Jamie Anderson may play the acoustic guitar, but don't mistake her for what she calls just another "hum and strum." For 20 years, she's crafted songs that lean on folk styles but weave both humor and somber reflections into her words.
Last year, Anderson released Dare, her 10th album and first written after leaving Durham, where she lived for a decade. She relocated to Ottawa in 2010—"for love," she says. Dare includes cheeky numbers, like the self-explanatory "Menopause Mambo" and "Run," which elicits laughs although it's a warning to a friend to leave a deadbeat partner behind. "The Lucky Ones" grapples with the reality of young veterans returning from war.
Her new memoir, Drive All Night, chronicles the ups and downs of life on the road. The book shares stories of odd encounters and friendships built during years of touring. The chapters are short and sweet, and much like Anderson's music, the tales oscillate between the fun, the serious and the bizarre. She comes to the Triangle this weekend with fellow singer-songwriters Dianne Davidson and Deidre McCalla for a concert titled We Aren't Dead Yet. She'll return in June to do some readings from Drive All Night.
Singer-songwriter who dabbles in a lot of styles, especially comedy. That doesn't sound very funny. I'm not witty right now. It's like, "Oh my God, I have to be entertaining all the time!" That's the thing about writing a book: I can edit it and edit it and edit it and edit it. Even now, holding the book in my hand, I look at it and go, "Oh, I should've changed that word." Too late.
I know some women shy away from the f-word, but it's something that's really important to say. I'm definitely a feminist. Some women performers just want to be thought of as a musician or a poet or whatever it is they do, not that they're a woman. But the fact that I'm a woman really frames what I do. It is a boy's club, and it has been hard for me in a lot of respects, even in places like folk music. Folk music, you would think, would be a lot more egalitarian and very supportive of women, but I find the same bullshit that my friends who play rock talk about. Sometimes I deal with sound guys—and usually they are guys—who turn down my guitar, because they think I'm just a hum and strum. I'm not exactly Bonnie Raitt, but I can play pretty well. You should turn up my guitar.
I love playing acoustic. There's just something about holding an acoustic guitar close to you and feeling that vibration. When I play an electric instrument, I don't feel that vibration. There's not that connection for me. If I could do without PA systems, I would. If you're playing for more than 20 people, you've got to have sound equipment. You've just got to figure out a way to make it sound good. Microphones and stuff get in the way. They change the sound. It changes the vibe.
One of the other things I do is I teach. It's such a cliché when teachers say, "I learn so much from my students." I thought, "Yeah, yeah, whatever." Now that I've been teaching for a few years, I know exactly what they're talking about. When I started teaching guitar, mostly, I knew my own songs. People don't come to you because they want to learn your songs. They want to learn their favorite songs. Now, whenever students bring me something, I learn it. I've taught students everything from punk to bluegrass, and I've become a much better player because of that.
Writing is the most fun one person can have, right? I've been writing for a long time. I've written for a lot of magazines and blog sites, and Drive All Night is my first book. It seems a lot more real than anything else I've done, which makes no sense, because I worked really hard on those magazine articles, book chapters and all that other junk. But there's just something about that stream of consciousness. You get in the zone, and it's an awesome place to be.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Turn up my guitar."