Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chicago musician Ryan Joseph Anderson celebrating release of new solo album


After making two albums with Chicago band Go Long Mule, Ryan Joseph Anderson this week released his solo album, the captivating "Weaver's Broom."

The album, which roams through a number of musical styles, was produced by Andrija Tokic, known for his work with Alabama Shakes.

To celebrate the release of "Weaver's Broom," Anderson,, will perform April 17 at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago.

HoneyHoney and Sam Lewis are also on the bill. Tickets are $10, available at

I had the chance to talk to Anderson about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. Of course, you are releasing your solo debut album this week. What were your goals for the album and do you think you accomplished them?

I really think the biggest goal was to get out of my comfort zone. I'd been fronting a band for the past few years and recording pretty big and layered albums.

Most of those songs were written and developed long before going into the studio, so everybody would go in with parts in mind and we would stack a lot of stuff on top of those parts. I think I reacted to that by writing a group of songs that, in my mind, where much more stripped down.

When it came time to record them, I wanted to make a record that stuck with that mentality and I definitely think we succeeded in doing that.

Q - Is there a story behind the album's name?
“Weaver's Broom” is another name for Spartium. It's a shrub with yellow flowers. 

I always liked that name and the images "weaver's broom" brought to mind. I wrote a song using the reference and felt that it really encapsulated the feel of the record, so I decided to use it as the title for the album too.

Q - Andrija Tokic, known for his work with Alabama Shakes, recorded the album. How did you hook up with him and what did he bring to the table?

Andrija was the first person I thought of when I decided to make this record. I worked on a project with him a few years back and it was one of the best times I'd ever had in the studio. 

I think he's brilliant. Sonically, we have very similar tastes and I think he has great instincts both as an engineer and a producer. 

He understood exactly what I was going for - from the first conversation we had about making the record - and really made that vision come to life. It's great to work with somebody who you trust that much.

Q - The video for "Fortune and Fate" is a stop-motion video that seems to really fit with the theatrical feel of the song. What was your idea for the video?

My girlfriend, Jen Donahue (who sings harmonies on the record), also happens to be my favorite artist. Pretty early on we decided that we wanted to make a video for that song and the best way to do it would be a literal, line-by-line interpretation of the song. 

Jen had the idea of doing it as a stop-motion video and started developing the characters. I started building the graveyard and we mapped out what we would do on each line. More that anything, we really just had fun with it.

Q - You had previously fronted the band Go Long Mule, which released two albums before disbanding this winter. Was it just the right time for the band to end and for you to go out on your own?

We'd been working really hard for years without a real break. After a pretty packed summer, it seemed like everybody had opportunities outside of the band that they wanted to pursue: Steve Leaf had a band of his own that he wanted to record, Dan Ingenthron was working with a lot of other groups (including the Westies) that kept his calendar pretty full, and Mark Zoller had a chance to spend some time in the mountains in Colorado. 

I think the time was right to take a break. Those are my favorite guys in the world to play music with and I'm guessing that there will be more Go Long Mule in the future.

In fact, we were all just at a good friend's wedding ended up playing a few felt great.

Q - How does the Chicago music scene compare to the Nashville music scene? Do you have any favorite Chicago music venues? Where do you see yourself fitting into the Chicago music scene?

I love the Chicago music scene. It's an amazing community of people who really champion each other's work. Nashville is fun because there's music coming out of every window - the city is booming right now and it's pretty crazy to witness.

I feel like I wouldn't be the musician I am with out FitzGerald's in Berwyn. It's my favorite place in the country. Some of the best nights of my life happened there -  whether seeing music, playing music, or just hanging out. There's something in the air there.

As far as where I fit in, that's hard to say. I have such a tight group of friends in that scene and we've all worked together so much over the years that, honestly, I'm just honored to be a part of it.

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