Anderson publishes memoir, will perform at Eno
The title of singer and songwriter Jamie Anderson’s memoir is “Drive All Night,” but Anderson no longer has to drive long distances for gigs.
“I am at a place where I don’t have to take those bar gigs anymore,” Anderson said in a phone interview. “I can book at places where there’s a listening crowd. … Every musician wants to play where they are listened to.”
She chronicles some of those earlier concerts in not so desirable situations in her recently published collection of road stories (available at www.bellabooks.com). There’s a chapter titled “Streetwalking,” about her experience in 1990 in Provincetown, Cape Cod. “I noticed the plethora of gay clubs and thought maybe there would be some good work in this town,” Anderson writes. She ended up having to hand out a lot of fliers to get audiences to her gigs, and had to contend with a television in one of those bars.
Anderson will not have to contend with such obstacles when she plays at this weekend’s Festival for the Eno. She will be joined by Durham music veterans Robbie Link on bass and Tracy Feldman (who also will perform Saturday at the festival) on violin. “I just enjoy playing with a band at that festival. It’s a bigger sound,” she said. She played a year ago with both musicians and liked their sound. Feldman is “an intuitive musician” and when she looked for a bass player last year, Link “just blew me away,” Anderson said.
These days, she makes most of her money teaching – guitar, mandolin, ukulele, singing and songwriting skills. She started teaching as a way to make money between tours, but soon found it fit her style. She gets to stay home, but still comes to North Carolina a few months of the year and house-sits for friends.
“Drive All Night” is also the title of one of Anderson’s many songs. She got the idea for a book of road songs after she found herself telling stories “when I had coffee with someone on the road.” Some of the chapters are “string-changing stories” that she used in between songs when the occasional guitar string would break, she said. Not all of the stories are about mold-ridden rooms and unappreciative audiences. One of the most touching chapters is titled “Winning the Lottery,” about a gig in a military town that did not draw a large audience. Anderson warmed up the crowd anyway, and jammed with musicians afterward. When she returned home, she opened the pay envelope expecting about $50, but found more than that, her “lottery winnings.” Anderson also writes about the night in October 2002 when Holly Near invited her to perform onstage at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro. Many times, Anderson writes, “I felt like the poor stepchild of women’s music. That night, though, I was definitely part of the family.”
Anderson grew up in Arizona, then came to Durham, and now lives in Ottawa, Canada, with her wife. (In one of her tunes, Anderson sings that in Canada she has “love and a health card.”) She began playing and touring in 1987, and in August last year released her 10th recording, “Dare,” recorded in Asheville. (Her memoir includes a chapter with some good detail about the process of making a recording, from conception to marketing.)
The women’s music movement has been crucial in her career, she said. “I really got my start in women’s music playing for gay and lesbian crowds. They were the only ones who would have me,” Anderson said. Folk festivals would not always warm to her, fearing she would draw the wrong crowd. The women’s music movement has been compared to the “Chittlin’ Circuit” of rhythm and blues, she said. “I took advantage to that network.”
She is now doing research for a book about women’s music of the 1970s and 1980s. One of the many pioneers she will profile is Maxine Feldman (who died in 2007). Anderson interviewed Feldman before her death, and wrote a tribute to her in Sing Out! magazine. The folk clubs of the late 1960s shunned Feldman, who released the first “out lesbian” record in 1970.
“One of the reasons why I’m writing this book is because I don’t want those influential women to be forgotten,” Anderson said. “There isn’t a book about women’s music,” and Anderson hopes her contribution will fill a gap in music history.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Jamie Anderson in concert
WHEN: Friday, 12:15 p.m.
WHERE: Meadow Stage at Festival for the Eno, West Point on the Eno Park
ADMISSION: For information about festival tickets, visit www.enoriver.org.