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Old Soul: Anderson East Talks Late Nights And 'Delilah'

Thursday, 03 March 2016 Written by Milly McMahon

A hoarse voice whispers from far away at the other end of the telephone line. “Is that Anderson East?” I ask. “This is he,” comes the tobacco-tinged response.

Currently riding a tour bus across the States, this Alabama native first discovered a deep affinity for music at the age of 11. Picking up the guitar and singing at the local Baptist church, where his mother would play piano and his grandfather preached, the gospel influences that initially guided him continue to inspire his sound today.

The title of his debut album, ‘Delilah’, was plucked from a Bible tale, its passion and yearning typifying the lyrical direction the music follows. Seducing the powerful Samson, Delilah came to be the root cause of his destruction in exchange for silver. “It seemed like an appropriate theme after which to name the songs. It’s about longing, wanting and love,” East explains.

Chatting from his bunk on the New York-bound bus, he admits that bedtime is not a priority after shows. The band retire when the sun rises, waking as it sets. True to the heady, passionate sentiments his music betrays, the day-to-day routine of a rhythm and blues singer is about conversation, whiskey and hitting the stage.

East is living the life, but not getting caught up in the hype. He doesn’t save magazine cuttings and is humbled by compliments to this music. An old soul with an optimistic faith, his voice feels rich in history and complex in character.

Is it harder to rein it in at the end of a night of partying when you are surrounded by your mates all the time?

Yeah. We always end up having a good time no matter what time it is. Sometimes it gets a little late and that might have been the case last night. I’m still laying down. We got to bed around 3.30am and we just sleep in between stops for the most part. I do enjoy touring, being out on the road and playing shows with my friends, getting to meet new people every night. I think it’s amazing. Sometimes it’s a challenge being away from home. As long as we get rest we recover. We watch movies and do things that make us feel normal and we do the odd run.

How does the album reflect the place you are in at in your life emotionally and spiritually?

I definitely still relate to all of it and still believe in the songs. That's why people keep making records. They keep growing and having new life experiences, so I’m also eager to make new music as well. I'm still really proud and excited about this record.

Do you enjoy interviews?

Sometimes they are good, sometimes they are not good. I think it’s nice to talk to a music person instead of someone just trying to get you to say something sensational.

Your background is as a music engineer. Was working with Dave Cobb on ‘Delilah’ a collaborative experience?

With Dave I just let him do his job. But if there was something I felt strongly about I would speak up. We all played our own role. I think Dave is great with arrangements and his whole production style is really fantastic. He’s able to set you up to be able to perform and he knows when he has captured that thing that you may not even know or see. From what I have been told, I have a unique sounding voice and I know Dave is drawn to singers, so he must just just like my voice and that’s why he chose to work with me. I'm a real swell guy, too.

Did you decide to release ‘Delilah’ on Dave’s label as show of solidarity?

It just came about by chance. We were working on my album before he had begun establishing the label and then, when Atlantic offered him his own imprint, he asked me if I wanted to be the first release, so it felt like it was a real honour. He put a lot of faith in me.

Before learning your age, it’s easy to assume you’re older than 28. Does performing and writing such reflective music mature your perspective on life?

I always joke that inside I’m 70 years old. Some days I feel real old and real tired but I don’t know if that’s the music’s fault, or if I try and sing what I feel and then service the song. Hopefully that comes across. I’m just trying to make the song come alive and to have some meaning.

Who works on the art direction of the album covers and videos?

The album was shot by Neil Krug. I was a huge fan of his photography and his whole artistic process. I just thought it was fantastic. He’s worked on a lot of record covers that I have absolutely loved. So he came down to Nashville and we shot the album cover in my backyard. I work with a lot of different directors. Pretty much everything we do is trying to maintain simplicity. It’s not just a video, it’s a performance. So there's no trickery involved.

'Delilah' is out now.

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