Australia’s rock n’ roll heritage has long been dominated by one screaming blues juggernaut, affectionately known in their homeland as Acca Dacca (AC/DC to you).
With their regretful retirement comes a gap in the market for some good, ol’ fashioned, blues-fuelled rock n’ roll, and one young man from Melbourne is making all the right noises.
Hamish Anderson grew up in the Victorian capital, but always with one eye on Los Angeles and the same bright lights and rich opportunities that had called out to his hero Tom Petty decades before.
Once he made the journey to the west coast, things started to happen quickly for Anderson, a bit like ‘Into The Great Wide Open’ without the painful lesson at the end.
Landing a manager and a booking agent led to dates opening for heroes including BB King and Gary Clark Jr and a debut record that pricked up a lot of ears.
With his second record, Out Of My Head, Anderson has taken all the blues, soul, rock and Laurel Canyon vibes that he’s absorbed during his US tenure and rearranged them into a uniquely Australian take on American sounds. It’s an infectiously positive and sun-soaked experience that cries out for round sunglasses, bell bottoms and long drives on ocean roads.
We caught up with Hamish Anderson on the phone to chat about his American adventures and the musical and stylistic lessons he’s gleaned from his heroes.
What are you up to at the moment?
Tomorrow we’re heading to Canada to do a festival for a couple of days. It’s good to be getting back on the road.
How long has it been since you toured in earnest?
It’s been pretty busy this year. We’ve done it in two or three-week increments. We’ve been doing some stuff in Australia, which was great, and then we came back to the States and did a great festival in Memphis and some dates around there.
You’re originally from Melbourne, which is maybe my favorite city in the world.
Nice. Me too, but I’m biased.
What part of the city are you from?
I grew up in Hampton but when I’m back there now I live in a part called Elwood, which is near St Kilda. Melbourne’s great because everything’s right there. It’s a great place to live and I feel lucky to have grown up there.
It’s a multicultural city too. The city’s almost like a miniature version of New York. You can go out all through the night and there’s great restaurants and nightlife. I’m always so excited to go back. There’s a great energy there.
Was it hard to leave to go over to LA?
Yeah, but the plan wasn’t really to pack up and move to LA. I came over to do some showcases and I knew I’d be here for five or six months. I was just taking it as it came. The music I play is very blues-oriented rock n’ roll and this is where that music came from, so it was a great fit and I quickly fell in love with it.
I get homesick and stuff but I’ve had so many great experiences that couldn’t have happened if I was in Australia. This year’s been great because I actually got to play back in Australia for the first time in ages. That felt like the best of both worlds.
Did you feel a little like the returning hero?
Yeah. I was touring with Gary Clark Jr., which already felt like a victory and then being back in Melbourne was just great. We played at The Forum, which is a great iconic venue that I’d actually been to a whole bunch of times growing up.
Did you always know that you’d need to leave Melbourne to succeed?
I think it was always in the back of my mind. Because I love the blues and that side of American culture, I was always drawn to it. It was a bit of a dream to go to places like Chicago, Austin and Memphis.
Has it lived up to the dream?
I think so. LA is so different to Melbourne that I didn’t like it at first, but once you’ve been here a while you start to find your feet. I fell instantly for the music scene here. You can go out any night of the week and see some amazing band at The Troubadour that just kicks your ass and makes you want to go home and get better.
LA is the spiritual home of so many styles of music too. Is it exciting to be surrounded by so much musical heritage?
Yeah, it really is. It’s everything from huge rock bands to pop to singer songwriters to hip hop. It’s a giant melting pot.
Did you have a checklist of things to do when you got there?
Definitely. I got to go to Chess Records when I was in Chicago and that was crazy. I know everything about that stuff so it was top of the list. In Memphis, I went to Sun Studios and Graceland and then playing Austin was amazing because I’m such a big fan of the blues and people like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Vaughan. You can go anywhere in Austin and there’s an amazing blues band playing.
You’ve made both your albums with Jimmy Scott, who’s worked with an insane list of great bands, from Tom Petty to Wilco to The Rolling Stones. Was he someone you sought out or was it more serendipitous?
It was definitely serendipity. On my first album Trouble, I had started it with a different producer and it just went belly up. I was feeling very burnt out and flat. I was at a party at a friend’s house and he was playing Ryan Bingham‘s record Fear And Saturday Night and I loved how it sounded. It had this White Album feel to it.
My friend said that Ryan had done the record with Jim Scott and that I should meet Jim. The name wasn’t necessarily familiar to me but he’d worked on all these records I loved, from Tom Petty’s Wildflowers to Wilco to Tedeschi Trucks. Wildflowers is probably my top album of all time. I love everything about how that record sounds.
So I went out and met Jim and instantly any feeling of being burnt out or flat just changed. I went back and finished the record with him and it was a great experience. This time, I knew that I wanted to do it from start to finish with him.
The new record draws on a lot of different influences, but one that really stood out was Tom Petty and that brand of Southern, bluesy rock. Are you someone who deliberately incorporates your influences or does it happen a bit more subconsciously?
It’s probably a little bit of both. I definitely like to wear my influences on my sleeve. I take it all and put it in a blender and hopefully, it comes out as my own interpretation of it.
When I started writing on this album it was 2017, which was the year that Tom Petty passed, so I was definitely revisiting a lot of his music. I got lucky that year because I played some festivals and I got to see him live. He hadn’t played Australia in like 30 years so I assumed I’d never get to see him.
I was also revisiting all the eras of Fleetwood Mac – from Peter Green to the Lindsay and Stevie stuff – and a lot of The Beatles, which is what made me want to play music. I can hear all the genres I was listening to throughout the album.
Do you find that your personal sense of style draws from the same pool of influences as your music?
Yeah, it’s definitely the rock n’ roll thing. I love the Stones so I always look to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and the stuff they wore. Especially with Keith, I love the accessories thing, like scarves, bandanas and chains. I always wear a Cuban heel, like The Beatles.
Do you have a stage wardrobe and an everyday wardrobe or is it one and the same?
It’s not too far off. I definitely believe in looking good to play good. Over the last couple of years I’ve kind of upped my game a bit and now I have a suit jacket type thing. I used to not think about it but now I take it more seriously.
Mark Grassick joins us with over 17 years' experience as a journalist covering pop culture in the UK and Ireland. He's interviewed everyone from Alan Rickman to Iron Maiden and is currently a bearded, music-mad father of two and husband of one residing in London, England.