During nearly 55 years of making music, Eric Andersen has rarely delved into the realm of music videos — twice, in fact, and only one that counts to him.
The clip for his 2003 song “Under The Shadows,” premiering exclusively below, comes in conjunction with The Essential Eric Andersen, a career-spanning two-disc set celebrating the singer-songwriter’s 75th birthday. “There was one (video) for ‘Ghosts Upon the Road’ that some New York University intern students made,” Andersen tells Billboard. “I don’t even remember it. I don’t think it was any good. So this is my first ‘real’ video as far as I’m concerned.”
Directed by Paul Lamont — who is also making a PBS documentary about Andersen called Songpoet — the “Under The Shadows” clip blends footage of Andersen playing and singing with a number of ethereal images, including shots of his daughter, Sari, who duets with him on the song. “We said, ‘Since she’s on (the song) we should get her on (the video) too,'” Andersen says. “She’s kind of a yoga dancer type, very lithe, and she just really could move. She’s in Hawaii so they did her stuff over there and sent it to us and (the directors) put everything together long-distance — but you wouldn’t know it.”
Andersen still has fond feelings about the song as well, although he feels like it may have missed its moment. “This is a song that if I had any connection, it would’ve on The Sopranos,” he says. “The whole thing, ‘Under the shadows/Under the gun/Under the wire/My back to the sun’…It’s perfect, isn’t it. But it was never submitted. I think David Chase would’ve loved it.”
The Essential compilation, meanwhile, gives listeners a 33-song look at Andersen’s recording career. Though best-known as a writer whose songs were recorded by Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt and many others, he was signed by Vanguard during the mid-60s, debuting with Today Is The Highway in 1965, and has released albums steadily since then. The Essential touches on all eras of his career, and it features guest collaborations with Joan Baez, Dan Fogelberg, Leon Russell, Lou Reed, Richard Thompson, Rick Danko, Phil Ochs and others.
“A lot of these Essential releases, the artists didn’t have much to do with them,” Andersen says. “I worked on this for a year. Sony and I are 50-50 on this deal; I brought in half, they brought in half, but we got stuff from all through my career and all the (labels) I recorded for. It’s chronological, but I tried to make it like a regular album, like you’d sequence an album so it makes sense and really tells you a story.”
Andersen, who currently resides in the Netherlands, will play three California shows during the coming week — April 27 in Sacramento, April 29 in Soquel and a Q&A on May 3 at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Meanwhile he’s been keeping his own story going with a series of albums featuring songs inspired by writers such as Albert Camus, Lord Byron and Heinrich Boll and is currently working on a tribute set to Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Andersen is also working on other material, with a decidedly political bent to his recent writing. “All the writers I’m dealing with are historic anti-authoritarian figures,” Andersen says. “I’ve never been a protest singer; My work has always been interior documentaries. But if you look around and see what’s going on, these things just tap you on the shoulder. You can’t NOT write the stuff. At my age, I don’t care. People have to be vigilant and resist; I’m not afraid to say so. They want to come and arrest me? Throw me in jail? Torture me? That’s not gonna shut me up.”
April 27 – Sacramento, CA – The Side Door at the Fifth String
April 29 – Soquel, CA – Michael’s On Main
May 3 – Los Angeles, CA – Grammy Museum