“I didn’t want to come out of prison and be like, ‘I’m back!’ and assume people would be excited I wasn’t in prison anymore,” Kasey Anderson says in his first interview post-incarceration with MusicCityNotes.net.
The Portland musician’s successful career came to a screeching halt in 2014 when he was sentenced to four years in prison for defrauding investors out of $586,000 for an album and benefit concert in support of the West Memphis Three that would never actually happen.
In a letter to the court, Anderson said: "I am a deeply flawed and mentally ill person who made some terrible choices, causing so much emotional and financial damage to others. But I believe I have much to offer my community. I am so sorry for what I’ve done and want so badly to make it right. . . I lied to myself and others, and believing those lies, I told myself consistently that whatever was going on with me. . . I could fix it on my own. I convinced myself that it was normal.”
Anderson was released from prison this year and has started to rebuild his life, one step at a time. When speaking to Anderson, his remorse is thick and ego non-existent. It almost seems as if prison for Anderson became a much-needed haven of self-reflection and rehabilitation of self.
“Looking back, I saw the common denominator in the things that have gone sideways or gone south in my life was…me. Whether it was happenstance, drugs or relationships or whatever else- sort of addressing that, that common thread,” Anderson confesses.
And like most songwriters experiencing something extremely personal, Anderson was inspired to take pen to paper, writing over thirty songs during his time locked up.
“Most of them were inspired by being removed from my life for the first time, which was really good. It was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to me. It sucks that it happened under the circumstances it did, but just being picked up and removed from everything in my life for a couple of years was not a bad idea,” Anderson says.
A kid who grew up in the Northwest during the early 1990s, he discovered his passion for a music at an early age through acts like Nirvana and Mud Honey. It was through his parents’ record collection, however, he found some of his greatest influences like Steve Earle, Bob Dylan and Steven Van Zandt. And at the height of Anderson’s career, he found himself opening up and writing for songwriting geniuses like the Counting Crows and impressing at SXSW.
It’s been a challenge for Anderson to figure out next steps. As a songwriter, it’s nearly impossible to stop creating music, but he isn’t sure how fans will react to the idea of a new record.
“I wrote probably thirty-some songs while I was in prison. And then when I got out, I didn’t have any intention of making a record anytime soon, because of the financial end of the endeavor. I don’t really have the money for it, and it doesn’t look great when I have a bunch of restitution to pay to sink twenty grand into a record,” Anderson admits.
Fans will be pleased to know, however, that the songs are finding life slowly but surely. Anderson is in talks with Supersuckers’ guitarist Ron "Rontrose" Heathman about making a record together, and he’s been working with esteemed writer Peter Ames Carlin on songs.
“Ron and I don’t have a date to start working on a record together, but Peter and I are going to start playing together today and just kind of go from there. I’m not booking a tour, I don’t have studio time booked. I’m trying to take it one step at a time and see if the response is ok and if the material translates to the stage. That’s always where you figure out if a song works or doesn’t work is when you play it in front of people. That seems like a reasonable first step,” Anderson says.
But these days, he's got a new outlook on why he's doing what he's doing. “I play music because I love to play music. It’s no longer my goal to make music my sole source of income. If it happens again, that’d be really wonderful, but if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I think part of proving to people that I am sorry and I am remorseful, is keeping a low profile until it feels like it’s ok for me to poke my head up.”
After a pause, Anderson says simply, “This year, I’m just getting my feet back under me.”
Check out the rest of Kasey Anderson’s music here.