Showing posts with label Bruce Springsteen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bruce Springsteen. Show all posts

Jan 26, 2023

Country Twitter Fails: January '23

Some of these are Facebook comments. We've had quite a week over at the Farce page.

This comment is about Waylon Jennings. Yes, I'm serious.

Mar 28, 2022

Truth and Love Will Be My Standard: A Conversation With The Wilder Blue

By Kevin Broughton

Sharp storytelling. Gripping and gorgeous five-part harmonies. Arrangements that can swing between fun, engaging, and lively one moment and stirring, booming, and chill-inducing the next. These are the essential elements that make up the sound of The Wilder Blue, the Texas five-piece who put their own spin on rock-influenced country with their eponymous sophomore album.

Recorded at Echo Lab Studios in Denton, Texas, the band self-produced The Wilder Blue with experienced engineer Matt Pence (Paul Cauthen, Shakey Graves). A true collaborative effort, The Wilder Blue is a genuine democracy where ideas, constructive criticism, and value is demanded by all parties.

Built around the keen storytelling voice of primary frontman Zane Williams, Paul Eason’s salient lead guitar, the imaginative tandem of drummer Lyndon Hughes and bassist Sean Rodriguez, and the striking, compelling mind of multi-instrumentalist Andy Rogers, The Wilder Blue are only beginning to scratch the surface of their potential.

In addition to implementing a lone studio for a cohesive sound, the months between studio sessions was an added luxury. This allowed songs and ideas to marinate and work themselves out over the course of band practices, soundchecks, and shows.

The band’s 2020 debut (Hill Country – more on that in a bit) was an under-the-radar gem that cracked this correspondent’s top five albums of the year. The Wilder Blue have raised their own bar in 2022, improving on every aspect of their musicianship, writing and vocals. The self-titled sophomore offering will remind you of the best of The Eagles, Alabama, and so much more. It’s a strong contender for album of the year through just one quarter. 

We caught up not only with Williams, but 80 percent of the total band as bassist Sean Rodriguez, drummer Lyndon Hughes and multi-instrumentalist Andy Rogers joined the conversational jam.

Clear up some confusion for me. In 2020 I got an advance copy of y’all’s first album. The name of the band at that moment was Hill Country, but by the official release date that had become the name of the record, and the band became The Wilder Blue, seemingly from lyrics in the song “Dixie Darlin’.” What was the deal with that little double-clutch?

(Group laughter) Zane: Well, what had happened was…When we named the band Hill Country, obviously we were just going for something general, like “Alabama” or “Eagles” or whatever. And I did some searching around to see if there was another band called just “Hill Country.” And there wasn’t. But what I missed was that there was a restaurant somewhere out in the world, and it has the trademark on the term “Hill Country” not just in food services, but in recorded music and live music as well. 

And I didn’t realize that until after we released our album, but once we realized, I contacted them. We tried to work out an arrangement, but they had plans for that name in the future, they had the trademark, and that’s what trademarks are for. So we did the old switcheroo and went with our second choice, which I think has worked out well…and it’s kind of a better name, anyway. 

Except that I had to go into my iTunes and physically change it…

Ha! At least you did. I was listening to the radio the other day and the DJ said, “That was the latest from Hill Country!”

You had six or seven albums of your own and a very productive career as a songwriter before putting this band together. What made you want to stretch your creative legs and start a harmony-based group, and how long did it take you to assemble the lineup?

This is really the band that I’ve always wanted to have, but it never fell into my lap. A few years ago, I read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born To Run, which is amazing. And I read some other books that were really good, and they inspired me not just to make another record or write another song, but to make really iconic music that will stand the test of time; really shoot for the moon, musically, and not ever settle.

And that’s what it took for me to think to myself, “Well, just because I’ve never had this certain time of band in the past, why does that mean that I can’t do it now?” I know a lot more people now than I did when I was younger, and that inspired me to give some people a call and see what I can put together. And it was a year-long process, I guess, finding the right people and making that transition. It hasn’t been easy, but every time we get on stage together I’m happy I took the leap. 

The band paid for its studio time via crowdfunding. How did that impact the strategy and structure of recording this album?

Zane: Lyndon, you wanna take that one, brother?

Lyndon: Sure. This is really kind of the ultimate for us. We were in a lot of debt after our first album and had made a lot of it back with streaming and record sales, but it can take quite a bit. At our website,, we have a thing called The Hideout, where you can sign up for five or ten bucks a month or so. And we used every single dollar of that to go to our record budget, and basically have no debt because of it. 

And not only that, we’re not beholden to a label that can tell us what we can record, how long we can record; we’re the producers and the executive producers are our fans. We’ve actually been able to release one song every single month for the last year or so. And we did that every month until we had our second album done. 

It’s pretty incredible and the fans get it right away, even before the official release date. It’s freed us up quite a bit. 

Quick follow-up. If you’re releasing one cut a month, I assume you’re not going into the studio once a month. Is there some continuity?

Lyndon: That’s a really good question. Basically we’ll go in the studio every few months, and stay there for three or four days and record two or three songs. But sometimes…like on “Feeling The Miles,” it took us three and a half days to do one song. (Chuckles.) We did the whole thing, start to finish, on a tape machine, so it can take a lot of time. So yeah, we didn’t go in with 12 songs, but we could go in with two or three at a time. We went four or five times total, I guess, to the same studio. And we need to get back and do more. 

I’d like to touch on some specific songs and the influences that went into their writing. “Feelin’ The Miles” stands out distinctively, I think, from most of the rest of the album. There’s an intense-yet-mellow vibe that evokes the late 1970s…maybe a hint of James Taylor or Jerry Rafferty. How did that song come into being, and what’s the division of labor when it comes to songwriting?

Zane: I guess I’ll take that one. I wrote that song and I write most of them right now, though that was never my intention. We’re always working on co-writing more as a band, as well as guys bringing in outside songs. Those are things like The Eagles did and The Beatles did, and a lot of other bands that we respect. So we’ve got some exploring to do. But since we’re all in different towns, a lot of it ends up, “I wrote this song and brought it to the band.” 

With “Feelin’ The Miles,” the original arrangement and feel was very folky and singer/songwriter-y, but we already had a couple songs like that; “Birds of Youth” and “Okie Soldier” are kind of in that vein. So for that reason, the song was just “sitting around,” and I wasn’t sure we could do it or not. And then one day I thought about taking it in a different groove, with a tasty bass line that Sean could get down on; a groovy drum part…then I would definitely want to do the song. I didn’t want to give up on it. 

So I came up with that new direction – at least in the broad strokes – and then rewrote the melody of the song and some of the lyrics. So it’s really “Feelin’ The Miles 2.0.” And that’s another really cool thing about our band’s subscriptions, because it’s not public and we can just stick songs up there. The original version is there, too, so our fans and subscribers can see how that song evolved over time. 

“Wave Dancer” manages to evoke a Baptist hymn and channel the Eagles’ “Seven Bridges Road” at the same time, with its tight harmonies. It’s got such a big, determined sound to it. I’m guessing it wasn’t a first-taker, with all those vocal layers?

(Laughs) Zane: How many times do you guys think we sang that chorus in the studio? 

Sean: Well, we tried it like a million different ways: “Should we record this in a stairwell?” Finally we just did it standing around a bunch of microphones. (Laughs) 

Zane: We definitely experimented around on that one.  

Zane, you’ve said that life is about the ups and downs, and you don’t want just to write about the ups. This is a generally uplifting album, but it has its moments. “Build Your Wings” is one of Paul’s songs – I’m sorry he’s not here to comment on it – has a line that literally made me stop what I was doing: “It’s hard staying sober with your mattress on the floor.” Dang, dude. Strong stuff.

Sean: Poor Paul was going through a rough time while he was writing that song, and it came across in the lyrics, obviously. 

Zane: Yeah, Paul’s had a rough couple of years…been through a divorce.  He was speaking to his uncle about this stuff, and his uncle told him that line: “Man, sometimes you build your wings on the way down.” Paul wrote that song and his girlfriend Bree Bagwell contributed some stuff as well. It’s a personal one for Paul.

“The Ghost of Lincoln” closes out the album but it was the first release, complete with a fancy animated video. I think it’s the perfect bookend to “Picket Fences,” and turns into a jam you might here from Bella Fleck. Have y’all had a chance to road test these cuts yet? 

Zane: Oh, yeah. Almost all of them by now. 

Sean: And it’s also a really good bookend to the show, because Andy really gets cooking at the end. 

I bet!

Zane: He really turns it on on the banjo, so I bet he’s good with the Bella Fleck comparison.

Andy: Ha! Yeah, I was trying to keep myself calm when you said that!

That you on the dobro, too?

Andy: Yeah, I play dobro, banjo, some acoustic guitar…a little mandolin on this record. But yeah, I play a little bit of everything. 

And on tour dates: I’ve checked your site, and boys, you’ve got the states of Texas and Montana covered up. Would some gigs East of the Mississippi be too much to ask?

(Group laughter.) Zane: Yeah, we definitely have big plans – nationwide and beyond – for the band. I know we’ll be all over the West coast this summer…we’re playing the Alaska State Fair! East is definitely on the menu. We did some shows with The Steel Woods East of the Mississippi last year, and we’re comparing schedules and stuff now. 

But it’s our job to come to you. 


The Wilder Blue is available wherever you consume music, but here’s a great place to grab the album. 

Oct 22, 2021

Sports Writer Fired for Not Liking Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson

Sports writer Brandon Culpepper, a beloved character in the Twittersphere and podcasting world was let go from the Fourth & Twenty-Five Sports network this week in a move that shocked many fans and readers. Most assumed 4th&25 was simply having cutbacks, as many media outlets are prone to do from time to time, but the actual reasons for Culpepper’s firing were oddly specific.

“They said I didn’t tweet about Sturgill Simpson enough,” laughed Culpepper in a recent phone interview. “I mean, he’s fine but I’m more into jam bands and indie hip-hop.”

Culpepper, or Cully as he’s affectionately known, went on to say that his indifference to Jason Isbell, professional wrestling, and the show Ted Lasso had also been brought up as reasons for his dismissal at the exit interview. “I thought I was supposed to be a sports personality, not a paradigm of culture,” said Culpepper. “But they said my values and preferences did not align with what is commonly expected of a social media sports bro.”

“I thought the whole ’30 to 50 feral hogs’ thing was hilarious, but that’s as much as I’ve ever gotten into Isbell,” he went on. “And what’s the likelihood of every young to middle-aged sports writer, black or white, male, female, or otherwise, being into Dusty Rhodes and the New Day? It’s like they all graduated from Florida or something.”

Despite winning several awards for his writing, drawing respectable numbers to his college basketball podcast, and being a great brand ambassador, it was made clear that Culpepper’s personal interests were a detriment to his employment at 4th&25.

“I was given every opportunity to adapt to their expectations along the way, so this is fair I guess,” said Cully. “But I just couldn’t bring myself to care about Marriott points, arguing over who makes the best barbecue, Lane Kiffin memes, complaining about flight delays, Bruce Springsteen, Bioshock, soccer, or Dogecoin.”

At press time, Culpepper had returned to school to learn to code.

Jul 16, 2021

What is Aaron Lewis Doing in This Picture?


Scanning the south Texas horizon for immigrants

Remembering how bad he f***ed up the National Anthem

Hunting relevance

Being on the outside, but he’s looking in

Looking for Fred Durst’s career

On training mission for a militia he just joined, but he’s pretty sure they just dumped in him the wilderness

Thinking of a line to rhyme with “Biden ain’t my President”

Taking a short rest because it’s hard work carrying around all that anger

Pondering what a collaboration with Ricky Skaggs would sound like

Searching for missing Arizona ballots

Testing out his new pattern called Qamouflage

Looking for the missing “e” in his band’s name

Hiding out from hitmen hired by Bruce Springsteen

Ticking off another box on his “country cred” card

Jan 7, 2021

Travis' Top 10 Albums of 2020

 Last one... till December.


~Travis Erwin

1. Ward Davis - Black Cats & Crows

The title track was the first track I heard here and was strong enough to have me digging in for more. “Sounds of Chains” keeps the murder ballad alive and in gritty capable hands. The fourteen tracks here take you for an emotional ride and the collection feels traditional, without ever coming across as cliché. even on the Alabama cover, “Lady Down on Love.”

2. Bruce Springsteen - Letter to You

The now 71-year-old Springsteen has spent the better part of 50 years writing about characters as frayed as the cuffs of a well-worn denim jacket. Selling a idea of nostalgia has always been a big part of Springsteen, but here on this album, those sentiments feel more like affirmations than mystical ideals that maybe never were. ThetTitle track along with “Burnin’ Train,” “Janey Needs a Shooter,” and “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” Stood out for me.

3. Waylon Payne - Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me

Seventeen years is a long time to wait for a follow up album, and beyond that, Payne has a lot to live up given his royal lineage and ties to Outlaw hierarchy. This album lived up to all of it and perhaps even exceeded expectations.

4. Marcus KingEl Dorado 

With a bit of 70s funk throwback, King offers a unique vocal style. “One Day She’s Here,” and “Beautiful Stranger” were my favorite cuts.

5. Ruthie CollinCold Comfort

The album’s opening track, "Joshua Tree," might be my favorite cut of the year. It was inspired by the relationship of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Other favorites of mine were “Dang Dallas,” “Wish You Were Here,” and “You Can’t Remember.”

6. Swamp Dogg - Sorry You Couldn’t Make It 

A few years back, I had the pleasure of witnessing Swamp Dogg join John Prine on stage a few years back, and this album again showcases their friendship as it includes a couple of Prine covers, but the richness of this album is in the soulful passion of the vocals even more than it is the song selection. Not traditional country by any stretch but soulful and meaningful as god music should be.

7. Thieving BirdsAmerican Savage 

After a long seven year wait between album releases these birds came back with a thieving vengeance in 2020. “Ruin,” “My Sweet Baby,” “Somewhere to Run,” “Sweet War,” and “Pockets of Gold” are all tracks that spoke to me.

8. American Aquarium – Lamentations 

No one speaks their mind like B.J. Barham and that is why his music tends to be so provocative.

9. John Baumann - Country Shade 

More of a singer/songwriter, than a natural showman, Baumann’s sounds isn’t exactly traditional country, but it always feels pure and true. So it is ironic that the lead track, “The Country Doesn’t Sound The Same,” is about the old sound disappearing. “If You Really Love Someone,” “Sunday Morning Going Up,” and “I Don’t Know” also spoke to me.

10. Stephanie LambringAutonomy 

“Joy To Jesus” is as powerful of a track as I heard in 2020, but Lambring’s talent goes well beyond this one track. The writing is powerful and the delivery emotional throughout the album.

Mar 26, 2019

Live Review / Charles Wesley Godwin / The Vinyl Lounge / 3/14/19

By Matthew Martin

West Virginia ends up being the butt of a lot of jokes. There's poverty.  There's wide-reported drug abuse.  And there's a sense of this almost pride that you're NOT from West Virginia.  But, on the other side of that coin are the people from West Virginia.  If you actually meet folks from West Virginia, they're nothing like those silly caricatures you read/hear/joke about.  They're proud.  They're proud of what the state stood for during the Civil War. They're proud of what the state provided to the country with the mining industry.  They're proud of the unions that began in that same mining industry.  And over the years some of the best Appalachian music has come out of those hills and hollers.

Charles Wesley Godwin is someone I believe will become a household name very soon.  There's nothing but authenticity dripping from every word and chord that pours out of him.  And he has the voice to carry these sincere, heartfelt songs of growing up in West Virginia.  Songs that are so specific to the Appalachian region that you almost feel you're there as you listen to him sing.  This all comes through on his fantastic debut album Seneca.  I was pleased to find out that in a stripped-down, solo live show, nothing was lost.

We went to see Charles at The Vinyl Lounge which is part of the Gypsy Sally's venue in D.C.  We had once seen Sturgill Simpson play solo at this place to about 50 people.  So, this felt similar- like I needed to see Charles Wesley Godwin before he started making it to venues where the crowds were growing.  He began the show around 10PM.  

The first couple of songs were new songs as far as I was concerned ("Jesse" and "Bones").  I don't believe they were from his previous band, either.  These songs were incredibly well-written and true to CWG's young, but quite impressive career.  CWG would then go on to play a great mix of songs from his debut album ("Coal Country", "Strawberry Queen", and "Shrinks and Pills") as well as songs from his previous band's (Union Sound Treaty) output ("Peaked" and "Hazelton").  He threw in a couple of covers as well from folks like Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Martin.

CWG played for those of us there for around an hour and a half.  It was an intimate affair and one that I am incredibly glad I got to witness.  The songs of CWG are smart and emotional.  West Virginia pride is rich in the tradition of the songs.  He wants you to know that WV is still here.  With songs like "Here In Eden" he calls his WV brothers to arms.  You get the idea that CWG would never apologize for where he's from.  And, that's what makes his songs so relatable and so damn irresistible.  We all want that sense of pride of our home.  CWG has it damn spades.

To drive this point home, CWG pulled a barstool out from the bar for his last song.  He stepped away from his mic.  He unplugged his guitar.  And he sang with all of his heart and soul the WV standard: "Country Roads".  We all sang along.  We felt connected.  And, we walked away from the show feeling like we'd just watched something pretty special.

If you are anywhere near CWG, go see him.  It is special.  He's building something.  He will be someone we all will say we remember when he was still building that something.  Until he comes to your place, go buy his music; his solo album and his previous band's album.  You won't be disappointed. 

Jan 24, 2019

Live Video Premiere / Graham Stone / "Little White Lines"

Photo by Ross Wright
Today we've got an exclusive premiere of a live video from Virginia-based singer-songwriter Graham Stone, who is set to release his sophomore LP Bad News on April 12th. 

"Little White Lines," a song too new to have made the cut for Bad News, is a rootsy, upbeat folk song about the life of a troubadour--living life on the road, with no pass-time beyond staring at the "little white lines" in between the lanes. The live video shows Stone performing solo acoustic at beloved Richmond, Va. club The Camel, allowing the lyrics to shine through in a stripped-down setting. 

Graham has an expressive, open-throated delivery that brings the emotion and the story to life. The song itself has a quickly delivered, almost talk-singing verse that brings to mind other road tunes like Cash's "I've Been Everywhere." It's a memorable tune and a great introduction to anyone who hasn't heard Stone's music before.  RIYL: Tyler Childers, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Brent Cobb, Chuck Ragan, John Moreland, John Prine

From Stone: "This is a highway song for sure, a tune from the road. I wrote this one while driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike up to Michigan through a blizzard to see my daughter. This song was written during and about a specific trip, but it's also somehow kind of about all the other trips just like that one that I had done before. Usually alone but sometimes with friends or one of my brothers. Staying in hotels, listening to Ray Charles, drinking bourbon in dive bars, smoking cigarettes to stay awake. I just remember feeling like it would never end. Like I'd always be doing it this way even though I didn't really want to. The chorus of the song talks about the highway just sort of running on forever but by the very end I'm swearing it all off again. No more hotels, motels and little white lines."

You'll find a bio and more information below the player.

Graham Stone - Bad News

You can’t turn on the television or flick through your social feeds without being bombarded with bad news. “It’s like the whole world’s got the blues,” Americana singer-songwriter Graham Stone feels that lyric in his bones, it’s an apt summation of his new album, Bad News (out April 12th). Still, somehow he manages to provide hope and spread compassion through warm guitar chords and a voice as smooth as your favorite whiskey, but that doesn’t mean he won't raise a little hell along the way. 

Drawing heartfelt lines through the American South, Stone is a razor-sharp firebrand. He plants his feet at the center of the raging storm and accepts the elements in order to engage the humanity and tragedy buried beneath. That common thread echoes in every corner of the record, from the cautionary tale of “Oh Hell,” to the quaking bristle of “Celebrate.”

Stone doesn’t carry a chip on his shoulder, but there is an unmistakable air of honesty and determination in his lyrics. “Nobody knows what this life holds / But I guess maybe it’s better that way,” he sings on the urgent, enveloping “Fighting For,” a song with a driving force that sees Graham singing to his infant son. He doesn’t take his responsibility of parenthood lightly and his teachings of kindness and strength soak each moment to the core.  

His ripened wisdom is owed in large part to his humble beginnings. Born in Virginia in 1987, his fondest childhood memories are from the years his family spent living in Newport, NC, before eventually moving back home and settling down in Sudley, Virginia, on the banks of the Bull Run tributary near Manassas in Prince William County. He comes from a large family -- he’s one of seven children -- and a culture of loving music. His father often plucked out blues tunes on guitar or bluegrass numbers on the banjo and equipped Graham with an appreciation for instrumentation. “I also think I may have accidentally crushed his banjo by sitting on it as a kid,” he reminisces with a smirk. “I still kind of feel bad about that.”

By the time he entered his teens, Graham had developed an affinity for playing on his grandmother’s guitar. “I don’t know if she ever even really played it,” he corrects, noting his grandfather bought it "for her" really so he could try and do some finger-picking of his own. “But I think because my dad was the most serious guitar player in the family, somehow it ended up at our house.”

Through the years, Graham has played in various musical collectives. After a few unnamed punk bands in high school, he played in a collective in Washington, DC with friends called The Storytellers and then in a family band called Karla and the Brotherhood with his sister and a couple brothers. After moving to Richmond in 2014, Graham began to play out at local watering holes alongside his wife and fellow music-maker Aubrey (who predominantly plays the mandolin) as a duo called The Whiskey Wells.

But it wasn't until 2017, with his 30th birthday looming that Graham gathered up a collection of original songs for his debut solo record, Until the Day. “It was really just a bucket list thing I wanted to do at the time,” he says of the album, which arrived to astounding regional success and launched him headlong into the local music community just six months before the birth of his son. Afterwards, his life came into clearer focus and setting one foot in front of the other, he embarked more seriously on a path towards making music full time.

Now, armed with a clear vision and a brand new record in Bad News, Stone seeks to encourage the world-weary and reaches new levels of rumbling, gritty and plain-as-day Americana glory along the way. “This is also the first album I’ve recorded with what felt more like a cohesive band,” he says. Following a gig at FloydFest last summer, the troupe of musicians headed into the studio, already wearing the songs on their sleeves. "That gives the record a really cool cohesion, moving us closer towards what I imagine a totally live studio album might feel like,” he explains of the process, which began with Graham laying down guitar and vocals before bringing in the rest of the band for a live session together to capture the backbone instrumentation before adding the final sonic layers.

Bad News, which feels as earthy as it does polished, gives the listener plenty of room to breathe and allows each song to flourish on its own. Between crashing waves of rock & roll, the blues, folk storytelling and the telltale twang of the dobro--this record captures the best of everything Stone has to offer. He puts his all into his craft and unleashes onto the world an astute and necessary reflection of how we, as human beings, might engage with this world in a more honest and hopeful way. If we listen closely enough, we might come to understand more about who we are and perhaps in so doing, find out more of who we are meant to become together.

Sep 7, 2016

Kasey Anderson: Lean in close, he's got a confession

Lean in close; he’s got a confession

By Kevin Broughton

In one of the earliest issues of No Depression – I want to say 1998 or ’99 – Steve Earle remarked on how much he had missed in the world of music during his long, tragic descent into addiction. Rotted teeth, wrecked relationships, hocked guitars and finally, a six-month hitch in the Cold Creek Correctional Facility were what it took for Earle to bottom out, then rebound. When he emerged clear-headed a lot had changed. “By the time I had heard of Uncle Tupelo,” he said, “they had broken up.”

I hadn’t heard of Kasey Anderson till last week, and he’d been out of the federal pen for almost a year. An established fixture in the Pacific Northwest’s alt-country scene, Anderson – gifted songwriter, musician and producer – had seemingly limitless potential. Bright, articulate and affable, he’d been extraordinarily prolific in the music business by the time he turned 30. With much more, it seemed, to come.

His hellishly downward spiral to convicted-felon status had a definitive terminus: the clang of a cell door on his first night in the joint. When things started to go seriously south, however, is a little harder to pinpoint. It was probably around the time he got the big idea to do a concert and benefit album for the West Memphis Three, that trio of misfits wrongly convicted of murder in 1994, and a cause celebre among many show business types. (Including, um, the normally reclusive Eddie Vedder, who tends to shy away from fashionable social causes.)

There were two problems, though, with this big idea that became progressively more grandiose. First, absolutely nothing ever came of it. And, much more troublingly, Anderson raised nearly $600,000 from more than 30 investors – many of them friends – that he just…spent. It evaporated like it was never there.

There would be no star-studded lineup with the likes of Tom Petty, Pearl Jam or R.E.M. The Boss and Lady Gaga wouldn’t headline the album – some kind of duet that would’ve been -- that would never exist anywhere but Anderson’s mind. And when the Three were cut loose in 2011, the shot clock started on his freedom. He had created bogus email addresses and impersonated industry lawyers and tour managers along the way. “I told myself consistently that whatever was going on with me,” he wrote in a letter to the judge who accepted his guilty plea for wire fraud in 2013, “I could fix it on my own.” Turns out there was plenty wrong, and not just on the surface.

No objective person who hears Anderson’s story could conclude that he set out to run a grand criminal enterprise. But mental illness and addiction (“cocaine, whichever pills were around, and Maker’s & soda with bitters”) kept him from seeing the criminal in the mirror. To be clear, Anderson readily admits that being a bipolar addict/alcoholic is no excuse for his actions. He emphasized that all culpability is his and his alone, several times. But I think it can help make some sense of the situation.

When you run a con so widespread and for so much money, prison – as opposed to civil litigation and bankruptcy – is the inevitable conclusion, and it’s been a rough four or so years for the musician. I didn’t ask – and in retrospect he probably wouldn’t give it a thought – but I imagine one of the starkest ways the Internet can tell a musician he’s now irrelevant is the “years active” entry on his Wikipedia page.

To his credit, he’s emerged from the nightmare sober, very humble, and if not happy, then certainly in a place of relative personal peace.

We caught up with him after his shift at a friend’s Portland store, Animal Traffic  (“Work wear,” quips Anderson, “for people who don’t work”), and chatted musical second acts, possible paths to redemption, and the wisdom of not running up prison debts.  

You re-surfaced publicly a week or so ago at Saving Country Music, but you’ve been out of actual custody since last Halloween. What have you been doing the last 10 months?

I spent six months in a halfway house, which is where they help you transition back into the world. I’ve been on probation, and I work full time in a friend of mine’s shop here in Portland. And that’s pretty much it. I’m just trying to get my feet back underneath me and make some amends where I can, and get life back on track and try to be a human being.

I imagine the scheme that got you into trouble started to seriously unravel when the West Memphis Three got out of prison in 2011; have you had any contact with them since your release, and if so, did you offer an apology?

Not since my release, no. I saw Jason Baldwin when he got out; this is something I’m still proud of --though it was under somewhat spurious circumstances – the first rock show he ever saw was my band at the Sunset Tavern in Seattle.  So that was a cool deal, but it was hard to reconcile with what I knew was going on at the time. So no, I haven’t been in contact, though I reached out a little bit to [Seattle producer] Danny Bland and offered an apology and tried to make amends, though I haven’t heard back.

My M.O. when I got out was to try to do that part of the 12-step program, which is I’m going to make direct amends to those I can and to those whom it wouldn’t harm in some way. So I reached out to as many people as I could; if I heard back from some of them, great; if not, it’s understandable. Hopefully after a while they’ll see I’m living in such a way that’s conducive to making amends.

A casual yet cynical observer might see your 2012 diagnosis of Type 1 Bipolar Disorder as a way to dodge doing hard time, a close cousin of “Hey judge, I get it now and I’m going to rehab.” You alluded to your being “mentally ill” in a letter to the judge. Was there ever a time before the walls closed in that you thought, “Maybe there’s something seriously wrong with me mentally?”

There were times when other people close to me suggested that my problems weren’t just addiction but something else. But I had no real frame of reference because I spent my time in an industry where accountability is not the number one priority. And it wasn’t for me – and the folks around me – until the wheels started to seriously come off. But the diagnosis made sense, and I did try to use it as an excuse: “Don’t you see I wasn’t myself?”

But the more time I spent with myself and the more time I spent incarcerated, I came to the point where I am now, where I can look at my own life and see that addiction and mental illness certainly played a role in what I did. But that doesn’t help anybody who was victimized by me, either financially or personally in some other way to say, “Well you know I’m bipolar.” Because the response would be, “Well, best of luck with that, but where’s my money?”

In private conversations with those with whom I’ve made amends – because I haven’t talked much about this publicly – I’ve said, “The diagnosis is accurate but it doesn’t excuse what I did.”

Are you clinically medicated now for being bipolar, and is it reasonable to assume that the substance abuse up to the time it all fell apart was self-medication?  Also, are you treating it with therapy?

Yeah. I’m medicated and have been since Oct. 24, 2012, which is the last time I had any sort of substance or alcohol. In November before I went away, I took a little break from it when I decided it was a good idea to go to Los Angeles and live with my girlfriend, which turned out not to be such a great idea in the eyes of the court.

But yeah, I’m still taking 900 milligrams of lithium and 100 milligrams of Zoloft; the lithium causes tremors, so I’m taking 60 milligrams of Propanolol – which isn’t any kind of anti-psychotic medication, it just helps with the tremors.  And I also go to therapy, which is mandated by the terms of my probation.

In another life I was a criminal defense lawyer, so I’m curious about something. After your indictment but before plea negotiations with the U.S. Attorney’s office began, what was your expectation as to doing time? Did your lawyer let you know early on that there was a strong likelihood of incarceration?

I had two attorneys [from the Federal Public Defender’s office] and in our first meetings when we were sort of fleshing things out, I was a frustrating client because I didn’t know how much money I’d taken or how much I’d spent. One put a couple pieces of paper in front of me and said, “These are the people who say they’ve lost this much money. Is this accurate?” I said, “I mean, probably. If someone says I took money from them I probably did.”

When we started getting closer to entering the plea, they said, “Let’s try for a year and a day. That would be best case, so let’s be prepared for at least a year and a day.” Well, as soon as I (long pause)… I guess “absconded” is the right word, because I wasn’t really on the run, but I went to my girlfriend’s in LA and didn’t tell anybody about it…

I’d say that’s absconding.

(Laughs) Yeah, yeah, I guess that’s absconding, but it’s not attempted escape. But as soon as they got wind of that, my lawyer called me and said, “You can either get on a plane and fly home and self-surrender, or they’re gonna kick your girlfriend’s door in because they absolutely know where you are right now.” So I flew home that night. From that point on, there was no shortage of expletives thrown my way by my attorneys. They said, “We’ll do the best we can; you had a shot and now you don’t have that shot anymore.”

So the prosecutor at first was asking for 87 months; he really had a pretty low opinion of me and rightfully so, given the information he was working with.  And fortunately for me, he took another job.

Wow. That’s freaking lucky, dude.

Yeah, I know. He took a job in the private sector and another prosecutor picked it up and he was like, “I don’t know this kid from Adam, how about 46 months?” My lawyers said that was for sure the best we were gonna do; take the deal, we’ll go to sentencing with that.

There was no point in [my lawyers’ telling me], “We’ll get you off with some probation.” As soon I turned that corner and headed to Los Angeles my lawyer said, “You’re fucked.” That was pretty much it, she just said, “You’re fucked. You did this to yourself; we’ll do our job, but you had your chance and you blew it.”

There was never any thought to taking it to trial.

No, not really. The only way we could’ve done that was with the mental health defense…but for most of that time, I paid rent, I had a car, I played shows, I made records. You’re not gonna prove someone was intermittently insane over the course of several years. A trial wouldn’t have been fun for anybody. I didn’t want my folks or anybody to have to go through that. 

I want to back up for just a second. I’m guessing this wasn’t, in your mind, a criminal enterprise from the get-go. You didn’t set out and say, “I bet I can bilk a bunch of people by talking about the West Memphis Three.” As I understand it, one of the tendencies or characteristics of someone who’s Bipolar Type 1 is delusions of grandeur…


…and you get these grandiose impulses from time to time. Did you think, “I can do this”? Did it start out that way, and then maybe “Well, I’ve gotta have expenses to live on,” and you end up shuffling money around? Was that how this think evolved?

Yeah, that’s pretty accurate. It’s one of those things that’s a real point of contention for me, but it doesn’t do anyone else any good because the outcome is the same. 

I met with Danny Bland at South By Southwest in 2009 and we talked about it in earnest. We had a conference call with Lori Davis, Damien Echols’ wife not long after and talked about it with her in earnest. So it started out for me as a very real thing. But that ended – that’s as far as it went for Danny, that conversation with Lori. And I said I was going to raise the money.  And once I had the money, yeah, you’re right. I was living in Europe at the time and I thought, “If I go to Italy for a couple days and spend a thousand bucks, I’ll just put it back in there; I’ll just play a couple shows and put it back.” Then all of a sudden a thousand bucks is a hundred thousand bucks, then it’s $400,000, and I’m neck deep in it. And there’s nothing true about it anymore.

And all you can do is lie, and keep lying.

Yeah, exactly. Although it’s been brought to my attention by more than one person that if at some point I had just said, “Hey, guys, I spent that money, it’s gone and you’re not gonna get it back,” the outcome would not have been good, but it wouldn’t have been what it was.

You wouldn’t have been in the federal joint, I guess.

Probably wouldn’t have. Would have been more of a civil deal, bankruptcy, etc.

Did you have to do the elocution --verbal confirmation that you had done those bad acts – before you were sentenced?

Yep, sure did.

Were any of your victims in the courtroom at your plea or your sentencing? Did that have any additional impact, seeing those folks in person?

Nobody was there that I saw. I think – and I hesitate to speak for any of them because I haven’t been in contact with them – but once it became public that I was probably going to prison and it involved federal charges, I think a lot of them figured, “Okay, he’s probably going to get what’s coming to him and I can go back to living my life.” I have to imagine that a lot of them were pretty consumed with it until I cut off all conversation with them. Because no matter what sum of money was involved for each individual, they’re trying to get their money back. And there was probably no small amount of relief in knowing that the government had it.

Asking you “How was life in prison?” would be offensively stupid. But I’m curious (a) whether there was one particular moment when the reality of incarceration sank in on you; and (b) whether a Kasey Anderson jail song may ever be in the works?


That’s a thing, you know, jail songs?

Yeah, oh yeah. They do jail songs.

I would say the reality I was in prison was Night One, because I came in kinda late after being in court all day and they put me in a cell in the corner. I was at SeaTac, which is a holding facility for people of all different custody levels. You don’t really go outside, you don’t see the sun, the rec yard is in the unit. I had never been in trouble before. I went right to sleep, spent from the last 72 hours. I woke up the next morning and stuck my head out of my cell, and there’s a bunch of black guys watching TV. So I started watching, and this white guy grabbed me and threw me back in my cell and said, “The white TV is over here!”

Oh, wow. So this wasn’t Club Fed. I know it wasn’t Supermax in Colorado, but…

Well, the second year was pretty much like a community college, and more or less Club Fed. But that first year at SeaTac was…not like Supermax, but a high-security facility where you’re locked down a good part of the day, or mingling with people that have seriously harmed other people.

So that first day was, “Okay. I’m in prison now and this is how it’s gonna be.”

Do you have any Aryan Brotherhood tats, since you had to watch the white people’s TV?

I actually ended up not having to watch the white TV. I told the guy, “Look, I don’t want any trouble but I do like basketball, and it doesn’t seem like you guys have basketball on. So I’m just gonna go watch with the black guys.” He told me fine, but nobody would have my back if anything happened.  And that was the end of it.

It’s probably a lot harder-edged in the higher-security facilities. But when you’re stuck in the unit with everyone all day, there’s going to be some intermingling. And that was good for me, being able to sort of bounce back and forth. So, no, I didn’t pledge any sort of allegiance to anyone.

Did you ever get physically hurt by anybody?

No. I saw things happen, ah, mostly at SeaTac I saw things happen that weren’t pleasant. My experience in prison was if you just kinda cruise along and work your own program and don’t lie to people or rack up a bunch of debt, you’re more or less gonna get left alone.

“Rack up a bunch of debt?”

Well, like card games or betting on football; you can’t bet with money, so it’s like food at the commissary, chips…pretty much anything you can think of.  And I didn’t do any of that to begin with. But that’s where you see people get into trouble: Where they give people their word and break it, or they owe somebody a six pack of Pepsi and don’t pay it. That’s when there’s trouble.

Did you lift weights and get all buff?

Uh, I worked out. I played basketball. I didn’t hit the weight pile because I’m not a strong dude and didn’t have any desire to put weight on that way.  I did get in pretty good shape by doing cardio. Pushups, crunches, stuff like that. I didn’t go crazy

At SeaTac I played a lot of basketball. At Sheridan – the second year -- they had a music program so I played a lot of guitar. We actually put a little band together. And on all federal holidays we’d do a concert. That was cool to get plugged back into music in some way or another…there were some songs I had written and never heard how they sounded with a band, so that was a cool way to test them out. And these were good enough players; probably not the guys I would use in a studio, but they were capable dudes I could bounce songs off of.

How much writing did you do? Prose, I mean. Is there a book inside of you as a result of this experience?

You’re not the first to suggest that. I did a lot of writing when I first got in, and looked at it when I got out and didn’t think there was a whole lot I can use.  I actually have been working on some prose and think I’m about a third of the way done with it and I’m not sure where it’s gonna go yet. I mean, it’s good to be clear-headed enough to actually be sidetracked by life stuff.  So I told my girlfriend the other day that I need to take an hour or two and just sit down and write, whether it’s prose or songs or whatever.

And you’re legit sober?  

Yeah, I am, since that date of Oct. 24, 2012. 

How do you feel, physically and mentally these days?

Physically I feel pretty good. I keep coming up with a clean bill of health; my girlfriend and my mother are furious because I still eat like a teenager. I still have that addict’s diet of a lot of sugar. They tell me I’m gonna kill myself, and I keep coming back with clean blood tests, so I’m gonna keep eating Sour Patch Kids till a doctor tells me otherwise. (Laughs) I’m not in as good shape as I was when I got out and I should probably get back into the gym. I probably feel as good as I have…but it’s so hard to tell. Looking back, I felt like shit when I was using, but you still think you feel good.  So I feel like I’m healthier than I ever was, but it’s hard to tell how much of that is just the subtraction of narcotics, versus any kind of healthy regimen.

The mania…I’m guessing it made for some really prolific songwriting.  Has getting sober tamped that down any?

It definitely made for some productive long nights that stretched into long days of working on something. So I’ve definitely lost something – with the lack of narcotics – the desire to stay up all night until a song is finished, or write three songs at the same time and finish them all.

Now it’s more, “Okay, this is a good idea; let’s get down what I have and we’ll go from here.” So I finish them when I finish them. It’s changed my focus. I was talking to a friend who had tried lithium but he gave it up because he felt like it really deadened his senses. He’s a painter, and it really affected him artistically. It hasn’t really affected me that way, I think, because I had a lot of really good teachers along the way who taught me to look at [songwriting] as a trade, and not some crazy, muse-inspired impulse. If you know how to rebuild an engine, you know how to rebuild an engine. It might take longer depending on the model or the circumstances, but you know how to do it.

And that’s really what I’ve tried to lean on; I guess I won’t know how well I’m doing at it until people actually hear the songs. But what I’ve leaned on in terms of satisfying my own creativity is, “I know how to do this.”

Based on some of the thoughts you shared with Trigger the other day, you seem resigned to pariah status, at least initially. Do you see any path to redemption, generally, and if so, what is it?

My path to redemption – such as it is – is what I mentioned to you earlier, and that’s making living amends. That’s far more important to me than being someone people come out and see or someone whose records get reviewed. And I think for right now, it keeps me a lot more grounded if right now, I don’t think about what my relationship with music or the music industry is going to be.

Obviously, if someone says, “Do you want to do an interview?” I’ll do it if it feels right. I’m not actively seeking publicity. I have a website and a Facebook page that I think has 150 fans. For me, that stuff will come if it comes. I’m at a point in my life where I’ve already had a lot of fun playing music. And I’m not old, but there’s still time that if something’s gonna happen, it’ll happen. But I need to start thinking about what the rest of my life is gonna look like.

For the most part, I’ll say that the people who were my friends when I went in were my friends when I came out, whether they’re involved in the music industry or not. But, who knows what would happen if I said to Isbell, “Hey, why don’t you take me back out on tour?” I imagine the tone of the conversation might change a good bit.

You toured with Jason?

Yeah, Jason and I toured in late 2011, maybe early 2012 and built up a pretty good friendship. And he’s been cool to me. I mean, we don’t talk every day…

So, you didn’t stick him in this deal…

No.  And he’s been like – and this is the way most people have been – he said, “You never did anything to me, dude, and the rest of it is not my business.”

Seems like he’d be a guy who’d give you a shot. He’s a pretty sweet guy.

Oh, yeah, and he’s definitely been encouraging. And I was in when his record went to number one. And I called him from prison and he didn’t pick up, and I thought, “Well, I probably wouldn’t have either.” And when I got out he said, “Look man, I didn’t know how to accept a prison call; I didn’t know it was you and I’m so sorry.”  He doesn’t have to be that way, but again, I haven’t asked him or anybody, “Hey, let’s do a show or go out on tour,” because I want them to know that my relationship with them is based on friendship and not some “social climber” thing.

And I don’t think I’m in position to ask people for slots on bills, or to listen to songs. If they want to hear them, they’ll find them. That’s the way music has always been.

Your talent is self-evident, and I feel cheated that I’ve only recently become acquainted with your work.  Do you have any general plan for a second act in music, or are you just doing the one day at a time thing?

Right now I’m doing one day at a time. Eventually I want to make a record for a lot of reasons, one because I wrote songs while I was in there, and I’ve written songs since I’ve been out that I think are really good songs. I think the world needs as many really good songs as it can get. I also really like being in the studio and working with [producer Eric] Roscoe [Ambel] and my other friends – some folks I had talked about recording with before I went in and wasn’t able to.

In terms of any sort of career, right now I don’t have any expectations; I’m not at a point where I can count on music to pay my bills or pay my restitution. I don’t know if I ever was, because it’s hard to know how well the records or tours would’ve been received if I hadn’t been using resources that didn’t belong to me. Right now this is just a way for me to practice gratitude; to be grateful playing music. I’m not drawing up a five-year plan in a notebook, though.

I downloaded Let the Bloody Moon Rise from your website today. Quite the bargain at five bucks. I feel like I’m stealing from you, frankly. But my email confirmation/receipt said it was order number 00009. Is that a true indicator of the current lack of interest?

Yeah, I think that’s about where we’re at.

Well I’ll just say this: With prices like these, you can’t afford not to buy.

(Laughs) That’s right! Yeah, that’s one that got released in some fashion in 2014, after I was already in. And that’s a deal where I did just such a disservice to that record and that band; I’ll go on record and say, “That’s a good fucking rock ‘n’ roll record.” That’s the sort of record I would have wanted to hear if I was a rock music fan in 2014.  But, that’s another situation where I let those guys down, and everybody’s moved on and doing their own thing, so you can’t do too much looking back.

And what’s the one thing you most want people to understand about you, right this minute? And I’ll add a caveat: I didn’t factor into that question the – whatever step it is of the 12 about making amends – so what do you think is most important right now?

Two things I said over the weekend…I was playing a show at a winery, and it was a really fun time. And I was talking to John, my friend who owns the place, and he asked me sorta the same thing.

I said, “I do want to make amends wherever I can, and it’s important to me to live that out.” The other thing is: I haven’t forfeited the right to write songs and to be good at writing songs, and I’m going to do it. I was without my freedom for a couple of years, and I’ll probably be paying restitution for as long as I live, and that’s well deserved. And if you think I’m an asshole or don’t like the songs, that’s fine. But I’m gonna keep writing and playing, whether it’s in my basement or in front of a bunch of people on stage. So the degree to which anybody is cognizant of the fact that I’m doing it, get comfortable with it. 


Kasey Anderson is a man who’s has been down and kicked plenty, with more likely to come. We don’t ask for much here at FTM. But his music can be found at his site’s store, and I’m asking you – as a personal favor – to go there and download a digital album for five bucks. Five bucks, people! And oh by the way, it’s freaking quality music. I’m serious. So thanks.  -- Kevin

Photos from Wikipedia and Kasey Anderson's Facebook page


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