Blues rocker Lauren Anderson brings the heat on new album ‘Burn It All Down’

Photo by MF PhotographyBlue-rock singer, songwriter and guitarist Lauren Anderson recently released Burn It All Down on September 9th.

Anderson was the only person to have written Burn It All Down. She co-wrote the single “Hit The Spot” with John Salaway and Adam McDonough. She Taylor Lonardo, who also mixed, mastered, and engineered the album, as well as the musicians who contributed their talents, were instrumental in producing the album: Matt Doctor, Hutch, Dan Wecht, Johnathan Smith, Johnathan Smith, Joe Douglas, and Will Elliot. Albert Castiglia, a special guest guitarist, is also featured on the album.

Anderson is a former music therapist and moved to Nashville to pursue her dreams of making music. She She is dedicated and determined to share her passion with fans.

What were your influences as a blues-rocker?

The Pointer Sisters was one of my first CDs. Their influences and styles are so diverse, I can relate to them! I was quickly attracted to any female singer with a strong voice. From Whitney Houston to Christina Aguilera

How did Chicago influence your music writing and recording?

I was most likely surrounded by music. My family was very musical and encouraged me to be a musician. My hometown offered many opportunities for me to sing, so I was able to join every choir that I could find. Those early choir days taught me so much, and I’m so thankful for them.

At the age of 8, you studied classical piano and then attended Augustana College. There, voice was the focus. The plan was to become an opera singer. So why did you switch to blues and rock instead?

I had a moment during my freshman year where I was with other opera majors and realized that it wasn’t for me. It felt like an out-of-body experience and was followed by immediate panic because I didn’t know what else to do. My heart was always split between blues/rock and opera, but I didn’t know how to turn it around. So I ended my education and started my own journey.

You have a master’s degree in music therapy from the University of Kansas. We would love to hear more about your career as a music therapist, and why you decided to go into music therapy.

Music therapy was something that I had always been interested in. I wasn’t yet ready to pursue my career as a performer, so I got my master’s and worked as a therapist in a Pediatric Unit for years while getting my music career started. My credentials as a music therapist are still valid, but I am taking a break to focus on my music career. I really enjoy advocating for the profession right now since it’s still largely unheard of.

How did you first learn to play guitar, and when was it your favorite instrument?

I stubbornly first learned the mandolin, ha-ha — only because “everyone plays the guitar” — but quickly switched over. I didn’t start learning until my last year of college and started with classical guitar. When I began grad school, I realized that I needed to learn a lot of things and I found a passion for singing with the guitar. It’s just grown from there since then.

Let’s talk about your new album, Burn It All Down. Please tell us about your background and how you arranged the track list. 

The title track is a fictitious song behind why Chris Stapleton is stuck in jail for 40 days in his song, “Midnight Train to Memphis.” It’s such a bold statement to make, too, although I’m not at all advocating for anyone to actually “burn it all down.” Once I had my title track, I pulled other songs that I had written that felt like they went well with it.

Taylor Lonardo and you worked together on Burn It All Down. Was this your first time working alongside Lonardo in that capacity? Please tell us about your collaboration on this project.

Taylor was actually my engineer and mixed and master it. Although the album was produced by me, I prefer to say it is a team project. Although it is my album and project, the guys I work with have great ideas, and it wouldn’t sound the way it does without all of them! This was the third project I’ve recorded with Taylor too, so I really love the way he works and the product we get.

On the album, John Salaway and Albert Castiglia make guest appearances. What are they bringing to the table for you?

Albert is an amazing guitarist and friend. I also have the pleasure of working with his wife, Michelle, on radio promotion, so I love the Castiglia’s! He’s on “Zombie Blues,” and when I wrote that song, I immediately knew his high energy, fun guitar playing was perfect for it. I was so glad he took the time to write a part for me!

I co-wrote “Hit the Spot” with John Salaway and Adam McDonough, and John was the one who came up with the guitar riff, so I knew I wanted him on the track! They are both incredible writers and musicians, so it was a lot fun working together on the tune.

The recording studio where the album was recorded and the recording process.

It was recorded at Taylor Lonardo’s home studio. I wrote many songs and then narrowed them down. After that, I sent the charts and acoustic recordings to my guys. We then rehearsed them all and discussed different ideas. We then recorded them in the studio. After recording everything, it was possible to listen to them and determine the details such as harmonies or additional instruments that we wanted to add to the tunes. We have now created an album.

Are there any lyrics or songs on the album that truly speak to you?

There’s a couple of lines I’m pretty proud of, ha-ha. I’m a Nashville songwriter, so it keeps me up at night trying to keep up. There are so many incredible writers here, so lyrics are something I’m constantly trying to improve. One that I was pretty proud of is in the second verse of “Burn It All Down,” where the main character is describing the terrible work conditions of this dive bar she works at, and the line goes, “Nobody’s gonna miss this place. That’s what I said when I pulled out the mace and sprayed old, handsy Joe in his one good eye.” Ha-ha. Another one is in the chorus of “Lose my Head.” The line is, “I ain’t sleepy hollow boo, but I will lose my head.” It doesn’t mean anything, and it’s just a fun play on words, referencing the headless horseman from the old story of Sleepy Hollow. I also shared a lot of truth in the song “I Know,” which is a love song to my future, unknown husband.

How do you approach songwriting? Where do you get your inspiration?

Sometimes I just happen to find inspiration. I will randomly stumble upon a line from a TV program or a melody. To ensure that I have something to refer back to when I’m able to write, I record everything. I like to pull from personal stories and experiences, but in this album especially, I wrote a lot of songs about other people’s stories as well. For example, the song “Soul is Mine” is roughly about the Robert Johnson story where he went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil for his guitar playing skills.

What do your fans hope to take away from listening to your music and what are their hopes for you?

My music is meant to inspire and bring out the best in people. I write details that everyone can relate to. I think music is therapy to most people, and that’s what guides most of my writing. I want my music to hit people with an emotion they didn’t realize they needed to let out and to also have a good time.

Which guitar do you use for songwriting?

The one and only acoustic guitar I’ve ever owned was the one my Dad gave to me in college. I think he said he bought it for like $50 or something, and it’s a Fender. It’s a good solid guitar, though, and is still holding up!

Are there any additional guitars or equipment you would like to have?

I’d love to get an acoustic Taylor. I think the 414’s and up have a pick-up in them that just makes any rhythm on the Guitar pop. I’d love to get another electric someday soon too. I am currently enjoying a semi-hollow Ibanez. My next electric is yet to be determined.

What are your top artists you listen to right now?

Larkin Poe is my favorite book. Grace Potter is a favourite of mine. Spotify playlists can be very eclectic. My current playlist includes Kelly Clarkson, Patty Griffin and Rival sons as well as Lizzo, Lawrence and Ellie Holcomb. There’s too much great music out there to stick to one genre!

What challenges have you encountered in your career? If so, what were the solutions?

For many artists, touring has been difficult. It is especially difficult to tour out of Nashville. There’s always a better gig to take, and lots of players play two to three gigs a day downtown and can make a lot better money and sleep in their own bed at night versus being on the road. As a DIY artist, it’s sometimes a struggle managing all the hats we have to wear too. But I’d pick this job over any other, even on my worst days.

Today’s young women in music are constantly looking for inspiration and advice. What advice would you give to young musicians?

You are the only one who can make your career a reality. You have to put in the work, find a good support system, and, no matter what, don’t give up. The other side of the struggle is success.

What’s in store for the future of your musical career?

This album is currently being released and I am touring for it. Maybe another holiday song, but I’m not sure yet. I already have more songs I’d like to release, too, but that may just be as singles next year. I hope to add more members to my team as we move forward.

Are you planning to tour in support of your new album?

Yes! We are currently putting together more dates.

And lastly, here is an open-ended question – music to me means . . .

Connection. We debated the reasons music has existed for so many years in grad school. It’s in our oldest documentation of history, and yet it doesn’t clothe us, feed us, pay our bills, etc. Music is what connects us.

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