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It wasn’t so long ago that singer, songwriter and guitarist Hamish Anderson was hawking his undiscovered bluesy wares on Triple J’s Unearthed. Now he flits between Melbourne and LA, recording and performing with some of the world’s finest musicians. As he tells Greg Phillips, life ain’t so bad at all.

Many of us spend our entire life chasing our childhood dreams. The music career of singer, songwriter and talented guitarist Hamish Anderson is only just getting started and he can already tick one major achievement off his bucket list … supporting the great BB King on an American tour. Anderson spent his teens listening to BB King albums and trying to replicate his licks. So how did this happen?

Off the back of his 2013 independently released debut EP ‘Howl’, Anderson picked up an American management deal and was swiftly relocated to the states to begin a campaign to break internationally. Next, his US agency set Hamish up in a Los Angeles studio with renown producer /engineer Krish Sharma, who has worked with The Rolling Stones and Counting Crows, to begin recording his second EP, ‘Restless’. The sessions featured some pretty heavy hitting musicians such as Tom Petty’s pedal steel player Greg Leisz and Foo Fighters’ keyboardist Rami Jaffee.  Fortuitously, Anderson’s new American agent also happened to have Anderson’s hero BB King on their books. As the blues legend was setting off on tour and Anderson also needed to plug Restless, the moons aligned for Hamish to snare some support slots.
“Yeah being a kid from Australia who used to dream about it but never thought it would happen, It was pretty crazy,” Hamish reflects. “We got one show initially and then two. It ended up being … well it was supposed to be seven but he got sick and had to cancel some shows. He’s pretty old now. I got to hang out with his band though. The first concert in Phoenix I got to watch it from side stage and that was pretty cool. His band is so tight. It’s so crazy … I rented a Fender Twin for the tour and right next to mine on stage was his Twin.”

To most of us, Hamish Anderson is the new guitar kid in town who seemingly has appeared out of thin air. So what went down before he got to this point? Hamish offers me a brief history lesson. “I started playing guitar when I was twelve,” he says. “I remember going through my dad’s vinyl collection and for some reason The Beatles’ White album stood out for me. I had never really cared about music before that.  I heard Back in the USSR and from that moment on, I just wanted to play guitar and then begged my parents to buy me a guitar. Later in my teens, I go interested in songwriting and singing. I did some demos when I was about 17 and put them on Triple J Unearthed and they did well there. The first producer I worked with got in touch with me through that and that’s where it all started.”

Hamish Anderson car 2014Anderson’s upward career trajectory can be attributed to much more than luck. As I watched him perform at his Melbourne EP launch at the Ding Dong Lounge, it quickly became apparent that he’s the real deal. Hamish seemed totally comfortable in his own skin, channeling the spirits of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and even Jeff Buckley, yet putting his own modern day spin on the blues. His driving Telecaster flavoured version of the 1995 Edwin Collins’ hit ‘A Girl Like You’ was a revelation. For his current single ‘Burn’, he turned the tempo up a notch. Whether that was intentional from the start or Hamish was just a little pumped on the night, it didn’t matter, the song rocked to life on stage. The mainly Generation Y-based crowd lapped it up.

Not only is Anderson a talented, singer, songwriter and skilled blues guitarist but he’s also a great observer of life and is wise enough to listen, watch and learn from music industry oracles who know a thing or two more than he. Hamish watched and learned from members of BB King’s band while side stage at gigs, ingested Krish Sharma’s recording tricks and philosophies in the studio, and borrows from the best in regard to songwriting methods too. “I remember watching a Bruce Springsteen documentary and he was talking about how he would take lines from songs and put them into others,” he says in response to me asking if he archived song ideas. “I’d never done that before until I saw that. There’s a song on the EP called ‘Street Lights’, where half of the verse was from a completely different song, so that’s become an interesting way of writing for me, not throwing things away but maybe being able to use them later.”

Gear-wise, you won’t find Hamish straying too far from his beloved Telecaster. It has sentimental value too, being a graduation gift from his parents when he finished high school. “My main guitar at the moment is a reissue of a ’52 Telecaster,” he explains. “When I went away, I could only take one guitar and the Telecaster is the ultimate guitar. It’s so diverse that I don’t really want to play anything else.Telecasters are not as easy to play as Stratocasters, so it took a while to get used to it but now, I love it. When I was younger, I tried to use heavier strings on it but now they are much lighter because I teared up my fingers. A lot of the older guys like BB King and Buddy Guy used really light strings. That’s how they got their bends.”

Hamish hasn’t modified his Tele much other than to alter the bass pickup. “It literally sounded like a bass guitar it was so deep, so I had that modified but that’s all,” he says. He plays the Tele either through a Fender Twin or a 65 Deluxe. His pedalboard is quite sparse, a) due to the restrictions of travel and b) because it means less can go awry on stage.  “I used to be obsessed with large pedal boards but I have cut it back to 3 or 4,” he explains. “I find that any time I have more, something goes wrong … I’m cursed with technical stuff, always amp problems and stuff so I have scaled back. I have generally have a reverb pedal, a Mudhoney by TRex which is a light distortion, an Octafuzz, which is a heavier one and sometimes a Vox Wah but really, I like the more natural tone of just going through the amp.”

Even with his stripped back arsenal, Hamish is able to extract some pretty mean tones. The studio version of the single ‘Burn’ in particular features a deliciously dirty guitar tone. “That was pretty much Krish,” offers Hamish. “One of the main things I liked about him was all of the guitar tones he extracts on his recordings. He has such a great knowledge of miking amps and tones. Burn was pretty much the Tele into the Mudhoney into an old Tweed. It made me realise how important it is where the microphone is placed. Then he’d do some things that they did with the old Led Zeppelin records and mic it far away… have the amp really low … just trying different stuff.”

Once Hamish had a sniff of success, he was never going to let the momentum subside. Even the cancellation of dates with BB King due to the great man’s poor health, couldn’t deflate the young Australian guitarist. “I knew I didn’t want to let it get me down and lose inspiration,” he says of the cancelled gigs.” So the day after that gig, I got together with the drummer I play with in America. He has this little studio under his house. I felt like it was time to work on an album, so we started work on the demos. After the Australian tour  I am going to try to write throughout summer and then organise a few different studios and do some recording next year. There’s a studio in Austin we are trying to work out some stuff with. The album is definitely the focus after this.”

As we were about to post this story, the good news kept coming for Anderson as he announced he was heading back to America in January to open for latino rock greats Los Lobos.

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