At present, R&B singer Anderson East may be more well known for his personal life than for his music.
East dated country singer Miranda Lambert for two years (past tense) and the romance generated plenty of what used to be called “copy.” The Lambert-dependent nature of his fame won’t last long.
East will perform the Clyde Theatre on September 15. He is touring on the heels of a strong, sophomore Elektra Records release called Encore.
It was produced by Dave Cobb of Shooter Jennings and Zac Brown Band fame and features songs co-written by Chris Stapleton and Ed Sheeran.
East gives Cobb credit for kicking up his career a notch.
“I was playing shows mainly to the bartender and the wall when we met,” he told College Times Magazine.
Cobb was the first prominent person to assure East that he has what it takes to make it in the music business.
“He was the first one who said, ‘You have that thing,’” East recalled. “It was his encouragement. He actually paid the musicians out of his own pocket the first time we recorded. I worked with a lot of people before that, but it was pretty obvious from the start that his and my own ideals about music and about what music is lined up pretty closely. He’s become one of my closest friends and I trust him.”
There are two cover tunes on Encore, one of them being Willie Nelson’s “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces.”
“I never met (Nelson),” East told the Huffington Post. “It would be the highlight of my life if he enjoyed it. But it would crush me if he didn’t. … I mean, it’s Willie Nelson. I’m a huge fan and I can talk all day about him. I think he has the perfect voice, honestly. I would be far too afraid to hear his opinion of me.”
Collaborating with Stapleton was hard, he said, because he can make even mediocre material sound superlative.
“You can never tell if you got a good song or not when you write with him because if he sings it, it sounds really good,” East said. “I don’t think we’ve ever spent more than 30 minutes on a song. It’s like you can get rid of your lunch in the time it takes you to write a song.”
Even more impressive than Stapleton’s musicianship is his beard, he said.
“I’m a really big fan of facial hair,” the baby-faced East said. “Let’s be honest. I personally can’t grow one, so I’m always drawn to those who can.”
East also wrote four songs with Lambert collaborator, Aaron Raitiere.
“There’s no filter with him,” he told CMT News. “It’s just thought vomit and just when you’re about to say, ‘Shut up,’ he says the most brilliant thing you’ve ever heard. If you put him in a room with a potato, that potato is going to come out with an awesome song. And I’ve heard some potatoes.”
East admits that a person has to be a little delusional to get into the music business.
“You have to go play those gigs and be terrible,” he said, “and then some part of you still has to be like, ‘That was awesome. I had so much fun. That was amazing.’ And then be lucky enough that nobody kills your spirit in the meantime.”
East’s spirit still seems pretty lively, despite the fact that he has generated a lot of tabloid headlines for a new artist.
In 2017, he created a stir when he criticised Garth Brooks for lip synching at the CMA Awards.
East said these days he prefers to appreciate the moment and stay focused on the task at hand, whatever it may be.
“I think we just keep our head down and keep working,” he told the Nashville Tennessean. “We’re trying to make sure that people want to come see us ... and we want to show up and deliver. I’ve given up trying to imagine things or set goals. My life has already far exceeded the expectations I had of what music could bring someone.”
People who get out to see live music have made a considerable commitment and East doesn’t take it for granted.
“I’m more reminded more and more how precious time is, especially going to a show is really hard. You have to get babysitters, you have to get dressed. You gotta figure out where you have to park. Whether you’re going to get something to eat before that. And it costs money to get in there,” he said.
“And the drinks are expensive. And they’re coming to see us, that’s incredible. It’s their right to see something amazing, and I always want to treat it as such. It’s a special moment for everyone.”
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June 27 • The Clyde