“I was raised in the idyllic beach town of Encinitas, the daughter of a surfboard shaper,” says singer/songwriter Nena Anderson, known for her soulful vocals, distinct phrasing, and charismatic stage presence. “Blues players like to call me a jazz singer. Jazz players like to call me a blues singer. I am both and neither. I write a lot of country songs.”
Since 2008, her various band projects have earned seven San Diego Music Awards nominations, including Best Jazz, Best Acoustic, Best Americana (with Brawley), and Best New Artist (with the Neverout).
Anderson’s new full-length Beyond the Lights, her first solo album of all-original material, was recorded locally at Transfer’s studio (White Horse Recorders) for her Kalinda Record Company label. Produced by contributing guitarist Mike Butler (Low Volts, Blackout Party), the project was partially funded via donations solicited at Kickstarter.com. A sample lyric from the title track reveals a recurring theme behind most of the ten tracks: “When I’m here/ I let the stage drown me/ So that I can’t see beyond the lights.”
“It’s about how playing music can be the loneliest and yet most comforting thing at the same time,” says Anderson. “Like the blues. A sad song that makes you feel good.”
Anderson designed and produced the album artwork, with photography by Frank Lee Drennen (Dead Rock West, Loam, Hatchet Brothers). The Belly Up hosts Nena Anderson’s CD-release party on Wednesday, September 14, with Americana bands Old Tiger and Dead Feather Moon also performing.
WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
1) Etta James, Etta James Rocks the House. “Etta in her early years. This record makes me want to dance and sing.”
2) Crazy Heart, soundtrack. “The movie was just okay, but the soundtrack is great. I swoon for Jeff Bridges and Ryan Bingham.”
3) X, Beyond & Back: The X Anthology. “Sometimes you just need to crank it up and sing along to ‘White Girl.’”
WHAT DO YOU LISTEN TO FOR INSPIRATION?
“The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Gram Parsons and the band play soulful country music, which is a great inspiration when I’m writing songs.”
MOST EMBARRASSING SONG IN YOUR PLAYER?
“Poison’s ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn,’ but I plan to countrify it as a two-step and play it with Brawley.”
WHERE DO YOU GO TO RELAX?
“Swami’s Meditation Gardens in Encinitas. Lush, serene, and with an amazing sunset view.”
“The Mexican band Maná, 1990 at the San Diego Sports Arena. They’re like the Latino version of the Police. It was a packed house, and everyone was dancing and singing so loud that the whole place roared.”
FIRST TIME DRUNK?
“I was 16 and playing a beach-volleyball tournament in Baja, and we would drink tequila off the bottle between each serve. I don’t care much for tequila now.”
WORST GIG EVER?
“One night at Arterra in Del Mar I was singing with a jazz quartet. They had remodeled and decided to move us from inside the lounge to outside, next to the pool, in the middle of winter. We played for three hours in damp weather…must have been around 40 degrees. I was wearing two scarves, a wool hat and coat, boots, and gloves, and still ended up losing my voice for two weeks. We quit the venue after that.”
ANY FEARS OR PHOBIAS?
“I get claustrophobic in nightclubs.”
WHO SHOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE?
“Audrey Hepburn. Or maybe Maggie Gyllenhaal.”
EVER BEEN A CRIME VICTIM?
“I had my car broken into last month in L.A. They left all the good stuff — the stereo, sunglasses, a vintage suede jacket — but they took a bag of fireworks I bought for the Fourth of July.”
BEST EATERY TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS?
“Karina’s Taco Shop or Jorge’s Mexicatessen in Encinitas.”
THREE THINGS WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
1) “I’ve been surfing since I was seven years old.”
2) “I collect glass star lanterns.”
3) “I hate to be photographed.”
4) “I have a cooking and food blog.”
5) “I can’t count. I think that was four things.” ■