Half a decade ago, Australian born-and-raised Hamish Anderson transplanted to the United States and settled in Los Angeles. The singer-songwriter/guitarist and his fiery blues-rock charms quickly earned the ear of Gary Clark, Jr., and then the guiding assistance of renowned producer Jim Scott (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Tedeschi Trucks Band), leading to Anderson’s debut album, Trouble. Sessions for a follow-up, and a reunion with Scott, were completed in early winter of 2018. 15 months later, Anderson is releasing his sophomore effort, Out of My Head, and after a spring trek in Australia supporting Clark, Jr., and a few select U.S. summer dates, he’ll undertake an extensive fall tour in Europe.
Growing up, how much did what was contemporaneously happening around you musically influence you versus the records you listened to by the American originators of the blues, and their British descendants like Led Zeppelin or Cream?
My influences of blues came more from listening to records; going to the sources of American music. First, it was very much the original stuff. I was also lucky because right around the time I was getting into playing guitar- like, around 12 (years-old)- there was a real rock revival going on. There were Kings of Leon, and Jet; Wolfmother; The Vines. And, The Black Keys, and The White Stripes. So, it was cool having loved all the early music and then finding out about younger guys bringing into the 21st century. That was really inspiring to me. They took the blues and made their version of it. That was more appealing to me than just playing a Freddie King song for the 100th time. I love Freddie King, but I was really into the idea of making my own blues.
When did you first start performing?
End of my teens I started playing live. For a long time it was just me, solo, playing a lot of pub gigs It was good for putting one foot in the water and getting going; trying to see what songs work; getting the crowd’s attention.
What brought you to Los Angeles?
I came over in 2014, basically for a couple of months to do a tour around the U.S. with a bunch of other Australian bands. I didn’t really know how it would go over. I was really excited about coming to America; (with me) loving American culture and music and everything. L.A. at first was culture shock. It was very different from Australia, but I quickly fell in love with it. A great thing about L.A. is the music scene here; all the iconic venues like The Troubadour. I’ve read a million times about Elton John playing there. Everyone comes from somewhere else to make it here. It’s been a really great fit.
When you traveled around the United States did it match your imagination of what it would be like or was it quite different?
Little bit of both. Going somewhere like Austin- that was one of the places I dreamed about going- having lots of blues (history), like Stevie Ray Vaughan. Places like Austin, or L.A., or Chicago, every street you go on there’s an iconic venue with incredible musicians playing. Australia has a great music scene, but in Austin, literally, you go bar to bar and there’s music everywhere, with incredible guitar players. It’s just inspiring to be around. Going to Chicago, to Chess Records, there’s just so much history.
Talk about working with Jim Scott. How did that happen?
I met Jim right around the perfect time, when I started work on my first album, Trouble. I’d cut a few tracks with a different producer and it wasn’t really going the way I wanted. I was a little bit lost, not knowing where to go, and then I met Jim through a mutual friend and instantly hit it off. He’s a great guy who’s also worked on incredible albums by Tom Petty, and Tedeschi Trucks, and Wilco. The main thing with Jim is that the song is the number-one priority, which I love. That it should be right at the forefront. He also has a way of making everybody feel good which brings out the best in the musicians.
You’ve worked with musicians that you didn’t know prior to the session. Does that provide a burst of creative energy or slow the process in any way?
Little bit of both. At the end of the day, it’s always exciting going in with, like you said, some musicians I hadn’t met or played with before. You meet, and half-an-hour later you’ve recorded a song. That worked really well with the Trouble album because the whole tone of the album was us basically playing live. A lot of times what’s on the record is the performance in the studio. It was very warts-and-all, going full throttle at it.
And the new album was different?
With the new album it was great because it was the same band for the entire album. They had played on Trouble so they were session guys, but, at the heart of it, band guys. They don’t play like slick L.A. session musicians. It’s very much the feel of a band playing together.
Do you view your albums as collections of individual songs, or as a complete thought?
I definitely think with the Trouble album it was more a collection of songs. I kind of did it in three different parts: five songs, and then a couple of months later, four songs, and then a few months later did the rest. The new album did not have a concept throughout, but it was very much, like, written as a full piece. I knew exactly that I was trying to make an album. For me, it can be wide ranging in the genres, but I think my voice ties everything together.
Were there specifics you took away from the making of Trouble that you consciously wanted to repeat, or avoid?
There were things I very consciously wanted to do on this new album. The last album was very loose, and it was great for that album. But, I really wanted to tighten up and have the songs at the forefront. Again we recorded live with the whole band playing together. But there was more overdubbing done on this album. I wanted to experiment with harmonies, guitar doubles, and double-tracking vocals. I wanted to do a little more arranging; have more of a solid idea of what each song should be.
Did you demo the songs prior to recording?
I demoed, but I’ve found over the years it’s best when I do (a demo) really simple, like an acoustic guitar and vocal. If I play it on acoustic and have it stand up, without drum machines or whatever, then the song itself is good. Jim and I are very much both about the song, and the best representation of songs is in their earliest form. I wrote a lot more this record than the first one. So there was more pre-production on this than the last one.
Was there an editing process prior to tracking?
Yes, definitely. That’s the great thing about Jim, and having a producer like that. I’m not someone who necessarily wants to be producing myself alone because I like to have a sounding board; have someone else reel me in when I’m going off-course, or add a little bit of advice. Jim is very good at that: trimming the fat off of songs.
Did you road-test anything live before recording?
There are a couple of songs that got road-tested before I went in the studio. It definitely helped me see what was working and what wasn’t. The year prior to recording I started playing live in a trio format. Normally, I’d been used to playing with a keyboard so there were times when I could lay-out and not have to do so much guitar stuff. I don’t really like to stretch out and do long guitar solos for the sake of doing it. I respond more to direct guitar solos that serve the song. So, I think that (experience) was really great- to know when I went into the studio, if there was a guitar solo on a song, every note had to matter.
So, were solos improvised in the moment or did you work them out?
It’s more letting it happen in the moment each time. The guitar solo was almost the last thing that got dealt with. A lot of time it was off the top of my head, playing what I was directly responding to in the song. All of my favorite guitar players, at the core, were amazing songwriters, and then they had these incredible guitar solos.
The tracking for Out of My Head was done in February of 2018. Now 15 months later, it’s out. Excuse the pun, but, in your head are you already on the next thing?
Yes, I’m starting to think about what I want to do next. I’m in the beginning stages of writing what I hope to be my third album. But, every time I listen to Out of My Head, it still excites me. It holds up. I’m proud of what it says, what the songs are. It’s really nice to be able to look back at it and still feel really great.