An Exclusive Interview with Branson Anderson

Could you share the story behind your latest song and what inspired its creation?

I entered my grandmother’s house one day in Salt Lake City and found my uncle waiting for me in a stance like an old gunfighter about to draw. He looked like Marty Robbins on the cover of his Gunfighter Ballads album. He said to me in a slow western-film way, “Well hello there … Coloradah.” I immediately started building this suave, solemn character in my mind who was modeled after the spirit of the Old West, only he was living in a more contemporary era. A motorcycle instead of a horse. A knife instead of a gun, et cetera. I thought about the character so much I eventually wrote the song about him. The song gives vague clues into his life and builds a legend around his mysterious figure. It plays on the romance and freedom of the lonely open road. I wanted him to be a rambler and an outsider, someone who didn’t conform to his society. But not for any sake or statement, only because he didn’t care. One element of the song that I particularly was inspired to incorporate was something Larry McMurtry said in his book “Roads”. He wrote that truck drivers were the last of the true cowboys. So I put a bit about the man ‘Colorado’ “skinning truck”. Skinning truck was a term I picked up from the “Grapes of Wrath” when Henry Fonda hops in the cab of a truck for a ride and the driver tells him “skinnin’ truck ain’t so bad”. It was a term coined when they switched from wagons to trucks for freight hauling, so if you drove a wagon pulled by a mule you were a “mule skinner” because of the whip you would crack on the hide of the mule. So the phrase carried over to truck drivers for a time. I’m hoping to bring that back with the song 😉

How do you approach the process of songwriting, and are there any specific themes or
emotions you tend to explore in your music?

With the song ‘Colorado’, I believe I had to words down before I had any music made for it. It was a matter of sitting down and forcing myself to complete it. It’s not always like that. Sometimes it’s the reverse, music first and words after. I sometimes have a story in mind that I want to get across but the themes and emotions present themselves along the way. They’re almost not up to me, like they’re conjured or procured from the song itself and I had little to do with it. I was just the medium for it to pass through.

As an indie musician, how do you navigate the balance between creative freedom and
commercial appeal?

I subconsciously recreate what I like to listen to and for the most part, I listen to a lot of classic, easy to listen to music. I haven’t ever really approached a song with the idea of, ‘what can I write that a mass amount of people are going to want to listen to?’ I definitely listen to music that a mass amount of people have liked so the odds of making a song that a mass amount of people will like is not something I’m against or would ever try to fight. But as far as setting out to consciously write one, I don’t know. I never thought about it. Yeah, I’d do it if I thought it would make me a lot of money. There are plenty of songs I can write for myself and release for anyone who would care to listen.

What do you find most challenging about being an independent artist in today’s music

Pressure from people who think all I do is party when I’m out playing shows. They don’t realize how hard I’m actually working and that I actually make pretty good money at it. More than I would starting out at some job somewhere.

Can you talk about your experiences collaborating with other artists or musicians? How
does it influence your creative process?

I don’t collaborate much. I don’t have a lot of experience collaborating and don’t have a lot of interest. I’d be open to it with some people but for the most part, it would be hard for me to find artists on the same page enough that wouldn’t kill my vibe.

What role does technology and social media play in promoting your music and
connecting with your audience?

Not a very big one. I don’t get a lot of engagement on socials nor do I have a lot of followers. My focus isn’t on social media but on interaction with people at the actual shows and how I treat them. I make sure all my news is up on socials for anyone who wants to see what is happening in my life but if I thought I could get away with not having social media, I would. I’m not creative enough for that though.

Are there any particular artists or genres that have had a significant impact on your
musical style?

Bob Dylan. Leonard Cohen. Tom Waits. The White Stripes. Johnny Cash. The big five.

Indie musicians often have a close relationship with their fanbase. How do you engage
with your fans and build a dedicated community around your music?

I keep a notebook of places with people’s names and little notes about them so I don’t forget them when I go back to their town. I have met so many people now that I can’t keep track of everyone I know, but I find that remembering a person’s name can mean a lot to them and I like to show them I care. I try to show them I care because I appreciate their support of me and that’s about the only way I know how to give back other than by making new music for them.

Could you describe a memorable live performance experience or tour that has had a
lasting impact on you and your music?

When I was a teenager playing in a blues/punk band with my brother, I went into a solo so intensely that without any thought whatsoever, I flung myself to the ground just wailing on the guitar like I never had. When I looked up the audience was crowding the stage, holding their wiggling fingertips out to me. It made me play harder. I had not experienced that before. Some years later when I was playing solo, I opened a couple shows on a weekend run for Sammy Brue in Oregon. That was the first time I traveled for music. I enjoyed it so much that I wept when I got home and had to go back to work the next day.

In an era of streaming platforms, how do you feel about the changing landscape of
music consumption and its impact on independent musicians?

Musicians get mad about streaming platforms today. I do too, but I love having Spotify, personally. Before streaming platforms were screwing independent musicians it was record labels and everyone would get mad about that but still want to be on one. If it wasn’t streaming services today it would be something else. Musicians are easy people to take advantage of. I can get mad about it or just go with it and do my best to get my music out there and try not to fall for tricks and scams which I do pretty often. I gotta hand it to the scammers though. They are artists themselves.