Countrified singer-songwriter Carl Anderson no longer calls Charlottesville home. He’s not planning to record his next album locally at White Star Sound, like he did his first one. And he no longer tours with a hometown band behind him.
But for one night, he’ll make an exception.
When Anderson takes the stage at The Southern Café and Music Hall on May 28, he’ll be supported by Charlottesville favorite Sam Wilson of Sons of Bill.
Sam will likewise play guitar during Anderson’s performance, and Abe Wilson will chip in on drums. Anderson said the trio (he’s still trying to get Sons of Bill frontman James Wilson to join the fun) has never played together per se, though he’s toured and jammed with the Sons.
“We’re gonna have one long rehearsal, and that should do the trick,” says Anderson. “Sam is just remarkable. If he listens to the songs and has a rehearsal, he’ll be good.”
Anderson, an Albemarle High School alum, has taken a circuitous path to playing at the Southern with a couple of pals from Charlottesville. He’s currently on his second stint in Nashville, the landing pad for so many local musicians looking to make it big.
Anderson’s first visit to Music City was a short-lived affair he blamed on following a girl. This time, he has a day job at a juice bar to support his music career and says he’s there to stay.
“I don’t know if I could have come up anywhere else than Charlottesville,” Anderson says. “It is a perfect setup. I played at The Gravity Lounge all the time—I could walk over, have a conversation with [the owner], and he would book me to open for Tommy Ramone—but I did reach the point where it was important for me to leave.”
Certainly Anderson’s local roots are deep. He grew up in Madison County, where his parents moved after meeting while playing gigs in Richmond. “There was music in the house all the time,” Anderson says. “My dad was a great singer but was…too unstable to have a career. He could have.”
Anderson says the C’ville music scene provided the stability he needed to have the career his dad never did. He met so many other local singer-songwriters who supported him, he says. One of those was Carleigh Nesbit, the country singer who lured Anderson to Nashville for the first go-round.
“Some of the best songwriters I know are back in Charlottesville, but the industry certainly is here in Nashville,” Anderson says.
On his return trip to Nashville, Anderson found a booking agent, finished his second full-length, Risk of Loss, and built a team to “do something with it.” That led to a pretty good run of tour dates last year, but Anderson’s taken some time off more recently. Other than a performance at the Stagecoach Music Festival in California last month, he’s been writing songs and bouncing ideas off the icons who come and go around the juice bar, such as Kacey Musgraves and Parker Gispert of The Whigs.
“There are a lot of interesting people hanging around, and it’s a very collaborative scene and supportive of songwriters and musicians,” Anderson says.
The current mini-tour, with one other date on the schedule but more likely to be added, is intended to support a new track that should turn into a full album by the end of the year.
That album could represent a diversion from his traditionally alt-country sound judging by the first single, “Not Forgotten You,” which is more modern-country, more radio-ready than Anderson’s previous efforts.
“It’s definitely sitting more in the mainstream, but that’s not such an intentional thing,” he says. “I have been listening to more pop radio, and it has influenced my writing of late. I’m kind of leaning in and writing outside the Americana format for a little bit and seeing what happens.”
Is the new Carl Anderson looking to break into pop country long term? Not necessarily, he says. And while “Not Forgotten You” might not be the best example of his overall style, he wanted to get it out there. It was, after all, his first work with heavy-hitting producer Johnny Duke of Little Big Town.
It was also Anderson’s first time working with “a proper session band.” And yep, those were Nashville’s finest (including Duke on guitar) providing the fills.
Old habits are hard to break, though, and Anderson says he finds himself falling back into writing the Americana-style ballads he’s long leaned on. He says he’s working on 12 or 13 songs right now and hopes to get in the studio by the fall. But what those songs will end up sounding like together is anyone’s guess.
Heck, Anderson doesn’t even know what town he’ll end up living in.
“I think I will come back to Charlottesville at some point, but Nashville has been an industry boot camp,” he says.
The Southern Café and Music Hall
Dec. 6, 2012: Carl Anderson
Aug. 20, 2013: Best local band of 2013: Sons of Bill