Rusty Anderson

An interview with Paul McCartney guitarist, Rusty Anderson
by Tina Hall
November 2010

Rusty Anderson with Paul McCartney

Rusty Anderson with Paul McCartney

Rusty Anderson developed a love of music at an early age. He was given his first electric guitar when he was 8. His passion for music led him to form his first band, Eulogy, at the age of 13, where he also worked as the primary co-songwriter. The hard rock band was together for six years.During that time they opened for bands like The Police, Van Halen, Quiet Riot, and the Motels. Though they did earn an audition with Clive Davis at for Arista Records, the band was never signed. He later went on to form The Living Daylights, a progressive rock band that gave Anderson his first chance to work as the primary songwriter.

Later still he co-founded the band Ednaswap, which released four records on East West/Elektra Records. Natalie Imbruglia had a hit with her cover of their song “Torn”. After the band disbanded in 1999 Rusty went on to work in the studio for some rather impressive artists. Elton John, Willie Nelson, The Wallflowers, Jewel, Santana, Stevie Nicks, and Joe Cocker were just a few of the musicians he worked with. Rusty joined Paul McCartney on the album “Driving Rain”. The tour in support of the album found Anderson playing at venues like The Coliseum in Rome and Red Square in Russia. He is also a solo artist. His debut album, “Undressing Underwater”, has the track “Hurt Myself” which features Paul McCartney and the other members of The Paul McCartney Band.

His latest solo effort “Born on Earth” is available now. He also continues to work with artists like Regina Spektor, Gwen Stefani, Nelly Furtado, Corinne Bailey Rae, Ozzy Osbourne, Neil Diamond, and Matthew Sweet.

Maximum Ink: Can you tell us a little about where you are from, how that has made you who you are, and what makes you tick?
Rusty Anderson: I grew up in La Habra, CA. Which is north Orange County. Sort of an anywheresville kinda place. When I was 5 I heard my older sister playing Beatles records and I instantly knew that music was my passion. It was right around the time my older brother died of a kidney issue (he was 19 and I was 5). Looking back I think that the ethereal, ineffable, invincible fantasy aspect of music was a way to escape the sadness of real life. My dad gave me my first electric guitar at age 8. It was a Kent guitar and little amp. I wish I still had it. I started a band with my friends and have been in one pretty much ever since. I’ve always been more interested in music and art that is unique, colorful and inspired as opposed to most of the mainstream, ubiquitous and predictable stuff, and have been on a constant search for that ever since. Although sometimes the most simple seemingly generic chord progressions can make the most amazing songs…it’s an enigma!

MI: I read somewhere you used to blow holes in your backyard with homemade fireworks as a child? 
RA:  I found an old book at the house called “magic with chemistry”. My mom was head of the cal tech aeronautics library and my dad was an aerospace engineer so there were lots of techie books around the house. I tried all the experiments in the book and then kept going from there. My parents would sign for all these crazy chemicals and volatile substances….I have no idea why they did but I loved it. I made rockets, things that shot sparks in the air, exploding metallic sodium cauldrons and banana bombs. Actually, the police hauled me down to the station for the banana bomb. I still have a scar on my leg from something exploding in my pocket!
MI: If you could have any model of guitar what would it be and why?
RA: I mostly play 335’s and Trini Lopez’s. The great ones have a magical, ethnic, banjo-y mid-range that I love, awesome tonal qualities. I own many guitars and love them all in different ways but constantly switching guitars is a distraction from playing music. Your hands intuitively know where to go on a familiar instrument.

MI: Do you have your own model?
RA: Actually Gibson has made a fantastic prototype of a new Rusty Anderson model. It’s basically a replica of my ‘59 blonde 335. I love it, although, we’re still making a few small tweaks.

MI: What brands do you endorse and why do you prefer to use them?
RA: Gibson. I like the way they sound with other instruments whether it’s in studio or live. The best Gibsons have a sweet mid-range, solid bass and pleasant high end.

MI: What gear do you like to use on the road and why?
RA: I like Divided By 13 amps because they are the closest thing I’ve found to an old amp without the maintenance issues. I own lots of old amps that I’ve collected over the years. I use them sometimes for different sounds in the studio but mostly it’s the Divided By 13s.

MI: You gave up guitar lessons at age 8 and later picked it back up forming you first band at the age of 13. What led you to reconsider being a guitarist?
RA:  I never stopped playing I just stopped taking lessons after the first few. I hated them and refused to go. I wanted to play the music I loved and felt violated by the combination of connecting the guitar to notes on a page and little dumb songs. I learned by reading books and watching others play. Then I studied records and that was really great for ear training and hearing intervals.

MI: Did you pick up lessons later on or are you mainly self taught? What advice would you offer people wishing to learn guitar?
RA: I was self taught for the first seven years then studied a little jazz guitar. I backed off from that for a few years and then briefly studied some classical and jazz in college. I love learning new pieces of music and then always feel like I’m not doing enough of that.

MI: How do you like to warm up for the live shows?
RA: With Paul, we do a long soundcheck so that really helps. It becomes more about timing dinner, meeting guests, getting dressed, etc. We also sing a bit then do a huddle/prayer thingy which is a great way to connect everyone’s spirit. With my band it’s usually more commando. We’ll do a soundcheck and make sure everything’s sorted then just get up and play.

MI: What was it like to be asked to join Paul McCartney’s band? Were you a fan of his as a child?
RA: Absolutely. The Beatles were the reason I started playing music in the first place as a kid. So when producer David Kahne asked if I wanted to play on Paul’s record I was obviously very excited…..almost in disbelief. Now here it is almost a decade later and I think we’re playing better than ever as band.

MI: How did it feel to work with McCartney on the album Driving Rain and then go on a 100 city tour? What was it like to perform at the Roman Colosseum and the Red Square?
RA: It’s an incredible feeling…...a magnificent, out of control buzz. At the same time, there is a very comfortable and familiar feeling. That’s something that happens after so many experiences together as a band. It’s so freaky to think about being a young musician with a dream and now I get to actually live it. Having said that, it is a nonstop reality that I don’t think I would have been ready for earlier. I’m quite introverted by nature so learning to exercise my social muscle, for example, has been a challenge. I feel very, very lucky to be a part of all those huge concert events. You can’t really contain the experience of something like that. Live music has the amazing quality of being untouchable, invisible and ineffable so it’s such a treat to create it in that environment - to share it with so many people. Our best gigs have probably been some of the lower pressure shows.

MI: Is it difficult to work with Paul and pursue your own solo career? How is working with Paul different from running your solo projects?
RA: He’s very supportive so that makes it fun. I’ve always written songs and been in bands so recording my own records is a very natural thing to do. Creating art is such a mystical, sacred experience. The balance between doing my own band and playing with Paul is unbeatable, really. It gets a bit hectic but that’s a quality problem, right?

MI: What was it like to work with Steven Tyler?
RA: Amazing. He’s a singing machine! We did a super-fun live set and then had a fantastic rock star yacht excursion in the Bahamas the next day. He’s got such a cool voice and is a charmer.

MI: Who are some of your favorite guitarists and why?
RA: Jimi Hendrix - especially Axis: Bold As Love. I consider that my guitar bible. Also Mick Ronson, Jeff Beck, Adrian Belew, Steve Hackett, Mark Goldenberg, Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce as a team. Robbie Krieger, Johnny Greenwood, Ken Williams, Tony Iommi, Pete Townsend and Keith Richards. I also love technical guitarists like Christopher Parkening, Paco de Lucia and Eddie Van Halen. Blues players Albert Collins and Skip James are awesome. I worship Debussy, Gershwin, Rachmaninoff and Satie. You may say I have eclectic tastes.

MI: What song is your favorite to play?
RA:  It’s really engaging for me to play the songs from my record born on earth live with my band. The tunes are fairly fresh so there is a fair amount of reinvention going on especially in “Under A White Star” and “Baggage Claim.”

MI: Can you tell us a little about your solo album Born On Earth?
RA: Well, it’s a guitar-based, vocal and song-based record. There is a lyrical theme reflecting on how we live our technology entangled lives and how a bird’s eye view of our planet may appear to aliens. It’s also a personal record. Sonically and lyrically I just followed my muse where it wanted to go basically. There are lots of varied guitar tones. I also played hammer dulcimer, Chamberlin, harmonica. I stayed away from drum machines and samples. I wanted to keep it more on the organic side.

MI: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
RA: Yes, thanks for all your encouraging messages!

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