Tired of lugging his band equipment from gig to gig, Coon Rapids musician Jesse Anderson gave up performing live 12 years ago.
But he returned to the stage May 12 at the 201 Tavern in Anoka and didn’t seem a bit rusty.
Anderson’s performance last week was a bit different than his live performances of the past. He used to play guitar with various bands, but this time he was flying solo on the keyboard with backing tracks he wrote himself.
Though the crowd was rather thin, it was evident Anderson was still having a ball belting covers from almost every genre imaginable.
Anderson seemed in his element singing hits by Jimmy Buffett and Neil Diamond.
When his voice needed a rest, he invited family and friends to join him.
His son Stephen gave a soulful performance of “Human” by Rag‘n’Bone Man while Anderson accompanied him on the keyboard.
Anderson has been making music since third grade when his mother signed him up for coronet lessons.
He was actively involved in the music department at Coon Rapids High School, playing in the band and orchestra and singing in the choir.
After one year of study at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Anderson joined the Navy in the midst of the Vietnam War. He oversaw sailors’ auditions for the Drum and Bugle Corps, he said.
Six years later, he returned to college and met his wife, Maryann. Married 43 years, they have two sons in their mid-30s, Jesse and Stephen.
“I’m extremely proud of both of my sons,” Anderson said.
Stephen has joined his dad on his two most recent albums, “East of Hello West of Goodbye” and “Hungry Wolves in the Hard Moon.”
“He’s a much better musician than I am,” Anderson said of his son. “I’m honored to work with him.”
Their most recent collaboration tells the story of “our other Civil War,” the U.S.-Dakota War of the 1860s.
“It’s a lesson that I think that everyone should know about,” Anderson said, calling that chapter in our history “atrocious.”
Unlike his live performances, Anderson’s recorded music features few covers. “Hungry Wolves in the Hard Moon” is all original tracks, “meant to be enjoyed during quiet moments of reflection,” Anderson said.
He would describe his recording style as “easy listening.”
He became serious about songwriting after retiring from Northwest Airlines in 2006. He furnished his basement with studio equipment.
Though he returned to work, this time for Xcel Energy, he made time for his music, putting out a total of five CDs – one a year from 2010 to 2014.
After retiring from Xcel in 2015, he spends about four hours daily practicing and several additional hours writing, arranging and recording, he said.
Anderson was proud of the way he sounded at the 201 Tavern last week and intends to seek out more opportunities to perform live. He is particularly interested in playing local wineries.
He hopes his music is his legacy, “ a mark for many generations that follow.”