Having released the perfect follow-up to 2010â€™s masterful, American Patchwork, with this yearâ€™s stunningly intimate, Black Eye Galaxy, an album that is an open book to a man’s soul, Anders Osborne took some time to check in with Honest Tune the day after a particular â€œrowdyâ€ show in Baltimore which saw Osborne joined by friends John Gros (Papa Grows Funk) and Cris Jacobs (Cris Jacobs Band, formerly from The Bridge) for an evening that saw him deviate from his planned set list into adventurous musical journey that showcased both Osborneâ€™s electrifying guitar work and his unparalleled song-writing ability.
[To check out Honest Tune’s review of Black Eye Galaxy, please visit here.]
HT:Â How was the process of putting togetherÂ Black Eye Galaxy different than American Patchwork?
Anders Osborne: It was a little bit more simplified this time. On American Patchwork I had a bunch of random songs, and Stanton [Moore] helped me select and go through them, and sort amongst literally maybe a 100 songs. This time I just started writing in July . I had an idea for the title Black Eye Galaxy. I wrote one song and then the next, and then just compiled fourteen songs, and that was what I brought in. I wanted it to be a little bit simpler. I worked out some arrangements, and recorded with a four piece band, and worked a little less on big guitar parts and instead just have one or two guitars playing at the same time.
HT: You still have Billy [Iuso] playing guitar with you?
AO: Yes Billy was with me. It felt more like a band record this time.
HT: Did those guys [Iuso, bassist Carl Dufrene and drummer Eric Bolivar] haveÂ input towards the new album?
AO: Once you get to the studio, everybody has some input. It is not like I have it logged out. Between the producers â€“ Stanton, Me, and Warren Riker – you always talk and let everyone be creative. I guess ultimately I am guiding and overlooking the process until I am satisfied with it. Everybody has some kind of input into how the record is shaped for sure.
HT: There is a very personal narrative through out the album, was that a conscious thing on your part or just how it turned out as you wrote these songs?
AO: Lately I think have just been real comfortable writing like that. Â I donâ€™t think I aim to do it, but that is just how it is coming out lately. I do go back to a little bit of storytelling like I used too do, but these songs are also all very self-reflective.Â â€œLouisiana Goldâ€ is taking parts from my history and what I have gone through and then making up a little bit of stories and I mixed that up with a friend of mineâ€™s story, because he and I have a very similar journey together.Â So I just mixed a couple of things together.
HT: There is a definite theme through out the album that really binds it together. I even think the sequencing of the songs works great in helping to create a very specific mood and feeling through out the album.
AO: I thought it was important to do like an A and B side with a middle, and then it would be like you were turning it over like you used to do on a record.Â Then you could have a slightly different mood on the second half.
HT:Â Well since you had such a specific thought with the sequence and you had to trim songs from your original batch you wrote for this album, do you have any plans for the others that you had to get rid of?
AO:Â Â Usually they just get forgotten. When you make a record you always want that nice sequence of songs that fit together, and every once and while when you make a record you go back and find a nice little gem among those forgotten songs, and its like, â€œHey, we should do that again. Maybe we could try it this way on this record.â€Â There is always a use for songs even if they donâ€™t end up on the record you are working on.
HT: Did any of the songs on Black Eye Galaxy come from any of those long lost gems?
AO: Not on this one, on American Patchwork there were definitely two really old songs on there.
HT: â€œDarkness at the Bottomâ€?
AO: Yes, â€œDarknessâ€ and â€œLove is Taking its Tollâ€. Those are songs I think I wrote in the early 90s.
HT: How is it taking these songs to the stage this time around?
AO:Â It really depends on the venue and stuff. A place like Baltimore we had bunch of guests and it just turned into a little bit more rowdier of a night, and in that case we just kind of bypassed some of those songs we usually do. We usually try and do â€œLouisiana Goldâ€ and â€œTracking My Rootsâ€ most nights so we can break it down and give the night a little bit more dynamic.Â So we can go up and down.Â In Baltimore we had to change a little bit of what I had planned, but that was ok. It was fun to see John Gros on guitar.
HT: How did working with Paul Barrere [from Little Feat] on the new album come about?
AO: I have known Paul for some time, more of an acquaintance, but in the last couple of years we started to keep in touch more, emailing and talking on the phone. We have done a few shows here and there, so I thought it was appropriate. I had some ideas where I wanted him to help me out on a couple of things.Â He flew down toNew Orleans and worked with me for a few days.
HT:Â Did you guys start from scratch, or did you have some songs already in the works for him to work on?
AO: We did some stuff from scratch. Of the two songs that made it on the record, the one, â€œBlack Tarâ€ was an idea I had. I had a lick that I was pretty hip. He just sussed out the details and helped work on the lyrics for it. For â€œDancing in the Windâ€, he had a guitar lick. It was kind of the initial spark. It was a chord progression that was really beautiful. We worked on the lyrics together. Then I kind of simplified that. His was an open G tuning, and it had some slide stuff and I just made it more into a songwriterâ€™s song. We both brought something to the table and then finished then finished them off together.
HT: You said there were some other songs you worked on together?
AO: Yes, we have a couple more.
HT: Any plans for those?Â Is he going to do something with them?
A: Hopefully so, that would be great. He was planning on putting â€œBlack Tarâ€ on a Little Feat record, but since I put it on he passed on it
HT: Â Last time we spoke right after American Patchwork came out, you said, â€˜A good record inspires you to start writing the next one.â€™ Did this one do that for you?
AO: Absolutely. Iâ€™m looking at the next one already.
HT: Have you started working on it already?
AO: I have started the next record a little bit. I have been strumming along a little. Usually it starts by just scratching a little bit of the surface whenever you get some down time. I donâ€™t have a specific idea for it yet, but I would like to get this one out sooner, maybe in a year, year and half instead of two years.Â I am hoping to get it out by next summer.
HT: What is the process for you when you start creating these new songs?
AO: It varies. First I would like it to connect to this record. I would like people to feel comfortable with this record. I look at it a little bit like an extension, so if I bought this record what would I like to hear on the next record. I try and put myself in that frame mind.Â Then you just strum at the house, I play a little piano at the house, mess with different tunings on different guitars. Then topically I am trying to figure out something I find interesting. You just start putting everything into the pot and the usually what happens is I start to get a specific flavor and I stick with that and I start writing.
I think if you bought American Patchwork, then when you buy the next one you want it to be on the same track, but not the same train. I assuming my listeners like music the way I like music. I want to be taken on a journey. Something needs to change, but I still feel need to like we are still traveling together. It doesnâ€™t need to change drastically. I used to change drastically in the past, but I am trying to more gently steer the whole thing in smaller increments now.
HT:Â What are your plans for the rest of the year?
AO:Â I think we are going to stay on the road as much as possible, and when I have a week or two off in between Iâ€™ll probably start working on some new tunes.Â Maybe by January I can go into the studio.
Black Eye Galaxy was released May 1, 2012 on Alligator Records.
To see all of Jordan August’ s photos from Osborne’s “rowdy” Baltimore show please visit here. To see all of Jordan’s work, visit www.jordanaugust.com