Hamish Anderson is a 27-year-old from Melbourne, Australia who is a singer, songwriter and, most importantly, a blues rock guitarist. Having spent the past two years living in Los Angeles, he has refined his distinct instrumental sound. Now, ready to release his second album Out of My Head on May 31, Anderson feels he has finally cracked what it means to be a blues artist in the twenty-first century.
In an era where electronic music explores new innovative sounds, hip-hop dominates the charts and rock has taken a cultural backseat, traditional blues has not been an area that young musicians have delved into. However, no-one told Anderson, who possesses an infectious love for root blues and early rock. While inspired by the legends of old, he has set out to modernise the blues for today’s music scene.
”Everything I do always comes from the blues. That’s the roots of all popular music.”
As a kid growing up in Melbourne, there was no blues scene for Anderson to surround himself with. Even though events like the Byron Bay Bluesfest have been huge successes in Anderson’ lifetime, Australia is largely removed from the roots, tradition and history of the blues. He himself believes it is only the past two years spent in America that gave him faith that the world still has an appreciation for instrumental music. Being a century and a hemisphere removed from the origin of blues in twentieth century America, he experienced the blues second hand from old records, and also through those bands that reinterpreted the blues in the 1960s and 1970s.
“The [Rolling] Stones, The Who and The Kinks, all those kind of like very short punchy rock ‘n’ roll songs, the original stuff like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, I love all of it.”
He points specifically to The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers and Led Zeppelin’s debut album as two huge influences for him. These aren’t traditional twelve-bar blues bands, but rather rock bands that adapted the conventions of the blues. Looking back to pioneers like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson, they used the same melodic scales with modern tempos and instrumental effects to turn smooth blues standards like ‘I Can’t Quit You Babe’ into loud, raucous rock songs. He was drawn to the new direction and edge they gave the genre.
These bands, the ‘British Invasion’ of the 60s, were able to take the blues and mix it with new styles, diversifying the sound. Anderson states his first exposure to the blues was this second hand evolution. The eclectic song-writing, derived from root blues, of the 60s directly influenced Anderson’s comprehensive blues melodies, huge instrumental sections, and encyclopaedic use of rock, folk and soul conventions.
“I think the blues has always been most interesting to me when it’s mixed with another genre, whether it’s rock n roll or folk or disco or whatever, it’s an ingredient.”
Coming from this era of blues didn’t stop him from broadening his influences. As the last man to open a show for the late, great BB King, he has an appreciation for the legends, such as Jimmy Reed and Magic Sam. From here he saw how the influences of the blues on the overarching development of all musical genres. Now, he admits, he listens to all genres through a blues filter, including EDM and hip hop, hearing all the common notes and melodies. This has led him to appreciate contemporary artists that similarly use the blues as “an ingredient”. He names Gary Clark Jr, Alabama Shakes and Jack White as artists that he admires for how that have incorporated elements of the blues into diverse sounds. With such an all-encompassing understanding of the genre, he not only sees how the blues fit into every other musical style, but also how he can incorporate it into brand new music.
“I didn’t want to just go out and play a bunch of Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf covers. I love that music more than anything but I was always very interested in writing my own blues.”
The result is his latest album, Out of My Head. Whereas his debut album, Trouble, was, in his words, “looser and had more jammy moments”, this album is his attempt at modernising the blues. This time, Anderson is focusing more on the songs and the emotion of the blues rather than the traditional structure and melodies. With the blues as an ingredient, he has explored catchy choruses and tight hooks, leaving instrumentals and guitar solos as a second priority. Boasting what he believes are his strongest songs to date, the new album is an eclectic mix of rock, soul, Americana and psychedelics. However, this fusion of genres is grounded within the blues, redefining the music he loves so much and bringing it into modern times.
“Jimi Hendrix always said he made modern blues music for his time. That was something that always stuck with me.”
Out of My Head is set for release on May 31, 2019. Ahead of his sophomore album, Anderson is set to tour with Gary Clark Jr. later this month. Tickets are available here https://www.livenation.com.au/artist/gary-clark-jr--tickets.