INTERVIEW: Guitarist Rusty Anderson brings a diverse musical menu to his work with Paul McCartney
August 31st, 2010 3:30 pm ET by Steve Marinucci
As one of the guitarists in Paul McCartney’s band, Rusty Anderson is naturally associated with the music of the former Beatle. But Anderson’s own solo work, as exhibited on his most recent solo album, “Born On Earth,” is quite different and exhibits a wide range of influences.
(See pictures of Rusty and the McCartney band in the slideshow below. Also below is the video for "Born On Earth," the title track from the album.)
Anderson says the new album, recorded in his home studio Oxide (Rusty, oxide, get it?), took a little over three months to complete.
“I’d go and work on it and go out on the road with Paul and come back and spend another month and go out on the road with Paul, sort of back and forth. I have a home studio, which is nice, so I have the luxury of working at home, which makes things a lot easier,” he says in a phone interview.
While his last album, “Undressing Underwater,” had guest players, including Paul McCartney on one track, “Hurt Myself,” he says with the new album he took a different approach. “I really wanted have more of a continuity, band-y kind of sound. So, basically most of the songs were produced with my drummer Petur Smith. We just had a good time going through different demos and funky recordings and trying to figure out what songs to put on there.”
Like the album, his musical tastes are diverse. “I love the early Alice Cooper band. They were really creative. I love Debussy and I love Gershwin. And I love Mick Ronson and the Spiders from Mars. I love that sort-of mid-period ‘70s, late ’60s Stones. Todd Rundgren. Old blues guys. So many things. I figure if you listen to my iPod or most people’s iPods, you’re not going to find one style of music. It’s gonna be rather diverse. No one listens to only heavy metal or only reggae or only singer-songwriter. But I think,” he says referring to the album, “I just let the natural glue set into it.”
Grunge also played a part in his career in one of his former bands, Ednaswap. “Yeah, Ednaswap was sort of in the grunge era, ‘90s thing. Yeah, I like Nirvana and Soundgarden and some of those bands. I’ve never been one to niche market myself, let’s put it that way.”
One of the songs on the new album is called “Julia Roberts.” Anderson says the two have never met and that the song came out of a dream. “I had a dream about her out of the blue. And I thought, ‘That’s odd. Why did I dream about her? I hadn’t thought of her in years, really.’ So I wrote the dream down and turned it into a song and realized that the way that that really fits into the concept of the record, which is about technology and the way that living right now in the 2000s has affected everybody’s lives so dramatically.”
“The technologies of today allow all these celebrities to permeate our brains,” he says. “We feel as if we know them. They permeate our brains and we don’t give it a second thought. I figure if these celebrities can stalk me, I can stalk them back through a song.”
One of the songs, “Funky Birthday Cake,” was written when Anderson was 13. “That song was written with a friend of mine,” he says. “And we started writing lyrics together. He’d write a line, I’d write a line. I just composed the music on the organ, actually. And we recorded and the whole thing was done in an hour and a half. And we would do that all the time. We would write silly songs and have fun. And that was part of what saved me and gave me something to do.”
Anderson credits the Beatles for getting him into music in the first place. “When I was five years old and my older sister was playing Beatles records, that’s what got me into playing music, period. That’s what started the whole thing. I got into Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and Cream and all that stuff, but they were were the starting point.”
He says he got together with McCartney through producer David Kahne, who produced McCartney’s “Driving Rain” album and with whom Anderson had worked previously.
“I called him up one day and we were talking and he’s saying, ‘I think I’m doing the new Paul McCartney record.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s fantastic.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, and we need some guitar playing.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know, count me in. That sounds great.’ And so a couple of months later, I went down to the Henson Studio in Hollywood, which used to be A&M. I came in and started meeting guys with English accents. And then I met Paul and it was really amazing because I never really thought I’d meet a Beatle, much less play with one. And then within a few minutes, we were jamming and making music. It’s a great way to bond with somebody. And after maybe three or four days, I got used to being around him. And now, it’s been almost a decade and we’re still playing together.”
Anderson describes the band’s success as due to a combination of factors. “Everyone has a good feel as a musician, which is really important. And I think as people, there’s a chemistry to the personalities that works, a dynamic that we’re able to play as team players, but also know how to really interject our own personality without hopefully destroying the music, because I think that it’s really important.”
Anderson says he’s been able to get some of his song suggestions into the tour setlists. “I suggested ‘Getting Better’ and ‘Day Tripper’ and ‘Helter Skelter,’” he says.
He recalls the Hollywood Bowl shows on the Up and Coming Tour at the end of March as being special for him. “I’d seen a lot of concerts there growing up and it had a lot of mystique to me. So that was a really great way to be able to play there.”
He says he’s pretty certain the band will be performing again, though he doesn’t know when. “Sometimes we know in advance, sometimes we don’t. But I’m sure we’ll be doing more stuff.”
And is a new McCartney album coming? “I’ve been wondering the same thing,” he says, then marveling about McCartney’s musical talent, he says, “He has a lot of projects going at all times. Instrumental things, different style of music and studio album. It’s pretty diverse. That’s the thing that amazes me. Playing the show we play, it’s everything from ‘Ram On’ to ‘Helter Skelter.’”
He says whether he’ll be doing live shows to promote his solo record will depend on if there are any more McCartney shows. “Well, we did a show in Hollywood as a record release party sort of thing. That was in between tour dates with Paul. I’m waiting still to see the schedule,” he says. “The answer is I’d love to.”
Anderson’s “Born On Earth” album is available on Amazon.com and his website.
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