“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.”
Anderson has been performing blues and jazz in San Diego with various ensembles since 1994. Around 2006, she also began learning guitar. Since 2008, her various band projects have earned seven San Diego Music Awards nominations. A rundown would include Best Jazz (2008, 2010, 2011), Best Acoustic (2009), Best Americana (with Brawley 2010, 2011) and Best New Artist (with the Neverout 2010). Several of her records have been released in Poland, Turkey, Russia, Greece, Germany, Belgium, South Korea, and parts of Asia.
Among other groups she performs with, Brawley is a more country-ish ensemble, while the Neverout are a rock band. She has also performed with Lucky Scandal and the Many Shades of Sin (1993 to 1994), 47combo (1994 to 1998), the Blue Four, Nathan James, Gilbert Castellanos, Billy Watson, Danny Green, Blue Largo, the Jonny Viau All-Stars, the 3 Deuces, and the Golden Hill Ramblers.
Currently fronting Nena Anderson and the Mules, her voice is velvet, a rich contralto, smoothly able to change from a whisper in your ear to a howl, soulful, sexy and intimate. Her phrasing and stage presence are reminiscent of jazz greats: bluesy, reserved, commanding you to watch and listen.
Away from the mic, Anderson has been surfing since she was seven years old, she collects glass star lanterns, she hates to be photographed, and she has a cooking and food blog.
In late 2010, she began recording a new album at Transfer’s studio, White Horse Recorders, and preparing to go on tour with Cash’d Out, a local Johnny Cash tribute band with whom she sings June Carter songs.
Her subsequent all-original album Beyond the Lights was released in September 2011, on her own label Kalinda Record Co and partially funded via donations at www.kickstarter.com. Producer and guitarist Mike Butler has also produced albums for Low Volts, Stephen Rey & the Slicks, Silver Strands, and Blackout Party.
A video for the first single “I Fall In Love Too Fast” was shot entirely in downtown Los Angeles, directed by D. David Morin, and produced by Lofty Films. It can be viewed on YouTube or Vimeo.
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).
Her next single “Kiss You Goodnight” was released through Randm Records. In 2013, she self-released an under the radar album of live living room tracks entitled Serenade, recorded at Chaos Studios.
Asked about her worst gig ever, she says “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.”
As for her strangest concert, “At a show with Cash'd Out in Aspen, CO, I had a bottle of whiskey sitting on top of my amp and the band also had a pitcher of beer on the stage. A man got on stage and tried to take the booze three times before security got him. He was so drunk, he ran in-between the players and kept saying that he was going to drink it, because we weren't!”