Prog Rock Icon Looks Forward to “New Musical World”

Monday, February 20, 2012 12:12

An Interview with Jon Anderson of Yes

by: Casey Pukl

Jon Anderson is one of the most recognizable voices in rock history. Long known as the creative driving force behind iconic progressive rock band, Yes, Anderson is now out on his own playing acoustic shows across the country. Anderson is giving fans a more personal glimpse into his life with his acoustic show, which is also peppered with stories about his life and career. On top of his current tour, Anderson is also busy writing and recording songs for a new album, and he is collaborating with writers and musicians around the globe! Read on to find out more about what Anderson is up to, and what you can look forward to this Wednesday night!

CP: Let’s talk a little bit about what you’ve been up to lately. I know in November you released an album with Rick Wakeman.

JA: I was working with Rick on the west coast in October and November. Then I went to Brazil for three weeks doing some shows down there, then I came home for Christmas— I got in on Christmas eve, put up a Christmas tree, had a lovely month relaxing and writing songs, and now I’m out on the road again!

CP: Sounds like a busy few months.

JA: It’s been a busy time. It’s going to be a busy year coming up, and I’m just happy to be singing and creating and writing and having a great time. It’s a great time to be alive. There’s a lot going on in the world, and music is very good for you. 

CP: I’d love to get into your writing process and how you get started.

JA: A lot of different things. I’m working with people via the internet using mp3s to write songs. Generally, creation is not easy to explain. I’m doing music for theater, for a video game I’m creating, music for an album I’ll be releasing later this year. I wrote a song for this group of young musicians that I went to see yesterday. It’s a beautiful set up for young musicians called the New Music Media. You know, you just keep working. You keep busy creating.

CP: You just mentioned that you’re working a lot over the internet. Have you found that technology has changed the way that you write songs?

JA: Well, it is the future, and you should really jump into it with the whole-hearted feeling that you’re creating something with people all over the world. There are times when you create with people inside the studio, and there are times when you can create with people in Italy, Australia, Brazil, and you’re working with people who are really interested in creating music. In general, they’re just very happy to do it. It’s not about money or business; it’s just about making music.

CP: How have you connected with these people overseas that you’ve been working with online? Have you found most of them online?

JA: Yeah, I think the internet is like the world’s studio. You can see them on Skype, say hello, and play music for each other. It’s like they’re in the same room. Most of us are on the same planet.

CP: Do you use Skype for co-writing?

JA: We mostly just say hello and play a song idea. Then I’ll ask them to send an mp3 of it or something like that. It’s good to talk about ideas we’d like to do, etc etc. There is a new system coming where you’ll be able to co-create across the world perfectly in time with each other. That’s when it will open up into a whole new musical world. All the music you hear these days, you’ve sort of heard it before. Pop music is like it was twenty or thirty years ago. But, with the new world music studio system, which will enable people to create in time with each other, that’s when the new ideas in music will come. It won’t have anything to do with record companies or who is in the top ten. It’ll just be an incredible influx of beautiful, modern, 21st century music. All of these things are coming very fast. 

CP: Have you been listening to any music lately that has inspired you? Any new artists that you’ve taken a liking to? 

JA: There’s always a song here and there. There are always great singers and artists around. It’s hard to pin point one. I watched the Grammy Awards, and it was good to see the incredibly big show. It’s a huge show these days; it’s almost like watching a movie! There’s always a great artist there. The girl who sang, “Mean”, I think she’s great, that Taylor Swift. She’s good, and of course, Bruno Mars. I’ve always liked him. There are always the artists that shine through. It’s great to see talented people get a break.

There are so many talented people in this world; it’s really amazing! It’s not just rock and roll and pop music. There are so many different kinds of music. I’m in touch with so many different talents, so it makes me really happy.

CP: What have you enjoyed most about your recent solo tours?

JA: I have freedom to do what I want, and I’m playing in front of smaller audiences of 500 to 1,000 people. It’s like being in my front room. It’s very different than traveling with a group. I did that for 35 years. It drove me crazy! Now and again I’ll go work with a full orchestra of musicians in Europe that I like to work with, but it’s more about music rather than trying to get a hit record or something like that. It’s just creating music. That’s all I ever wanted to do ever since I started making music fifty years ago. I just wanted to be on stage and sing and have a good time.

CP: With such an extensive catalog of music to choose from, do you find it difficult to choose your set lists?

JA: Not really. I always go for the songs that I hope the audience wants to hear, like Yes songs that I wrote, songs that I wrote with Vangelis, of course new songs that I try out. I try new songs that I haven’t recorded yet, I tell stories, and so it’s like going through my life’s experience with music. It’s about an hour and twenty minutes long, but it sometimes can go up to two hours depending on how the audience is reacting and interacting. I don’t want to keep there all night (laughs), because I could certainly be there all night!

CP: Sure! What are you most looking forward to about coming down to San Diego?

JA: I’ve always loved San Diego. I’ve always loved to do shows, and Anthology is a very nice theater. It’s always fun to play. I have friends down there. I’m working with a few people who live just south of LA, and they’re going to come to the show. It’s always a beautiful experience to come and have fun in San Diego.

Come on down and hear over fifty years of legendary music making this Wednesday night. Take a listen to our Spotify playlist of Jon Anderson favorites to get yourself in the mood!

Jon Anderson on Spotify

WHAT: An Acoustic Evening with Jon Anderson; The Voice of Yes
WHEN: Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 7:30pm
TICKETS: $18-$69 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artis