Interview ~ Kasey Anderson of Hawks and Doves

I received a promo copy of From a White Hotel by Hawks and Doves not too long ago, but I wasn’t familiar with the band. I listened to it, but was not prepared to be hit with came out of my speakers. It was powerful, emotional, diverse and refreshing to my ears. I did a little research and found out that the band was fronted by Kasey Anderson. His bio sounds like something from a VH1 Where Are They Now? episode. He had enjoyed success as a solo artist as well as a member of The Honkies, he toured nationally with the likes of Counting Crows, Steve Earle and others.

Then, a highly publicized crime sent him to prison for four years and many, including Anderson himself, weren’t sure if music would remain a part of his life. In March of 2016, Counting Crows’ frontman Adam Duritz asked Anderson to contribute a song to Fierce which as a benefit compilation for a friend undergoing treatment for stage 4 cancer. Anderson reached out to producer/engineer/guitarist Jordan Richter for help and that’s when things started coming together. The creative spark that happened made Anderson think that maybe there was still some fuel left in the tank.

That brings us to the release of From A White Hotel by Hawks and Doves on July 27 via Jullian Records. The album was a slow cooker taking roughly a year to record, but the results are delicious to the ears and soul. Anderson definitely has a lot of fuel left in his tank and a lot more to say. This is the kind of music that hits you hard; it makes you feel and it makes you think. With all of the “flavors of the week” that dominate radio and the charts, we need more artists like this. I had a chance to sit down with Anderson to talk about the new album and what’s ahead for him.

I will admit that I am new to world of Kasey Anderson and your music. Your new album is not a Kasey Anderson album, but rather a Hawks and Doves album.

Kasey Anderson/Hawks and Doves:My last records were either solo records that I put out under my own name plus I did two that were Kasey Anderson and the Honkies. This is the first record that I’ve put out that doesn’t have my name on it. It happened about over the course of making the record. I wrote all of the lyrics, but it was such a collaborative process. There were so many people working in the studio and so many people contributing so much that it felt really disingenuous to me to put just my name on it or to have it be Kasey Anderson and The (insert name).

I will admit that the first thing that I thought of when I heard Hawks and Doves was an old Neil Young album.

Yes, it was a Neil Young album but it’s also a government and military term. It dates back a while, but began being used more often out of the Vietnam conflict. The Hawks were the ones who were more war prone and trigger happy. The Doves were a little bit more on the side of diplomacy. Given everything that’s happening currently, it just seemed like an appropriate thing to call the band, plus I love that Neil Young record. Now, everywhere we go we have to tell people yes we are a band and no we are not a Neil Young cover band.

The song selections on the album display quite a bit of diversity. I’m curious if they were written before, during or after your prison stay or maybe a little of all three?

About half of the songs were written while I was locked up. The album came together really, really gradually because for a long time I didn’t think that I would ever make an album again. I didn’t feel comfortable inviting an audience to listen to something that I had to say after having gone to prison. Jordan Richter, who engineered the record and plays guitar in the band, owns a studio in town. We ended up playing around a bit from time to time and since he owns a studio, he would mic the room and roll tape. We did five or six songs that were written in prison and when we listened back to them, we thought that we might actually have a record. Then I wrote the other half of the record while I was out from right after the election of 2016 up until we finished writing around the fall of 2017.

The election of 2016 has provided quite a deep pool, in some ways while shallow in others, to dive into for material.

First of all, I think that anyone that writes and digs into that well would gladly trade any of these songs back for that not to have happened. I was really intent on not writing rhetorically. I don’ think you engage anybody by telling them how they should feel or telling them in concrete terms that this is what‘s wrong, this is what’s right, you’re on the wrong or right side of that.  You certainly don’t invite any new listeners when you do that. I tried to write less specifically about the election or this administration and more about people who may have been impacted by it one way or another. I think that invites people in a lot more.

I know that some bands tiptoe around that issue because they don’t want to alienate any fans. Was there any point when you thought you might need to pull back for fear of doing the same?

No, but one of the blessings of having gone to prison and being back is that I don’t really have a concept as to who out there is really listening and I probably won’t until the tour is over. This is great because I can say anything that I want and if people don’t like it then I am right back to where I started, which is not knowing how many people cared to begin with. It’s hard to tell sometimes if an artist is just being careful to their audience or if they just speak out in a different way than other people. I just wrote how I felt and what I saw around me. I didn’t feel inhibited by worrying about whether or not there would be an audience outside of me and the guys in the band. It would be cool to know how many are out there who want to listen, but it was really liberating in terms of working with the material.

The days of checking chart position in Billboard to see how well your album is doing are long gone. With this being somewhat of a fresh start for you, how do you gauge how successful this new album is?

I’m at a point where my hope is that enough people hear it to where there’s a big enough of an audience that we can get back into the studio and make a new record and know that there will be people who want to listen to it. I guess you can look at the streams or the charts to get an idea or measure of what’s going on, but to me it’s always been are people talking about it, do  people connect with it and are there people at the shows? The record comes out in July and if we get to the end of this year or the beginning of next year and there aren’t people at the shows and nobody is talking about the record or listening to it, then I think on the bright side. I’m right back to where I started in thinking I’m not going to be making music anymore and I can just play music in my apartment or friends if I want to. If people have heard the record and are talking a little bit about it and it’s clear that it connects with some people, then that allows us to make another record. I think that’s the goal of anyone who has something to say. To have it connect with people to the extent that the next time you get to a place where you have something to say, there are people willing to listen.

Well, I really hope that the people out there will listen to this new album because the industry needs more albums of substance like this. There are way too many flavors of the week. We all like a little bit of fluff in our diet, but every now and then we need some filet mignon to sink out teeth into.

Thank you and I think we wouldn’t have put the record out if it wasn’t something that we were all proud of. There are songs filling a space that’s not really being occupied very heavily right now by a lot of artists. There was a long part of the process where I was still up in the air and I didn’t know how I felt about asking people to listen to my music. The last three songs that I wrote for the record were ”The Dangerous Ones,” “Bulletproof Hearts” and “From a White Hotel.” When I brought these to the studio and recorded them, I thought these were songs that deserved people’s attention and I wanted to see if we could get it.

I could sense a difference in those three songs when I was listening to them and now you’re telling me that you did as well.

Yes, Jordan owns the studio but I couldn’t really afford to pay him for studio time, so we would work in there when it was free at some really odd times or we would work on days off when he didn’t have a session. So, the recording of this album went on for over a year. We had self-imposed a deadline on ourselves and there was no way we wouldn’t include those three because they’re the beginning, the middle and the end of that album and it’s sequenced that way too.

For me, I find that too many artists these play it safe and almost to a formula. One of the beautiful things about this album is that it paints with many colors from the music palette. Your sound isn’t confined to a single box and that’s very refreshing. It’s definitely not an AC/DC album! (Editor’s note: I am a big AC/DC fan, so don’t bother with the hate.)

It’s not an AC/DC album because I couldn’t make an AC/DC album. Only AC/DC can make an AC/DC album (laughs). I think that speaks a lot to why it’s released under a band name. We had so many people involved who brought so many different perspectives to this album. Also, the four of us who make up the core band (me, Jesse Moffat, Jordan Richter and Ben Landsverk), we all play a lot of different instruments. We all have a lot of experiences with arrangements and we all said at different points during the process ‘what about this? What if there were strings in this part?’ I think that because we all come from different backgrounds that nobody felt like ‘we can’t do that because we’re making this kind of record.’

If you listen to “The Dangerous Ones” and “A Lover’s Waltz” you would swear that you were listening to two different bands.

Once I knew that we had a group of songs, then I started thinking about how they would work together cohesively. Anytime that we recorded, we thought about what would serve the song best. With “A Lover’s Waltz,” if there was a lot going on sonically then it would really take away from the delivery of the lyrics. “The Dangerous Ones” is presented with a lot of stuff going on because it’s set against kind of a chaotic backdrop. The opening line of the song is ‘there’s a riot in the street’ and if it doesn’t sound like that then it’s not going to come across as well. By contrast on “A Lover’s Waltz,” the narrator’s emotions are really stripped away so to load it up with a symphony would have drowned out the message.

Dude, you’re heading into a crazy busy time of your life! You have the album release on 7/27, you’re getting married and you’re hitting the road just a few days after the wedding.

Yeah, we get married on 7/21 and she’s going to be coming out on the road with me. She’s a teacher, so she’ll need to be back and ready to work at the end of August. We looked at some options for travel and they didn’t make sense logistically with where we’re at and she said that we’d just roadtrip and play some shows. I tried to warn her to no avail, but we get married on the 21st, the first show is the 25th and the record is out the 27th. If you had asked me when I first went into prison that in five years would you think that any of these things would happen and I would have said absolutely not. I think it’s a testament to Caitlin and how supportive she’s been, but it’s also a testament to the rewards that can be obtained through a bunch of hard work.

Order your copy of From A White Hotel by Hawks and Doves HERE

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