This April, New Orleans rocker Anders Osborne will mount his final tour behind his uplifting 2016 LP Flowerbox, with his “free flowing, sensitive, precise and high energy” four-piece lineup. The tour will take Osborne and company down the west coast before stopping at several southern festivals on the way home to NOLA for a slew of shows during Jazz Fest. Live For Live Music’s Andrew O’Brien sat down with Anders ahead of the tour to talk about the upcoming tour, his “Send Me A Friend” initiative to help musicians in recovery get back to work, and more:

Andrew O’Brien: Hey Anders, thanks for taking some time to chat! I know you’re a busy man these days…

Anders Osborne: The management and the booking agents, they keep me busy—I’m out there with all kinds of people, whether it’s Jackie Greene or Southern Soul Assembly, which is what I’m out with right now, with JJ Grey and Luther Dickinson and Marc Broussard. We have an acoustic singer-songwriter “in the round” thing which is really, super cool. You get to listen to all these amazing artists, sit up there and just kinda check it out from the best seat in the house, we play our own stuff.

[Photo via Jayne Tansey-Patron]

Andrew: …And you’re getting ready to kick off your own solo tour on April 5th behind your 2016 album Flowerbox. What can you tell us about the upcoming tour?

Anders: Now with the band, I’ve changed it up a lot over the years. But this tour coming up is with the band from Flower Box, the four-piece, two guitars with me and Eric McFadden, and Carl Dufrene on bass and Brady Blade on drums. The four of us have been grinding at it, getting in the center of the songs and jamming, stretching it, but also shortening some songs. This band tends to get a little more muscular, and we just kinda get in there—I don’t really know how to explain it more than that. We crank it up, with a lot of guitar, bass and drums. We like to see how deep we can dig. It’s more shovels and stones and rocks and dirt than it is spacey and stuff like I’ve done with some of my other bands in the past. It’s just a really wonderful rock outfit for me, and I love the way we explore the songs from that perspective. We get really intimate and tight, even when we play loud and dirty. We’ve changed up the cast quite a bit, but this tour is gonna be what I envision as the last hooray playing really playing Flowerbox, which is a true four-piece record. And after that’s done, I’m gonna start teaching and start preparing for the new record, which we’re wrapping up right now.

[Photo via Dino Perrucci]

Andrew: So is this four-piece the band that recorded Flower Box, or is this just the lineup that you put together to tour behind it?

Anders: It is the band, except I had Scott Metzger doing most of the 2nd guitar on the album. Right now he’s doing a lot of JRAD [Joe Russo’s Almost Dead] stuff, but he was with me for two years. So between him and Eric McFadden, those are the guys that you hear on the record. 

Andrew: Can you tell us a little about the new album? 

Anders: We’re kinda planning that whole thing right now. Without revealing too much, it has a slightly different ensemble. It has two beautiful ladies singing background on everything, and one of the girls featured on this is such a force. She’s just an amazing presence. You’ll recognize the girls, I think. I wouldn’t put them in the jam band scene, exactly, but they’re well-known names, especially the one girl who’s written all the vocal arrangements and stuff–she’s tremendous. So I’m hoping to put that together where I can add that to the bill coming up. Now, I don’t know what the other changes will be. Probably stay with a lot of the band, but I don’t know that yet. So I just want to be clear that, for a moment, this is the last big run for the four-piece, and we’ll see where we end up. We’re super excited.

Andrew: I’m sure you’re asked about this a lot because you’re generally pretty open and vocal about it, but a subject that is of interest to myself and, I’m sure, a lot of our readers in the music scene is your longstanding sobriety. It’s something that’s relatively uncommon and certainly difficult to maintain as a touring musician. What it’s like trying to maintain that sobriety in a work environment where mind altering substances are never far away?

Anders: My personal journey has been one with lots of fun times and partying and experimenting with all kinds of things. And it’s been part of my ride—it was really great. But there’s also a darker side to my addiction, and the negative impact it had on me and my professional life. I got to a place almost a decade ago when it was just time for me to make a decision what to do, cus I couldn’t continue that way—professionally or personally. I had lost everything. I didn’t have a career, I didn’t have any contact with anything. I was just on the flip side of those fun times. They had turned into nothing but darkness. So when I made that decision [to get clean], that was my first step—to get help, and kind of see if I could climb my way out of it.

I reached out, and the more people that, y’know, grabbed my hand and guided me and helped me out, it gave me strength and it gave me a lot of courage to continue in the music business. And this business is just filled with drinking, and drugs—it’s infused in the culture of what we do. So it took me quite a while to figure out how to get back out there without being scared all the time, and without sacrificing all the fun and all the musical endeavors that I wanted to accomplish. Once I got a hold on it, I realized that there is a huge community of people that are clean, and they do amazing work—a lot of them, because they’re clean.

Andrew: I was really moved when I read about the launch of your Send Me A Friend initiative late last year, and I’m excited that a portion of the proceeds from our upcoming NOLA Crawfish Festival, which we’re putting on with your friend Chris “Shaggy” Davis, will be donated to the cause. I was hoping you could talk a little about Send Me A Friend. Can you tell me about the initiative? How did it come about? 

Anders: So the foundation I started is pretty simple—if you’re in the music industry and you’re in early recovery, trying to be clean, we’ll send you somebody who’ll sit there while you work. It’s a clean friend who will come and sit through the show, they’ll show up a little bit before, and be your buddy, and that’s it. It’s not there to get you sober. It’s just there to keep you company while you work.

Andrew: How did you come up with that premise? Because, like you said, it’s not like AA–it’s not a program to get you sober–but it’s kind of a way to stay keep you accountable. I’ve heard it said that overcoming addiction comes down to setting up a system of roadblocks for yourself, so that if you do start to slip, there’s something to stop you–friends, family, whatever or whomever can help keep you accountable, help keep your eye on the prize, so to speak. And I think this is a really effective way to do just that.

Anders: The idea started with these two guys who I met when I was getting sober, and they said to me ‘Hey, you’ve got a New Year’s Eve show coming up. If you want to, we can come and sit.’ I was like, ‘What? That doesn’t make any sense.’ And they said ‘well, don’t worry about it, we’ll be there, we’ll come and sit with you.’

They just sat there. They didn’t drive me there, they didn’t take me to a meeting, they didn’t do anything. They just came and sat. Right before the show, they showed up. They sat on the side of the stage. They made a couple of blocks—some old friends who showed up and wanted to share some of their good stuff with me—and they were like ‘no brah, he’s good.’ But that wasn’t the necessary thing. The point that stood out to me was that they just sat there, and so I looked over during my show and just saw these two guys sit there, and thought wow, this is really simple and this is so helpful and powerful. These guys keep me accountable. They know I’m trying to be sober, and they know that all I’m doing is working. That’s my work—I entertain people. But I felt…I don’t know, I just felt I was being held responsible for what I had chosen to take on, which was charging people money to go up and play for them.

So instead of focusing on the drinking and the drugs, I was focused on my music, which is why I’m being paid. I’m not being paid to be a fool [laughs]. But I was being paid to be a fool for a big part of my life—be a fool, you know? Be silly, be clownin’ around up there, to be all those things. And I realized, well, maybe somebody wants that, but the majority of people wanna hear great music—they wanna hear me do my job well. So these two guys spawned the idea without knowing it.

Many years later I told the idea to a guy I know who works for a bunch of foundations, and we said this is great, let’s put it together. We hooked up with Can’d Aid, which is an organization out of a brewery, actually, in Colorado called Oskar Blues Brewery–which is sort of ironic, but also very positive. They’re selling a product that some people may have trouble with, so they say ‘sure, we’ll help out.’ We’re gonna work it on a national level, try and get the word out more and more, so my name can kinda disappear from it and it can just be an institution in itself that doesn’t need anyone to promote it. But we have a long way to go, so we’re trying to get that out there.

Andrew: This is a really great idea. They’re not there babysit, they’re not there to get you in trouble, it’s just as you said—they’re just there to be a friend. And for people in that situation, that’s exactly what they need.

Anders: And it covers everybody: sound engineers, music writers, anyone in the music industry that does this, like we do, all the time—it helps us go back to work. Because it’s a little difficult, those first 6, 12 months. the first few months. It’s almost impossible. It suuuuuuuucks [laughs]. And you go [fake whining] “Oh my god I can never have fun again, I hate my life!” But then you get help and you get a new network of people, and all of a sudden things start to get brighter and brighter. And eventually things feel better than they ever did. This is what’s so beautiful about this network of sober friends. A guy that has 2 hours sober inspires a guy that has 30 years. Everything is connected together. I don’t know how it works, but it works.

**Don’t miss Anders Osborne on tour this spring for the final run with his Flowerbox four-piece outfit. See below for a full list of dates. To purchase tickets, head to Anders’ website.**

Anders Osborne Upcoming Tour Dates:
4.05 || Live Oaks Bar and Ballroom || Monroe, LA*
4.06 || George’s Majestic || Fayetteville, AR*
4.07 || Knuckleheads || Kansas City, MO*
4.08 || Gothic Theatre || Denver, CO* (w/ special guest Eddie Roberts of The New Mastersounds)
4.10 || Belly Up Aspen || Aspen, CO
4.11 || The State Room || Salt Lake City, UT*
4.13 || Crystal Bay Casino || Crystal Bay, NV#
4.14 || The Filmore || San Francisco, CA*
4.15 || Teragram || Los Angeles, CA*
4.16 || Belly Up || Solana Beach, CA
4.18 || The Dirty Bourbon || Albuquerque, NM
4.20 || Gas Monkey || Dallas, TX
4.21 || Old Settler’s Music Festival || Austin, TX
4.22 || Sweetwater 420 Festival || Atlanta, GA
4.27 || Tipitina’s || New Orleans, LA^
4.28 || Republic NOLA || New Orleans, LA (New Mississippi Osborne)
4.29 || Republic NOLA || New Orleans, LA (Dead Feat)
4.30 || Republic NOLA || New Orleans, LA (Dead Feat)
5.05 || New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival || New Orleans, LA
5.06 || Howlin’ Wolf || New Orleans, LA@
* w/ New Breed Brass Band
# w/ Scott Pemberton & after party w/ New Breed Brass Band
^ w/ Ryan Montbleau Band
@ w/ The Pimps of Joytime, The NO Suspects and more

[Cover photo via Bob Adamek]