New Orleans singer-songwriter Anders Osborne has been one of the most consistent musicians at his craft for over 30 years. Rooted in Americana, rock & roll and blues, his discography features over 20 records ranging from studio albums to EPs to live releases and even a collaborative album with the North Mississippi Allstars. Collaboration has been part of his artistic foundation with his resume being quite illustrious. This is probably why he’s currently on tour with fellow talented singer-songwriter Jackie Greene. Their expedition will be making a stop at the Greenwich Odeum on 59 Main Street in East Greenwich on Saturday evening with Jonathan Sloane opening up at 8 p.m.
Osborne and I had a talk about him moving from Sweden to his current home base, writing songs for other musicians, his two ideal collaborators and his plans for the rest of the year.
Rob Duguay: You were born in Uddevalla, Sweden but you’ve been based out of New Orleans for years, how old were you when you made the move from Sweden to the United States?
Anders Osborne: When I left Sweden, I was probably 16 but I was in Southern Europe for a few years until I was around 18 or something in 1985.
RD: Did you go straight to New Orleans or were you in other parts of America before you moved there?
AO: I landed in New York City and I had five dollars. It took me a minute to hitchhike out of the city and I was sleeping on the street in Washington Square Park for about five weeks.
AO: As I hitchhiked down to New Orleans, I ended up with something that’s called a driveaway car. You sign up, then you drive it to a destination and you can get paid or they just pay for gas either way. I was in a town about four hours west of New Orleans called Lake Charles and I dropped the van, it was a gray van, and then I hitchhiked from there to my friend in Slidell. I lived there for probably three or four weeks before entering the city to where my grandfather lived.
RD: What in your opinion makes New Orleans different from any other city you’ve performed in or lived in? What makes it special to you?
AO: When you live in New Orleans, there’s a lot of time where you stop and talk to people throughout the day. It’s like a small town in how the interactions between the residents is kind of a crucial ingredient in creating the culture and extending the culture. Rather than just going to work and just going to the grocery store, you may end up talking to somebody for 45 minutes while your ice cream melts in the grocery store. Part of it is etiquette, it’s not just that you love each other, you just do these things. If I go for a run in the morning, every morning there’s an older couple that lives on the corner of City Park Avenue and Solomon Place Street, or as it’s called Solomon’s Place.
I have to stop, I have to stay there and talk to them for a certain amount of time. That’s one, also the food culture is very, very rich. It’s a port town like New York City and San Francisco, any port town around the world I’ve been to. You get cultures from everywhere and they mix dialect, clothing, architecture and ultimately food ingredients and the recipes. That’s different, but to perform here is more about the moment.
That is changing actually, over the last few years we’ve been becoming more like the rest of the world. There’s the show, the lights and the presentation or the performance which is also important. What I always was drawn to while spending most of my life here and why I love playing here is that the moment itself is what’s important. People are socializing, talking and sometimes they’re quiet but most of the time they’re very social and they’re creating the performance with the performer. It’s in the moment.
RD: That’s very interesting to think about. Outside of your own music, you’ve written songs for Keb’ Mo’ and Tim McGraw among others. When it comes to writing a song for someone else, does it change your approach at all or do you write it the same way you’d do it as if it was going to be part of your own catalog?
AO: It depends. I think I have a style of writing that’s my own and I think it permeates through whatever I’m doing. If I write for Eric Church, for example — who recently invited me to come write with him — then it’s very important that I’m receptive and I listen to what he’s looking for so that we can write a song for him. If it’s an intimate setting like that, it’s the two of us writing. If it’s a random song they pick up, like what Tim McGraw did, I wrote it with nobody in mind and I just wrote a song because I like writing so that’s different.
When I wrote with Keb’ Mo’, it was more me than Keb’ but then Keb’ would adjust so that he could make it his. It varies from person to person and situation to situation. Overall, I usually stay very centered in what my contribution is, which is being myself.
RD: Along with Keb’ Mo’, you’ve collaborated with Galactic, Toots & The Maytals, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes and Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead to name a few. If you had to pick anyone, dead or alive, to do a record with, write a song with or just jam with who would it be?
AO: There’s two: John Coltrane and Bob Marley. Bob Marley because I think his compositions, his recordings, his message and his melodies don’t have a single flaw. There’s not a single flaw in anything that he presented all the way down to the sound of the bass. It’s just a remarkable feat what he has done. That’s as an objective listener, I’m not a reggae fan per say but there are very few people that in my eyes have created something so unanimously considered to be good stuff.
Coltrane because I identify in my heart very much with his searching, his flaws and his attempt to find the notes within the notes. I think he was a groundbreaker when it came to that part and I love it.
RD: Those are two great answers. After this tour with Jackie Greene, what are your plans for the second half of the year? Do you have any more collaborations? Do you plan on writing a new record?
AO: I am going to Europe in July, I’m going to visit my mother’s grave and I’m also going to tour for a couple weeks in Italy. I haven’t been there since 2003 so I’m excited to bring my wife. We’re going to eat some good food and I’m gonna play a little bit of music. Then I got a rock & roll record being released in the fall. It was something I did before the pandemic that we just finished up and it’s been kind of sitting there. Then I’ll do a little bit of touring around that. I’m not a huge tour guy, I’ve toured a lot in my years but it’s not something I want to do too much of. I’m gonna go out behind that record, make a little money and meet people who like my music.
I got a few other things, Jackie and I are going to do some more stuff on the West Coast but those dates haven’t been nailed down. I’m also starting two other records this summer, one in production and another as my own as a little side project but it’s very loose. It’s just something for myself, but that’s the plan and hopefully some family time as well.