Standing outside a North Jersey bar on a Saturday night, you might hear the wild guitar solo on “Voodoo Child” and think, “Is Jimi Hendrix back from the dead?” But go inside the bar and see who’s really tearing it up: 21-year-old Jimi Anderson.
Hailing from North Jersey, the Jimi Anderson Band, playing primarily blues-based guitar-driven rock, has been performing at small bars and clubs for a little over a year. But Anderson is no stranger to the stage – he was just 14 for his first club appearance. He has been part of almost 10 different groups with assorted bandmates ranging from peers to professionals.
Anderson, a junior songwriting major at Berklee College of Music in Boston, has been playing guitar since he was a child. “I know there’s video somewhere of when I was three or four trying to play along with Mot?rhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ on a little plastic guitar.”
The many years of experience are definitely apparent when Anderson almost abuses his guitar from his intense shredding. “I’m constantly working on my technique, although when I play with my band, I’m not thinking about technique at all,” Anderson said. “The only thing on my mind is feel.”
Anderson considers Jimi Hendrix his primary influence. “Not only (are) his tone and playing the best I’ve ever heard, but his songwriting is just as incredible,” he said. “Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robin Trower are both close seconds though.”
The Jimi Anderson Band, featuring fellow North Jerseyans Steve Salerno on bass and Matt Yeager on drums, doses out both original material and crowd-pleasing covers of rock and blues classics such as Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy,” the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” and several Hendrix songs.
Highlights of the band’s live show include Anderson soloing with his guitar behind his back and using his teeth as a pick. “If I feel like doing it, I do it,” he said. “It’s a spontaneous thing. Some would call it a gimmick, but I call it putting on a show. If it was good enough for Hendrix and (Vaughan), it’s good enough for me.”
Anderson self-produced the band’s first full-length CD, “Landing Site,” which was released on Saturday night at a free show in West Milford, N.J. “I love and hate recording,” Anderson said. “On the one hand it’s great to put your playing and songs under the microscope and try to get that perfect performance, but on the other hand, songs and the band as a whole are continually changing, so making a record is really just like taking a snapshot of the band at that instant.”
Recorded at a private studio in Hope, N.J., “Landing Site” features 12 original songs, with all music and lyrics written by Anderson. “Practically everything” he hears or sees can find its way into his lyrics, as if “catching seeds,” as one of his Berklee professors put it. “Songs are like rumors for me – they start as a true and real idea and then spiral into something much bigger and more elaborate,” Anderson said.
Anderson began as a guitar performance major at Berklee but switched to songwriting in his sophomore year. “I took a couple songwriting classes and I really loved them. I felt like I could learn more about songwriting. It was one of the newest things at Berklee at the time and it was really appealing.”
Throughout the year, Anderson gives private lessons to young guitarists, finding clients through a music instruction studio and word of mouth. “It’s really fun to take someone who knows nothing about guitar or playing music and help them grow into a good musician,” he said.
Saturday’s “Landing Site” release party marked the band’s first acoustic performances of “You Can’t Hide from Love” and “The Road to Rockaway,” which appear on the CD. “We have a very open-minded audience and we thought we’d try it out. The response was great.”
“Landing Site” is on sale at all shows and through the band’s Web site, jimiandersonband.com. “Our No. 1 objective is to get our music out to as many people as possible and hopefully get those people to come to shows,” Anderson said.
Fans of classic rock and blues should check out the Jimi Anderson Band. You’ll be sure to experience good jams, good music and a good vibe. Anderson admits, “Nothing makes me feel better than performing and making a room full of people happy at the same time.”