Anderson East had been working relentlessly on his fifth studio album when, out of nowhere, a pandemic showed up and took a cruel hold on the entire world.
And it left the Alabama native in a somewhat precarious place.
“Those first few weeks of quarantine were this crazy period of self analyzing,” the GRAMMY® Award nominated singer-songwriter admits during a recent interview with American Songwriter from his home in Nashville. “I was in this phase where I wondered if it was all garbage or if anything was worth keeping.”
But before that feeling could take hold of his heart, he stopped.
And he listened.
And he learned.
“I’m going to butcher this quote,” East laughs. “But Tom Waits once said something to the effect that its ok to have a downtime. It’s like a rest in music. It’s just a time to wait to start again. That is ringing true for me. Before all of this, I was fixated on making something everyday and hustling everyday. Now, I’m more reflective and I’m beginning to realize what being a human being really means. It’s a nice reset.”
Nevertheless, East is cognizant of the fact that he still wrestles with a restless mind, a mind that is constantly trying to find ways of emptying out on the blank page, a mind that continues to create a style of music that stands out from all the rest.
Even a pandemic can’t erase that.
So, East went back to work, and created a series titled Isolation Collective Sessions. Alongside his bandmates, East was featured in a split-screen visual video, highlighting each of their talents up close and performing songs such as “House is a Building” from his acclaimed 2018 album ENCORE
“It’s been a really good lesson in letting go,” says East, who also recently collaborated with Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance. “It’s also been a good lesson in the one and done mentality. It’s ok to do something in one take and put it out. I mean, you work on a record relentlessly and you become hyper analytical about how one word sounds and you are meticulously anal about all of it, and then you do this kind of thing in one take with a cell phone and you move on. It’ s been totally liberating.”
And his fans seem to like the videos.
At least he thinks they do.
“I’m not a big comments person,” admits East, who has been catching up on a relentless stack of books long left idle while he was living his life on the road. “I mean, I hope people are digging it because its been fun for me.”
But if East is being honest with himself, he would admit that he is looking forward to slowly going back to a place in which him and his fellow collaborators can come together and create some musical magic.
“I’m a super collaborative person, so I’m really excited to get back to being with people in a room,” admits East, who continues to invite fans to donate to MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund, which supports artists affected by the global pandemic and in need of support. “The videos have been awesome for my appetite to make music with my friends. But there is something to be said about how people react to other people in the same environment. The technology is amazing and all, but I miss the physicality of it all. It’s the glue that makes it all come together.”
He’s also a tad hesitant about what that future looks like.
“Having a platform taken away is no one’s fault, and I’m very optimistic in general about it all,” East says. “Things wont be back exactly like they were in the glory days, but I think this is all going to breed a level of creativity that we haven’t seen. You have do do certain things out of necessity right now, from virtual concerts to making sure that you provide some sort of engaging experience to every listener. We have to basically have a radical acceptance of a new landscape, and we need to be permeable and be able to adjust. It’s an opportunity in a lot of ways.”
“It’s terrifying, but it’s exciting too.”