Keith Anderson was sitting pretty on the country music scene by 2008 as a promising singer-songwriter. His debut album, Three Chord Country and American Rock & Roll garnered two Top 10 hits (accompanied by two No. 1 music videos), “Pickin’ Wildflowers,” and “Every Time I Hear Your Name,” along with two Top 30 hits “XXL” and “Podunk.” This success prompted music trades Billboard and Radio & Records to name him country music’s No. 1 New Male Artist of 2005 and the top new solo country artist of the year.
It wasn’t just his music that was getting attention. Anderson was named one of People Magazine’s “50 Hottest Bachelors,” Men’s Fitness magazine’s “Ultimate Country Star,” and showed up in Country Weekly’s fan-voted “Hottest Bachelor” feature.
And it’s not just the ladies who fill the house at his concerts, he’s fortunate to also be the kind of guy’s guy that men appreciate.
“Watching my heroes, Garth, Tim, Kenny, George, those guys have a ton of female fans and a ton of male fans at their shows and I think that’s something that you develop over time,” he says. “Let’s face it, in order to have a real party, you’re going to need both”
Anderson’s sophomore CD produced the biggest hit of his career, “I Still Miss You,” which peaked at No. 2 and another Top 25 hit, “Sunday Morning In America.”
Taking the lead with other gold and platinum artists, Anderson decided to take hold of the reigns this time by launching his music his own way and letting the fans help drive his music and passion.
During that time, he wrote “Lost in This Moment,” which topped the Hot Country Songs chart at No. 1 for Big & Rich and earned him CMA and ACM Song of the Year nominations.
Anderson has also written and co-written songs for other artists like the Grammy-nominated, “Beer Run (B Double E Double Are You In?)” for Garth Brooks and George Jones, “The Bed” for Gretchen Wilson and “Barn Burner” for Jason Michael Carroll.
Then, Anderson disappeared from sight–it was something felt he had to do.
“A lot of people don’t know why I took time off,” he stated. “It was really for personal reasons. Right about the time I was making C’mon!, my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, and we ended up losing her pretty quick.”
As “I Still Miss You” climbed the charts, the lyrics took an emotional toll on the singer.
“It was a tough time to go through it and have to talk about it every day and sing it every night. So as soon as we finished that tour, I took some time off to deal with the grief I was going through. That was the best thing I could have done for me to heal.”
Time— and love—helped that process.
“I ended up marrying my longtime girlfriend, and we have two beautiful babies, which brought the joy back to my life. I started writing and performing again and have never had so much fun touring. I’m just having fun.”
Picking the pen back up was tough for the singer, but he’s glad he did. Writing also seems to be the place to find his strength.
“It was tough to reach for the pen again, because I was so sad, and it was such a dark period. I just lost that creativity and that desire to pick up a guitar again. But once I did, it felt like I was supposed to write these songs of healing. There were a lot of other things that inspired me and helped to bring that back. Then you have that joy and desire to get back out on the road and start playing again.”
Since he restarted his writing career, he has written for Love & Theft and Parmalee.
Songwriting was one thing, but performing those songs on stage again was something Anderson wasn’t too sure about. “I was in such a weird state that I didn’t know if I was ever going to hit the stage again. A couple of buddies of mine were doing some songwriter shows and asked me to come out and do some songwriter shows with them. That’s what brought the spark back—going out there, just me and a guitar and telling stories. It all came back down to the song—it doesn’t have to be this huge production. That’s what brought back the desire. It all just came down to the songs.”
That fun and attitude comes shining through in Anderson’s new EP, I’ll Bring the Music, his first new set in seven years. Being back in the studio was a welcome feeling.
“It was exciting to start recording again. We started performing some of the new songs live, just to see how the crowd reacted. That’s what the EP is—songs that have just gone over so well in the live show, like the title track and ‘Wild Girls.’ People really seem to be reacting well to them. They’re singing it back to me, which is always nice. It feels like ‘Pickin’ Wildflowers’ did at the beginning.”
But then this new song sums up the Miami, Oklahoma native who’s always excelled at anything he puts his mind to, from academics to athletics and writing and performing music.
. “I think I’ll always write about what I know and feel—and typically with myself in mind. However, I write a lot and I keep the songs that are really speaking to me when I’m recording, and pitch everything else to other artists,” says Anderson.
Anderson also writes with some of Nashville’s top tunesmiths including Rivers Rutherford, Tim Nichols, Chuck Cannon, Vicky McGehee, Jeffrey Steele (also the disc’s producer) and Bob DiPiero. “I wrote by myself for so long that it’s fun to co-write,” the Oklahoma native says. “I’m just such a social person that I love people and working together with them. Different co-writers have different strengths and I think you tend to tuck away certain ideas for certain co-writers.”
Anderson admits that he keeps his touring schedule and his writing schedule separate. “There’s not much down time or quiet time on the bus and there are so many things going on every day,” he explains. But that doesn’t mean that he can time those moments of inspiration. “I’m constantly grabbing my phone and leaving messages for myself or using my laptop to make note of something while on the road.”
There’s no doubt Keith Anderson is catching his second wind professionally, as the promise of more and more clever lyrics continue to be at the core of everything he is. As far as his fans are concerned, it’s been worth the wait.
Pioneer Front Parking Lot
Saturday, March 11. 7 p.m. (See Showtimes for tickets)