American Routes Shortcuts: Anders Osborne
Anders Osborne grew up on a remote Swedish island, made his way to the mainland, hitchhiked and sang his way across Europe, and eventually crossed the Atlantic to visit New Orleans. He had heard about the city from his merchant marine grandfather who lived here and also from his father, a jazz musician. In New Orleans, Anders finally felt at home, but his life in music began to mirror the city’s excesses and finally, its resilience.
Anders Osborne: I used self-medication for a long time. To be honest, I didn’t quite see it coming but it got to a place where after using it just to have a good time and get intoxicated, it turned more and more into couldn’t live without it, couldn’t do without it. For me in the end it was all cocaine, crack cocaine and alcohol were my main things. I was kicked out of the house, I lived in City Park, I had no friends, I couldn’t make the gigs, nothing worked. And then we went on one final tour, and at the end of it, they said, “Man, you’ve been up for five days, you’re a mess, we gotta check you in.” You know, I was out of my mind, but I don’t know how to explain it, it really feels almost like a divine intervention, something happens and you make that one little brief decision to do something different just one time, and it’ll set you on a new path. I’d say three and a half weeks into it, that’s when I knew–I had a big breakthrough and a breakdown, cried for hours and hours, and I just realized, oh that’s who I am.
Nick Spitzer: Well you kind of look back and look forward, you have “Tracking My Roots.”
NS: You know it seems to me that the whole world these days is trying to figure out where they came from, who they are and where they’re going. Figuring out some of those things can be very helpful, talk about, you know, having a healing quality.
AO: Yeah I think for me it was important because where you come from becomes, for some people it becomes their view of you, and then you get caught up in what other people think you are because you say, “I’m from this.” So I thought, well where am I truly from? And so I discovered that, you know, there’s Canadian roots, and I have French roots, and I have actually people from Louisiana, I have Spanish roots, I have a lot of Scottish, so I realized, wow, I’m from a lot of different places. I think what the song is trying to tell myself is, it doesn’t really matter. The roots are just the same as what did you do yesterday.
To hear the full program, tune in Saturdays at 5 and Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at americanroutes.org.