Anderson East speaks by phone from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, his old stomping grounds from his college days as a Middle Tennessee State student. He now calls Nashville home, but he’s in nearby Murfreesboro today in the process of restoring a muscle car.
A native of Athens, Alabama, East speaks in a Southern drawl with a happy-go-lucky delivery. His tone befits the past several months of the singer-songwriter’s life, a period that includes the success of Delilah — his major label debut album — and its single “Satisfy Me,” as well as appearances on several national TV shows and his well-publicized relationship with country star Miranda Lambert. On Saturday, March 26, East will bring his R&B-meets-country songs to Birmingham for a performance at WorkPlay.
Weld: Is there a way to sum up what the past year has been like for you?
Anderson East: We’ve gotten to do a lot of great things. We’ve been on the road with some really amazing artists and got to meet some amazing people. We put out a record that I’m really proud of and I’m grateful that it’s been as well-received as it has. So it’s been a pretty great year for us and what we’re doing.
Weld: Will you be hitting any new cities on the current run of this tour?
East: We’ve been coast-to-coast in this past year, but there are a few cities on this tour that we’ve never [played]. It’s kind of a gamble going somewhere you’ve never been, but people seem to be excited about it.
Weld: This is a great time for Alabama’s music scene and the artists who started here — you, Jason Isbell, Alabama Shakes, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, among others. Talk about the thriving state of Alabama’s artists.
East: Just to be lumped in that category is a big honor. I was just thinking about that. I heard Brittany [Howard, vocalist for Alabama Shakes] on [NPR show] Fresh Air this afternoon when I was driving and thinking, “It’s really cool — the amount of great music that’s coming out of Alabama during the past couple of years.” I think people have a good head on their shoulders down there and they’re working to make really great art. I think the surroundings always have a lot to do with it.
Weld: Are you currently writing, or are you shelving songwriting and focusing on touring at this time?
East: For a while it was very much focusing on the touring aspect of it. But for the last couple of months my wheels have been turning and I’ve had a little time at home to be a normal person, like going to the grocery store and that type of thing. I’m taking input now instead of being in full output mode. So, yeah, there are songs that are happening and I’m really excited about them.
Weld: I assume there’s no timetable yet for your next release.
East: We are just kind of fluid and it’ll come when it comes, but I have a feeling that it’ll be sooner than most people think.
Weld: Which artists are you listening to at the moment?
East: It’s been a lot of country: Emmylou Harris and Don Williams. Donny Hathaway has been in there too a lot. Other than that, I’ve been trying to keep quiet lately and listen to talk radio and read a little more and have conversations. I’m not really searching things out right at the moment.
Weld: Even though the country artists you mentioned and Hathaway have different styles, both genres seem to make sense as they relate to your sound.
East: I hope so. I think all that kind of music stems from the same place. It shares a pretty similar heartbeat. Going back to the Alabama subject, we have such a cultural heritage of great music albeit it any genre. There’s that common thread of it being Southern roots music at the core.
Weld: You’ve played the same songs numerous times while touring. How does the material stay fresh and relevant to you night after night?
East: Every day is new and you keep finding new reasons to be out there. Being a traveling musician isn’t as glamorous as everyone probably thinks it is, so for us it’s a matter of getting to the stage and that’s fun. That’s the part we signed up for, so everytime that happens it’s our one escape. For me, I try harder and harder to live inside the moment and live inside what the song is. There’s a lot that happens with the environment you’re in, the audience engagement, your engagement and you try to lose yourself. That 75 minutes goes by fast. You leave the stage covered in sweat going, “Oh, I think I just worked.” [Laughs]
Anderson East will perform at WorkPlay on Saturday, March 26. The show begins at 8 p.m. For more information, visit workplay.com.