FLYER Q&A: Guitar virtuoso Marisa Anderson on her journey, inspirations, and solo tour

Anderson will perform on Thursday, June 20 at The Creamery in Rogers.
Marisa Anderson (Courtesy photo)

This Thursday, June 20 is your chance to hear one of the “most distinctive guitar players of her generation” (The New Yorker) when Marisa Anderson makes a stop to perform for Trillium Salon Series.

Anderson will be joined by violinist Jack Bird and banjo player Kelby Clark for an evening of three gifted improvisors who blend elements of drone, minimalism, old time, free jazz and more, all inside The Creamery (216 W. Birch in Rogers), which boasts reverberating acoustics amid expansive 50-foot ceilings.

You can RSVP to this all-ages show here. Read on to learn more about how Anderson developed her distinct sound, what she’s listening to on the road and more.

Although you were classically trained, you really came into your own sound playing in country, jazz and circus bands. I’d love to hear more about that.

I’ve been in a lot of different bands and musical projects… In the late 90s/early 2000s I was part of a four piece country/vocal harmony group called the Dolly Ranchers, based in Santa Fe, NM. In addition to touring, we had a weekly gig at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. That band had a couple of circus performers in it- a clown and a trapeze artist. I worked with the circus group for a while, including a couple of tours, working with a band and playing music for the different acts.

Later, after I had moved to Portland, I joined an existing band called the Evolutionary Jass Band, which was a large ensemble free and improvised jazz group. Multiple horns, violin, stand up bass, drums and me on guitar. It was an amazing and very fluid ensemble. I learned a lot about group improvisation in that band.

What drew you to improvisation?

Improvisation is the foundation of everything I do. I want everytime I play the guitar to be unique, to be felt in the moment and processed with all my senses. Even if I’m playing a song that has a set structure and format, I want to bring it into the exact moment of creation, and I want to bring the listener there as well.

You’re on a solo tour but also collaborate a lot. Describe a bit about the differences between the two. What’s distinct about solo playing and what draws you in?

Playing solo is my comfort zone. As you mentioned, I grew up playing classical guitar, which involves a lot of solo practice. I grew up in a small town and I didn’t know any other kids that played music so playing by myself is the most natural thing. I love collaboration too of course. I learn a lot from playing with other musicians, and I love the social elements of group music.

Let’s talk road tunes – what are you spinning on your long drives between tour stops?

Well it changes every day!

I try to take the backroads rather than the freeways, and I listen to the radio a lot, especially if I can find local stations, and public/community radio stations. I will listen to whatever baseball game is on, doesn’t matter the teams. I often drive several hours in silence each day as well. If I have to stay awake I listen to things I can sing along with.

As a last resort I will turn to Spotify… I don’t have a subscription, so there are a lot of ads, but it helps pass the hours.

Some things I’ve enjoyed recently while driving:

William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops
Iris Dement
Buena Vista Social Club
Jorma Kaukonen
Anouar Braheem
Gustavo Santaolalla

to name a few…

Now let’s go to life changing records – name one of those and tell us why it was life changing.

Well, this probably isn’t the answer you’re looking for, but my first solo guitar record, The Golden Hour, changed my life. I had no idea when that record was released as an edition of 500 copies on what was at the time a tiny label would lead to me traveling the world playing solo fingerstyle guitar!