Northern Californian singer-songwriter, Eric Anders, and southern Californian guitarist-composer, Mark O’Bitz, released their twelve-song concept album, American Bardo, on July 31, 2020.
American Bardo was recorded, produced, and mixed by Mike Butler of San Diego. All the songs were written by Eric and Mark and inspired by George Saunders’ Mann-Booker-Prize-winning novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. All the songs on American Bardo are what Eric calls “readings” related to one or more of the characters in the novel.
American Bardo will be Eric’s eighth full-length album and the duo’s third full-length album. Eric got into writing and recording songs in the early 2000s when he met Mark at one of Mark’s shows and the two decided to collaborate on music.
Eric then tried to make up for lost time by releasing three critically-acclaimed solo releases in four years: Not At One (2003), Songs for Wayward Days (2004), More Regrets (2005), and Tethered to the Ground (2006).
In 2007, the duo’s song "So Wrong" from Tethered to the Ground was used in the Michael Schroeder film, Man in the Chair, starring Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer. The song "Big World Abide" from Tethered to the Ground was used in TV shows: the Dutch soap opera Goede Tijden, Slechte Tijden, and the Courtney Cox TV show, Dirt.
Eric wrote the majority of the songs on these early releases with Mark and this would hold true for his 2011 solo release, Remains In Me, his “best of Eric Anders” retrospective Big World Abide in 2016, and his anti-Trump album Eleven Nine in 2017.
As a duo, Eric and Mark would release Of All These Things in 2018 (their debut release as a duo), Ghosts To Ancestors in 2019, and now American Bardo in 2020. They will also release their four-song EP, This Mortal Farce, on October 30, 2020.
Mark and Eric are currently “stuck inside” like everyone else so they decided to do a two-volume pseudo-concept project: Music in the Time of Coronavirus. Volume One, Sirens Go By, will be out at the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021 and will be a nine-song album done in their usual mellow indie-Americana style.
Volume Two, Stuck Inside, will be a five-song EP with tunes that are slightly edgier, at times even rock. They hope to release this EP in early 2021.
They will work remotely with all the musicians and the producer, Mike Butler. They have been very productive during lockdown because they don’t have much else to schedule or work on, except keeping at-risk family members safe, etc. Eric and his wife are also being kept busy with online school for their kids.
Eric and Mark wish everyone good luck and safe non-travels during these difficult times.
Californian singer-songwriter Eric Anders got into writing and recording songs in his late thirties when he met guitarist-composer Mark O'Bitz in 2002. At the time, Eric had not been involved in music at all beyond being an avid listener. He was training to be a psychoanalyst then. Mark had been a solo artist for years. Very quickly the two became good friends and a prolific songwriting team.
Eric would try to make up for the lost time by releasing his first four critically acclaimed CDs in four years: Not At One (2003), Songs For Wayward Days (2004), More Regrets (2005) and Tethered to the Ground (2006). Most of the songs on these albums would be written with Mark.
After taking a five-year break to get married and raise children, Eric released Remains In Me (2011). Three of these five songs would be written with Mark. After Eleven Nine, Eric and Mark decided to start writing again and the many releases since show how prolific they still are together.
For Not At One, Eric wrote nine of the songs with Mark O-Bitz and three with Benny Bohm of The Sugarplum Fairies. Benny did a lot of the early production on the album and then Richard Barron would then help Eric put the finishing touches on it.
Jeff Peters mixed Not At One, and would end up producing Eric's second release, Songs for Wayward Days, an anti-Bush political EP released a few months before the 2004 election. Though the election results were disappointing, Eric was fortunate to have worked on this EP with Elvis Costello and Cracker bassist, Davey Faragher, and Elvis Costello's hall-of-fame drummer, Pete Thomas.
Not long after winning a Grammy playing slide guitar for Warren Zevon's Grammy-winning album, The Wind, Randy Ray Mitchell graced both of Eric’s first two releases, Not At One and Songs for Wayward Days, with his majestic guitar. Eric and Randy would team up for More Regrets, Eric's 2005 release. Randy was the producer and primary musician for More Regrets. Eric even wrote a few of the songs with Randy: “Settlin’ Comes,” “Icarus” and “Through a Fog Darkly." Two of these songs would end up on Eric's 2016 "best of" album, Big World Abide.
Whereas Eric's early releases were all produced and mixed in Los Angeles, Eric's later work would all be recorded in Seattle. Eric and Mark are most proud of his third full-length release, Tethered to the Ground (2006).
Producer-guitarist Matthew Emerson Brown (Trespassers William) would have a huge impact on Eric's sound on the next four releases: Tethered to the Ground (2006), Remains In Me (2011), Big World Abide (2016) and Eleven Nine (2017).
Matt and Eric both lived in Seattle in 2006. The two would keep returning to Seattle even after both would move away because they wanted to reunite with some of their favorite Seattle musicians, including Jeff Fielder (Mark Lanegan) who plays guitar on both Remains In Me and Eleven Nine.
Back in 2006, on Tethered to the Ground, Trespassers William band members Ross Simonini (Bass) and Anna-Lynne Williams (backing vocals) would also have a significant impact on the album's sound: several beautiful arrangements by Ross, and some simply amazing backing vocals by Anna-Lynne.
Also in 2006, Matt, Mark, and Eric presented their cover of the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun" to the song's writer, Gordon Gano. Their very different version won Gano's approval and the VF frontman allowed them to release their cover on Tethered to the Ground with Eric’s altered lyrics. Music Critic Mark Wilson called the cover "astounding": "With some approved lyric tweaking, Anders' slowed-down, ethereal take turns the song from an '80s party anthem to a tale of romantic exhaustion and resignation."
In addition to Eric's songs being heard on radio all over the world, the Anders/O'Bitz song "So Wrong" from Tethered to the Ground was used in the 2007 Michael Schroeder film, Man in the Chair, starring Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer. The Anders/O'Bitz song "Big World Abide," also from Tethered to the Ground, was used in both the extremely popular European TV show, Goede Tijden, Slechte Tijden, and the Courtney Cox TV show, Dirt.
Eric was inspired by Michael Apted's 1992 documentary, Incident at Oglala, to write the politically charged songs on his 2011 release, Remains In Me. As with Not At One, the songs were written with either Mark O'Bitz or Benny Bohm.
Jeff Peters--who mixed Eric's first four releases and produced one of them--would remaster the songs compiled for Eric's 2016 release, Big World Abide: The Best of Eric Anders. Both Jeff and Eric are pleasantly surprised that this compilation of songs--songs from very unique releases, rather different times, and with a wide variety of players and producers--have all come together to sound like a cohesive whole, like an album. What holds it all together is Eric: his voice ("a voice that combines James Taylor's grounded poignancy with Jeff Buckley's complex ethereality"), his lyrics ("words that can—and will—open your eyes") and his songs ("exploring isolation, loss and love with an uncanny truth that casts a powerful spell").
On 11/9/2016, a day that will live in infamy, Eric, now an established family man in his fifties, knew he had to take a break from promoting Big World Abide and get to work on some new songs to make his third political CD: an anti-Trump ten-song LP, which he decided to name Eleven Nine after that day and in reference to that other cataclysmic day for America, nine eleven.
Though it had been five years since Remains In Me, Eric’s last project where he worked on original songs, he was able to write three new songs for Eleven Nine: “Inside the Sacrifice Zone,” “Do You Feel” and “This Fire has Burned Too Long” with his long-time producer and friend, Matt Brown, Greg Gallardo and his talented young nephew, Tyler Nuffer. Matt Brown produced and mixed Eleven Nine, and Tyler was the primary guitarist throughout the production process: acoustic, electric, lap steel, and slide.
Eric, Matt, and Tyler would reconnect with Jeff Fielder in Seattle to record Eleven Nine at Electrokitty Studios. Eric knew that some of his older political songs would work well on Eleven Nine: songs from his 2004 anti-Bush EP, Songs for Wayward Days (“A Man for No Season” and “How Low and Why”) and songs from Tethered to the Ground (“So Wrong,” “Looking Forward to Your Fall,” and “Big World Abide”). He wrote all of these songs with Mark O’Bitz, except “A Man For No Season,” which he wrote with Rene Reyes. The only song that was changed lyrically was “Looking Forward,” which was very Bush-specific when it was written back in 2005.
Eric partnered with Lambda Legal on Eleven Nine and all album proceeds continue to go to Lambda in support of the important work they do: “the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work” (see more at lambdalegal.org).
2017 would see Eric and Mark officially becoming a duo and begin work on their debut album as a duo, Of All These Things. The album's cover would harken back to Eric's 2003 solo release, Not At One, because Eric felt that album was actually their first debut release.
Eric, Mark, Tyler, and Matt would return to Seattle and Electrokitty Studios for the initial recording. All of the songs were written by Eric Anders and Mark O'Bitz. Mark plays acoustic guitar on all of the tracks. Tyler graces the album with his electric guitar, slide, and lap steel. The project would be finished at The Pie Studios in Pasadena with both production and mix done by Jeff Peters. Of All These Things was released in the summer of 2018 to critical acclaim:
"Of the many albums that have graced my ears this year, one in particular stands out... Anders, most notably known for his solo work, releases a full-fledged record with longtime partner-in-crime Mark O'Bitz, as they take us on a musical journey you will not soon forget... [Of All These Things] is a record that is skillfully crafted from beginning to end, that shows the true essence and spirit of the songwriters. Each piece on the record works blissfully on their own but also works together as a cohesive piece of work. Songs such as "New Life" and "Found My Way Home" will have you falling in love with the duo" (Emily Hinde, NoDepression).
Eric, Mark, Jeff, and Randy Ray Mitchell would continue working together through to the summer of 2019, the time of writing this bio, on Eric and Mark's sophomore album as a duo, Ghosts To Ancestors. The album was recorded by Jeff Peters at The Pie Studios, produced by Mark O'Bitz, and mixed by Randy.
James Gadson (Bill Withers, Paul McCartney) is on drums on many of the songs. Phil Jones (Tom Petty) is on drums on several others. The title refers to an idea by the late and great psychoanalyst, Hans Loewald. It refers to how Loewald thought of psychoanalysis as a process that helps people move from being haunted by the ghosts of their childhoods to having these ghosts become merely their ancestors. In other words, it is a process that can help people not be haunted by the people who should have made their childhoods better.
From Mike Butler, San Diego:
"I got my start as an assistant engineer at the legendary Record Plant Studios where I had an opportunity to learn from some of the biggest and best names in recording. Later as an independent engineer and mixer in L.A., I was lucky enough to work with some amazing artists including Ray LaMontagne, The Pretenders, Five For Fighting, The Shins, Fanfarlo, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Colbie Callat, Death Cab For Cutie, Norah Jones, and many more. I also did extensive mixing work for famed Japanese producer Tetsuya Komuro that earned several number one spots in Japan. Since relocating to San Diego in 2010, I have mixed and/or engineered for hundreds of independent and national artists including tracks for Phoebe Bridgers, Jessca Hoop, Night Beds, Diet Cig, Brent Knopf (El Vy, Ramona Falls), Katrina Parker (The Voice), Radio Moscow and Active Bird Community."
Interview | FFS 5 with Eric Anders
Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz’s American Bardo begins with ‘Matterbloomlight (Revisited)’. Earlier this year, For Folk’s Sake premiered and praised the single for its complex, cyclical themes and the profundity of its arrangement. Now, much of the same can be said of the duo’s full album—out now, each track on the album is a “reading” to one of the characters in the Mann-Booker Prize-winning novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. An individualistic conception in and of itself, the album incorporates synthetic and organic musical elements alike to form its cerebral folk and Americana.
One half of the inimitable collaboration, Eric Anders, is the latest to take on our ‘FFS 5’ interview series. Within, Anders offers morsels on his background as a Californian artist, the academia that informs his songwriting, and what his perception of artistic success is.