We talk by phone, Nena Anderson and I, about her winter vegetable garden. She’s been working in her yard, getting ready for the coming cold front. A single mother, Anderson works as a designer, a writer, an artist, and a musician. “I like to keep busy,” she says. This understatement may explain her peripatetic approach to music as well, for Anderson is multigenre. She fronts her own group, a rootsy band she calls the Mules, and is equally at home in front of an indie-rock group or a straight-ahead jazz trio or a country-music combo. “I like to keep it mixed up so the people who come out to see me won’t know.”
I ask which of the Nenas will show up at the Soda Bar. She laughs. “I like to keep people guessing.” Then she offers that she will be performing a full set of originals. We talk about the sense of dread and yearning she brought to her opening set at a recent record-release show. “I’ll do something like that,” she says, “but maybe a little more...” she pauses, searching for the right word, then says, “...pretty?”
Then again, Anderson, who is 39, says her songs are not happy as a rule. “I love blues. That’s the basis of where most of my music comes from.” But no modern blues. She likes rural gospel songs and farm hollers; plantation blues, in other words. “But half of the songs on my album I played first as rock songs, then later as jazz songs. I try to write songs that translate into different genres so I can do whatever I’m feeling at the moment.” Born and raised in Encinitas, Anderson likes to challenge her listeners’ minds. “My music? I want you to love it or hate it,” she says. No gray area. “Creating a reaction is very important to me.”
Anderson will perform a solo set. Whitehorse also appears.
Nena Anderson: Soda Bar, Wednesday, November 28, 8 p.m., 619-255-7224. $8 advance/$10 door.