It’s a Wednesday afternoon, and I’m at Mudhouse in Charlottesville enjoying one of the privilege of a writing life – coffee and talking with music right in the middle of every one else’s work day. Outside, Ellis Paul is having a clearly musical conversation with someone, and I am waiting for singer-songwriter Carl Anderson to join me. I heard Carl play this spring with another of my favorite musiciansPeter Bradley Adams , and I was very honored when he agreed to do an interview with me, on the day before he boarded the bus to Nashville to spend some time doing the music thing.

Carl Anderson
When Carl arrived, his hair askew in only the way men in their 20s can wear it and not look haggard or gross, I began by asking him to tell me about his music. He said he’s been doing it for about four years. “I graduated and realized it was the only thing I was good at and could do for money. My only marketable skill.” And he’s doing it – supporting himself by music alone and he even “has a place to stay,” he says with a smile. I can’t help but admire this.

This October, Carl’s “dream album” will come out, and while I haven’t heard it yet, I know it will be good. His music is a little like Tom Petty or Justin Townes Earle, musicians he greatly admire, but it also calls to mind a young Dylan for me – lyrically driven, story-based, thoughtful. This makes sense given Carl’s investment in the singer-songwriter idea rather than a singer or a group. He likes the stories more than the sound, it seems, and while he can sing and play, it’s his stories that hooked me.

It’s not a surprise, apparently, that I like Carl’s music since I am in his standard fan demographic – people 10-15 years older than him (he’s a sparkly 23, and I get the distinct feeling that Carl might not discourage young women of that generation from attending his shows.) Maybe it’s the focus on lyrics or the “focused attention” that Carl likes in his audience that lends itself to a slightly (with an emphasis on “slightly”) older audience; perhaps a few more years of life makes us want to hone in rather than escape. I’m not sure, but I do know I like what Carl does.

And so does he. He tells me that he loves most things about playing music, except finding people to play with – “That’s hard.” But his favorite element is performing. “I love playing music. I love mistakes. It’s so spontaneous. I used to do a lot of theater. I like to think I’ve incorporated that background. You’ve got to be present. People pay to be at a show; you have to bring them something. Joe Pug does this every time,” Carl says, evoking the name of his favorite singer-songwriter.

When I asked Carl what animal he’d be if he could be one, he says, “A Panda. I’ve thought about this,” and I don’t doubt it. It seems to me that Carl has thought about most everything. . . maybe that’s why I like his music so much.

And here’s what he recommends you listen to, his mixtape for my readers.
“Mixtape” – Tift Merritt
“GoodBye” – Steve Earle
“Don’t Cage the Songbird” – Low Anthem
“Disguised as Someone Else” – Joe Pug
“Tennessee Time” – Andrew Combs
“Time to Move On” – Tom Petty
“Last Goodbye” – Jeff Buckley
“Only Boy in New York” – Paul Simon
“Start Again” – Tex Thomas
“Move On” – Boston Voice

After that list, how could you not want to check out Carl Anderson’s music? I highly recommend you do so. You can find him on MySpace, and you can also help him release his “Dream Album” by supporting his Kickstarter campaign here. He needs to raise $5,000 by September 20th, so if you have a tenner to throw his way, it won’t be wasted. Finally, if you’re in Central VA, come out to see Peyton Tochterman‘s CD release on September 9th at The Southern in Charlottesville; Carl will be the opener. I know I’ll be there.

Oh, and yeah, Carl would be cinnamon if he were a spice. . . . great choice, I say, his music adds some good, solid flavor to everything. . . .