WYEP Studio Session: Anders Osborne
Anders Osborne in the WYEP Studios on May 30th, 2012
New Orleans-based musician Anders Osborne woke up recently from a dream with the number "64" in his head. He did an internet search and turned up a galaxy labeled "M64" by astronomers, also known as the "Black Eye Galaxy." This discovery eventually became the title song and key track on Osborne’s latest album, Black Eye Galaxy. He visited WYEP on May 30, 2012, to discuss the song, the album, and the galaxy itself with WYEP's Mike Sauter. "One of the great thing about Anders," says Sauter, "is that he puts so much of himself into both his recordings and his performances. It was great to see that up close in his studio session."
The song "Black Eye Galaxy" is an eleven-minute epic that begins like a roots-rock love song and then transforms into a wild space-rock jam. The track anchors the album as it veers between dark, heavier rockers and more mellow, optimistic fare. Some of the album’s most attention-grabbing tracks are rockers like the riveting "Mind of a Junkie" with its very '60s acid-rock feel (like something from a long-lost Live at the Fillmore West LP, according to Sauter). The approach was influenced by Stanton Moore of Galactic, who co-produced the new album as he did for Osborne’s 2010 album, American Patchwork. Moore wanted Osborne to sound heavier, like he does when performing in concert.
Another notable heavier song is "Black Tar," a drug-themed lyric with a hammer-of-the-gods, Led Zeppelin vibe. "You don’t have to be afraid to sound like Jimi Hendrix or Led Zeppelin or Neil Young," says Osborne. "I think it is ludicrous for people to be highly original at all times because I think that we have all been moved by something prior to us because that is was we know." On Black Eye Galaxy, Osborne wanted to sound like some of the music that made a strong impression on him growing up.
A number of different factors helped smooth the experience in the recording studio to make the album, particularly having an old friend like Stanton Moore behind the controls. Osborne notes, "He has brought out a level of comfort where it’s okay for me not only to do what I want to do, but it’s also okay for me to not have to prove my point. I can listen better when I work with him. When other producers would come in, I would fight them because I don’t know if they knew where I was coming from." With Moore, however, "I knew that he knew."
Additionally, some of the songs on the album turned out to be fairly easy to put together. Osborne says, " I think if I succeed with what I’m doing and the band clicks and everything comes together, it all happens very quickly and very naturally.... You are underscoring exactly what the song wants." The track "Send Me a Friend," for example, began as a mellow, almost hymn-like gospel tune. But in the studio, the song suggested a different approach for itself; they chose to do it heavy and Osborne sang an octave higher.
In the WYEP Studio Session, Osborne and his band performed a stripped-down arrangement of rockers like "Black Tar" and underscored the gentle beauty of compositions "Dancing in the Wind" and particularly "Tracking My Roots." The latter song has a dusty road song feel to it, but don't expect a specific storyline from the songwriter. Osborne explained that the lyrics are all just unconnected fragments sewn together, made coherent by its soaring chorus.
"I was such a fan of American Patchwork," says WYEP's Sauter, "and the new album continues along the same general direction, except perhaps more expansive in scope. It was great to hear Anders break down his creative process a little bit and discuss what made these two album so special."
Note: due to a technical problem, portions of the interview and performance are not available on the recording.
- Dancing in the Wind
- Tracking My Roots
- When Will I See You Again
- Black Tar