“There’s never been a time in my life when I didn’t have a daily practice of playing music,” says Marisa Anderson. “It’s like eating food.”
Anderson grew up in a musical house, and she was playing instruments at an early age, but most of her young training was classically oriented. It wasn’t until she went to college — “for like a minute and a half” she quips — that she began to experiment with improvisation, which would become the heart of her approach.
The songs on Anderson’s recent album, Mercury, sound composed. But many of them are first-take recordings of improvisations. Anderson would record herself playing for long stretches on a similar theme, then would go back to listen a few weeks later to find something that’s “the heart of what I was trying to say.” She uses this comparison:
“If you only ever thought out loud, you might come up with something really interesting, but it would take a while to get there. But when you did, you’d be like ‘That’s where I said what I meant.’”
The resulting album of hypnotic, twangy blues that doesn’t sound like any other music coming out of Portland — or anywhere else for that matter:
We’ll talk with Anderson about her prolific year — in addition to Mercury, she’s released an album of traditional songs and a split 7” with an archival recording of Elizabeth Cotton — and we’ll hear a few songs.