By Jeffrey V. Smith
Get ready to welcome 2018 while dancing. Anders Osborne, one of the most original and visionary musicians writing and performing today, brings New Orleans to the mountains when he performs at The Caribou Room on New Year’s Eve. Known as much for his “richly detailed” songwriting as his improvisational insight, Osborne is an expert guitarist with an “emotional” and “soulful” vocal style. His shows are also a lot of fun.
Although Osborne made his recording debut in 1989 and contributed memorable songs to other artists, he’s not as well known as others who have achieved the same level of success. In addition to his own music, Osborne wrote “Watch The Wind Blow By,” a number-one hit for country music superstar Tim McGraw, and co-wrote a pair of tunes on a Grammy-winning Keb Mo release. Jamband fans know the artist through his relentless touring and collaborations with the North Mississippi Allstars and others.
Named the “poet laureate” of Louisiana’s roots music scene by “Guitar Player” and New Orleans’ “best Guitarist” three years in a row by “Offbeat,” Osborne’s compositions have been covered by Brad Paisley, Tab Benoit, Jonny Lang, Edwin McCain, Sam Bush, Trombone Shorty and Aaron Neville and Kim Carnes, among others. He’s produced and played on critically-acclaimed albums by Tab Benoit, Johnny Sansone and Mike Zito. Additionally, his songs have appeared in multiple feature films and he is seen performing in an episode of HBO’s “Treme.”
Despite the success he’s found with songwriting, most of it comes by accident, or unidentified inspiration. “I usually just mess around on the guitar or piano, then if something catches my ear and feels interesting I pursue it,” Osborne said. “I might have a mood or a certain topic I’m hoping to explore. I also move my capo around a lot, or change the guitar tuning to find the magic.”
Attracting “musical admirers” including Stanton Moore, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Keb Mo, Phil Lesh, Jackie Greene and Karl Denson, Osborne has maintained a modest attitude about his work. “I am not particularly proud of anything I have written, but I really love the feeling of finishing a song or finding something that really resonates with me, then the journey of discovering what that is. And, finally, my favorite is to get a recording of a song that somehow elevates the tune 10 times. That simply is my ultimate goal and achievement. I hope my best work is ahead of me,” he said.
The musician is fond of the entire creative process when it comes to music. “The writing is the inception of what eventually becomes a crowd experience,” he explained. “I love meeting the audience and the feeling of anticipation that all of us have on show nights. The larger the audience, the bigger the vibration, but a small crowd can be more powerful sometimes. The key is to engage band, audience, crew, and staff too, all genuinely love where they are at that very moment, because then we all love each other.”
A powerful live performer, Osborne is known for both his musical precision and “letting go” when on stage. “I think most of my playing is in the moment, the precision usually comes with repetition,” he said. “Sometimes you wanna use precise arrangements as a way to achieve the right impact. The improve part is essential if you want to have a dialogue on stage and with the audience.”
Osborne’s expressive, soulful vocal style, admired by both fans and peers alike, is also something that has come naturally for the artist. “I think it just evolved that way after years of singing and a few heartaches,” he said. “I just hope to convey the lyrics and the emotions of the tunes. I try to follow my instincts and mood of the night.”
Even though the musician performs all year long he’s “stoked to see some friends and happy music lovers” at this year’s New Year’s Eve show in the former part-time home of his friend Coco Robicheaux. “Colorado is a fantastic place to make music. Everyone is so supportive,” he said.
The show at The Caribou Room, 55 Indian Peaks Dr. in Nederland, features Osborne with a full band. “It will be Brady Blade on drums, he is one of my all time favorite and plays with a relentless power and groove while always being sensitive to the song. On bass, I have Carl Dufrene who’s been playing with me for awhile. He is a beautiful, very passionate and precise player, he knows my mood and music extremely well,” he said. “On guitar we have asked a Boulder favorite to come jam with us: Peter Stelling. He always finds the perfect place to lay down a great complementary rhythm part. It will be a joy to play with these guys.”
In addition to his music, Osborne has a mission to help other musicians with sobriety, something he’s worked had to hard to achieve for himself. “I wouldn’t be here without my sobriety, it saved my life,” he said. In his first year of sobriety the artist had to quickly get back on the road to maintain his career. He immediately found himself back in bars, music halls and festivals—testing anyone’s resolve to stay clean. The impromptu support of close friends and other sympathetic musicians helped him pull it off.
With the help of Oskar Blues’ CAN’d Aid Foundation, Osborne went on to create “Send Me A Friend,” something he wished he had in his time of need. It’s a national network of “sober friends” on call to come to a show and offer a helping hand and support for struggling musicians by helping get them back to work again.
“I am blessed to have people like CAN’d Aid and Bill Taylor at the “Send Me A Friend” foundation helping and supporting the work we are all doing for newly sober musicians and industry folks as they try to get back to work. It’s amazing! Look us up and get involved.”
Twenty-six-year-old Andy Sydow—known for his songwriting, slide guitar and boogie-woogie piano chops—opens. The Colorado-based artist’s four-piece puts on a “blistering” live show featuring a mix of Americana, rock and blues.
Doors open and dinner is available at 7:30 p.m. The 21 and over show begins at 9 p.m. Tickets are $50, plus a fee. Visit http://www.thecaribouroom.com for details and tickets or visit http://www.andersosborne.com and andysydow.com to learn more about the artists.
Originally published in the December 2017 issue of the MMAC Monthly