Poetic Memory: Nena Anderson (List)

Here at Owl and Bear, we’ve posted a few dozen times about Erika Davies (give or take a couple dozen), citing her raw emotion and incredible voice. That’s why it seems altogether unfair that we’ve only in passing ever mentioned Nena Anderson.

Another Americana-inclined San Diego songwriter, Ms. Anderson has a powerful voice that perfectly complements her bluesy backing band, and her local presence has been growing ever since she ditched her day job to pursue music.

Anderson’s 2011 LP, Beyond the Lights, is part Neko Case and part Billie Holiday, with a dash of Ragged Glory-era Neil Young thrown in in for good measure. It’s one of the San Diego scene’s overlooked gems, and it pretty much proves that Anderson made the right career choice.

She’ll be participating in the For the Sender benefit concert at the La Paloma Theater in Encinatas on January 19, along with Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, Sara & Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek, Eagles songwriter Jack Tempchin, and others.

For the Sender, an upcoming compilation album, was inspired by four letters. According to Anderson, “The stories are about tragedy and hope, and so are the songs. The project was put together by Alex Woodard, and has evolved from ‘family dinner’ jam sessions into a CD, a book, videos, and this concert. Partial proceeds will benefit the charities chosen by the author of each letter.” You can read the letters and hear song samples at the project’s website.

In anticipation of the show, Ms. Anderson sent us a list of her influences. We asked her for this list a long time ago, but we’re glad she didn’t rush it; you can tell she put a lot of thought into it — just like she does with her songs.

Nena Anderson’s Top 5 influences

5. Late 70’s to 80’s California roots & punk rock: I’ve been heavily influenced by the music, style, and scene created by bands such as X, The Blasters, The Beat Farmers, Ramones, The Paladins, and Rocket From the Crypt.

4. Photography: I’m often inspired by the story implied by good photography. I have an infatuation with artistic photos and photographers…hahahaa. I totally swoon for beautiful and/or strange imagery, and I love catching a glimpse into a person’s point of view through their images. And I love to take pictures too.

3. The Blues: Blues is the basis of all American music. I spent many years studying and singing blues. It is music so simple (in structure) to play, yet very difficult to play well because it is driven by emotion and tone more than technical skill. I’ve always wanted to sing like Big Mama Thornton and Billie Holiday and play the guitar like Johnny Guitar Watson, T-Bone Walker, or BB King.

2. Live music: Watching bands and supporting the live music scene inspires and energizes me. Be it a venue, or restaurant, or anywhere, there’s always something to learn, hear, or watch. I often get ideas for songs when I’m out to see a band. I think it’s also important that musicians support each other as much as we can. It helps the venues generate business so that they, in turn, can keep booking bands!

1. My son, Ellis: Juggling being a single mom and musician isn’t easy. Two years ago, I traded in my career as an art director to pursue music full-time. I want him to learn from it: 1) It is never too late to make a career change 2) Goals/dreams can be accomplished if you work hard 3) Success is measured in happiness, not dollars (although dollars help!) 4) Do what you love, you can make it work to be your work.

Nena Anderson shows
1/19/12 – La Paloma Theatre – Encinitas, CA
1/21/12 – Pappy and Harriets – Pioneertown, CA
1/25/12 – Lestat’s Coffee House – San Diego, CA

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