With a voice and style that echoes the past, yet possessing a unique contemporary flair, Nena Anderson is a gal who will steal your heart and give it back ever-so-gently. The singer-songwriter blends a variety of styles on her solo album, Beyond The Lights. Her tunes offer lovelorn tales full of character crafted by her lush vocals and backed by layers of instruments. To kick off Mother’s Day week (it’s only a week away, don’t forget!) I asked the proud mommy to indulge me in some questions about music, her little man and her drink of choice. It’s no wonder she’s been dubbed The Sweetheart of Americana- prepare to swoon! And check out Nena & The Mules next weekend at Gator by the Bay – performing Saturday May 12 at 2:50pm. Take your mom!
1. You play a lot of styles of music: Americana, alt-country, etc: what type of music is closest to your heart and what is your favorite to play live?
Americana is closest to my heart. It truly is a mixture of all styles of American roots music, so I get my fix of blues, jazz, country, folk, and rock all in one. For that same reason it’s also my favorite to play live. I love shows that are loud, high energy and rocking with the band, but at the same time there is a special intimacy and connection I make with people when I play solo…Americana allows me to play what fits the setting (or my mood) at the time.
2. Your sound gets compared to some incredible souls of the past- I hear a blues-tinged Patsy Cline. Who are your biggest influences of the past and contemporary inspirations?
My biggest influences of the past are many and across every genre of music. Mostly I’m moved by song interpretation and delivery…real emotion and story-telling within the music, not just the lyric. I love Dinah Washington, Etta James, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Big Maybelle, Patsy Cline and Louvin Brothers, and Johnny Cash. At the same time I am equally inspired and influenced by bands like The Blasters, X, The Pretenders (first 2 albums) and The Byrds. Lately, I think most of my inspirations come from the musicians I get to work with and am surrounded by…great creative energy and interaction.
3. How does being a mother affect your lifestyle as a musician and your creative process?
It’s really healthy. I think that if I didn’t have my son at home depending on me, I’d probably do a lot more drinking! He also inspires me to work hard…it’s important to me to teach him that he can be successful in pursuing his dreams if he works and learns. He is my priority over everything and sometimes it is difficult to leave him when I’m touring or have shows. As for the creative process…I don’t get much done when he’s around, but he inspires me plenty with his wonderment of discovering new things, his openness, and his sense of humor.
4. In addition to crafting tunes, you also keep a food blog with fun recipes like Happy Cakes (aka cupcakes with whiskey)- which of your songs goes best with a happy cake? What do you like to listen to while you cook? What dish would you pair with “Sink or Swim” (my personal favorite)?
Cooking is my favorite way to share happiness. Who doesn’t love good food? With Happy Cakes, I would say “One More” would be the best song. I don’t usually listen to music while I cook, but I do often sing jazz standards when I’m cooking or washing dishes. With “Sink or Swim,” I think comfort…mashed potatoes and collard greens, roasted chicken and cabernet wine!
5. What would you like fans to know about you that they wouldn’t get from hearing your music?
I love punk rock, music from the 80’s and Baja California.
6. I started listening to you at the suggestion of Al Howard of The Heavy Guilt- what other local bands do you have camaraderie with and what are your opinions on our local scene these days?
I think there is a ton of talent in the local music scene…I think there always has been, if you know where to find it. Al is a great supporter of the scene. Other bands? Stephen Rey & The Slicks, Low Volts, The Makeup Sex, Blackout Party, Old Tiger, The Farmers, Black Market III, Gilbert Castellanos, Alex Woodard, Nathan James, Steve Poltz, Candye Kane…are all extended family. I can’t name them all; the list is way too long! I love that there is such a community among most of the musicians here, supporting each other without being competitive. We try to work together to not only make better music, but also to cross-promote.
7. I saw you sipping Bulleit at The Riviera Supper Club- do you have a drink of choice at each venue or are you a whiskey girl through and through?
I’m pretty much a whiskey girl. Bourbon in particular, but you might occasionally catch me drinking an Art Snob at Riviera or a Mule at Starlite. Actually, my backing band was named after the Mule… (drink, not the animal).
8. What are you favorite and least favorite things about being a musician?
Favorite things about being a musician: hanging out in bars, camaraderie among musicians, playing music, connecting with people.
Least favorite things about being a musician: hanging out in bars, long hours, misconception that being a musician is more ‘fun’ than work (it’s both, but it is a lot of work for a little fun).
9. With the band Cash’d Out you’ve taken on the role of June Carter-Cash, what is it like to adopt another persona, particularly someone iconic?
It’s daunting. June was a fierce talent with a unique voice and witty, sarcastic yet sweet sense of humor. At first I studied her a bit and learned some of her songs and jokes, but in the end, I think the best way to honor her was to be myself. I received compliments from people who knew June, who said that although I have a different voice than hers, I brought the same energy and fun presence to the stage that she did.
10. What is coming up next for you and where can fans catch your next performance(s)?
I’m looking forward to making another music video soon and possibly an EP of a few new recordings. Upcoming shows are May 12 at Gator By The Bay Festival, May 31 at Riviera Supperclub, and June 3 at Fiesta Del Sol in Solana Beach.
11. Last but not least, the Five S’s of Sounds in San Diego
Sound You Love: Ocean
Sound You Hate: Screech of tires before the crash
Spot in San Diego You Have to See: Albies Beef Inn Lounge
San Diego Band You’re a Fan Of: Night Marchers
Song That Makes You Smile: Marie Marie by The Blasters