wasn’t]. That change to a healthier lifestyle and to really being in touch with my mental health and to working on my sobriety made it possible for marriage. I was certainly no prize six or seven years ago; I was in no shape to marry anybody. I think things have changed drastically in that time, and it’s a testament to the work that I’ve done, my wife, my support system and the people who have been willing to stick with me.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Kasey Anderson / Hawks and Doves on tour (schedule subject to change):
• Oct. 11: Hank’s Saloon — Brooklyn, New York (H&D)
• Oct. 12: The Bowery Electric — New York (H&D)
• Oct. 14: Apollo Maennerchor — Sharon, Pennsylvania (KA)
• Oct. 16: Club 603 — Baltimore (KA)
• Oct. 18: The 5 Spot — Nashville, Tennessee (KA)
• Oct. 21: Uncommon Ground Lakeview — Chicago (KA)