The last time we kicked it with Jay Anderson he was just getting back from NOLA and had a bunch of stories to tell! Well, he has returned with more things to share and we were more than happy to chat and get the scoop for our CW fam.
Jay came back in town to record the album, Crawfish and High Life, which is about his experiences between New Orleans and Milwaukee (such a fitting title, right?). Jay’s experiences in NOLA have been nothing short of amazing, so much so that he knows he definitely isn’t moving back to Milwaukee. He wants to live in NOLA for a while then eventually move to Cuba. There are parts of the culture here in Milwaukee that he isn’t completely satisfied with, but it’s not really a Milwaukee thing, it’s more of a Northern vs. Southern thing.
“Walking past people on the street and they don’t make eye contact with you, or if you’re walking alone down the street and someone else is walking alone down the street, down South you say hi to people. You greet them and make eye contact whether you know them or not,” Jay says.
Jay wants to try to embark on the path of being a master musician. He wants to be able to know everything about his voice and his saxophone that he possibly can. He says Jazz and Blues is pretty much what started this country and because of the Congo Square and the transatlantic Slave trade in New Orleans, if you want to go to your musical roots, that’s where you go.
“If you want to learn French, you move to Paris. So if I want to learn Jazz and Blues, then I’m moving to New Orleans.”
Immersing yourself completely around the culture of what you want to do or learn about is one of the best ways to master it, in our opinion. The moment Jay feels like he has the ‘critical acclaim’ in NOLA like he has in Milwaukee, then he’s going to Cuba. Why Cuba though?
“Everything goes back to Africa and the transatlantic slave trade which brought people through the Islands first and then to the mainland. So after I get done learning what I need to learn from New Orleanian culture and history [of music], the next stop for me is Cuba or Puerto Rico because slaves were there as well.”
After Cuba and PR, Jay would like to go to Côte d'Ivoire. Then next stop Japan or Europe. So basically, y’all not gonna be able to catch up with Mr. Anderson lol. But his passion for music will always keep going.
“I don’t think it’s ever going to stop. As soon as I find another musical style I want to understand, I don’t care if I have to learn another language. I just want to emerge myself in all music. I’m just on this quest to find the rarest sounds. Nothing is enough for me.”
Jay said he’ll dig through crates of old records left behind, finding the stuff that’s not on iTunes or Amazon. Things everyone else isn’t listening to. Now this wouldn’t be Jay’s first soul search. The soul searching and the music are one in the same to him. Since he has decided to dedicate his life to music, if he’s traveling and searching for more then, it’s for the music.
Jay, so far, has written 4 albums of material in NOLA. He claims he can produce so much content because it’s such an interesting place to live as a musician. There is inspiration galore. Doing music full time in Milwaukee, damn near drove him crazy. He argues that in NOLA he has more time, and there are so many things that will spark an idea in his head.
“Your ideas are gold. All you have to do is remember to keep them,” says Jay.
As soon as he booked his May 3rd show here, (Performing with Stomata the new album “Crawfish & High Life” 7pm at Wilson Center For the Arts) he utilized his time to get the album done. Setting deadlines that nobody truly knew would ever work but have now proven to be quite genius. Feeling strongly about these compositions he up some amazing “local” talent, and asked them to come for a 1 day no holds bar session at Riverwest studio. Everyone he called did what they were supposed to do, so much so that they cut 11 tracks in 10 hours. YES 10 hours!
Sure, it’s amazingly insane! But why does he have such a strong pull here in Milwaukee?
“I was extremely fortunate and lucky. And because I know my lineage. A lot of musicians don’t talk about that or acknowledge it and it’s one of the most important things in any type of artistic career. The person who raised me in music in Milwaukee was David Wake. And I learned from Mark Davis. It’s a blessed and charmed life. Somehow I always ended up being around the people who were the real movers and shakers.”
Social media also has factored in to Jays unorthodox pull and success. In New Orleans the people tend to do a little research on who is “playing” in the lively and competitive music scene. They see his profile and say, “Apparently there’s a whole city of people who are like ‘this is our boy’.” Like him or hate him, he really has been a force in Milwaukee music industry the past several years.
With a new band, Jay Anderson and the Night Trippers, that has members that he admits are all better musicians than him, he is once again pushing his limits. He suggest that they all hold him accountable for his mistakes and tell him where he needs to improve. Which is why this method is more strategic then one would think.
“Whatever you’re doing down there in NOLA, if you’re around the right people, they’re going to correct you and help. I wouldn’t call Milwaukee soft, but Milwaukee doesn’t exert the same pressure that’s necessary to cultivate that kind of environment,” Jay says.
Shots fired? Maybe. But think about it, does he have a good point?
Even outside of music, Jay only wants to be around people who are conducting themselves seriously. Holding themselves and their your peers accountable. If you only hold yourself accountable, it’s just you against the world.
Like our Editor, Lexi said, “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” and Jay noted that “the best position to be in is if you’re the weakest link.”
Now you know we had to ask him about his label! Voodoo Honey still exist but has shifted it’s attention to just his solo projects. Instead of managing artists, if he sees that “thing” in you, if you have that drive and he knows something that you don’t, he’ll put you on game. But only if your ears are open.
CopyWrite was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of “Crawfish and High Life” and we think it’s dope! It gave us that down south NOLA, Louis Armstrong vibe with a balance of new era genre mixing that MKE is getting quite good at. The Crawfish part of the album is definitely there with the smooth jazz feel, and all the Milwaukee features and musicians added, brings it all home with the ‘High Life’. There is imagery, word play, experimental homages, and some vocals that we didn't expect out of Jay. It combines creative expression with experience, and pulls at the strengths of true collaboration. He really couldn’t have chosen a better title to combine the two things that captivates who he is now and where he has been. We’re excited for the album and we can’t wait for your show this week.
Thanks for chatting with us again, Jay!
/Carrie for CW