Anderson East on Growing Up in Alabama, His Relationship with His Grandfather, and More on Biscuits & Jam
About Biscuits & Jam: In the South, talking about food is personal. It's a way of sharing your history, your family, your culture, and yourself. Each week Sid Evans, Editor in Chief of Southern Living, sits down with celebrity musicians to hear stories of how they grew up, what inspired them, and how they've been shaped by Southern culture. Sid takes us back to some of their most cherished memories and traditions, the family meals they still think about, and their favorite places to eat on the road.
Episode: October 18, 2021
In this week's episode, Sid Evans, Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living Magazine, talks to Alabama native and Grammy-nominated soul vocalist Anderson East about his job as a teenager slinging barbecue, his mother's church piano which he now uses in his own studio, and how the title track from his latest album Maybe We Never Die was influenced by his grandmother's battle with Alzheimer's.
Anderson East was born and raised in Athens, Alabama -- about 20 minutes from the Tennessee border. Having moved to Nashville right after high school to pursue music, Anderson made a name for himself with a powerful voice that harkens back to soul singers like Otis Redding. Songs like this one, "Devil In Me," from his album Delilah in 2015, have a timeless quality that sounds like something out of the 60's, but at the same time, you've never heard anything like it.
On the Best Part of Growing Up in Athens, Alabama
"There's a lot. I think number one, Dub's Burgers is probably one of my favorite restaurants in the world. Athens was a really great place to grow up. That whole area of north Alabama is just exploding, But when I was growing up, it was still a very small and sleepy town. And looking back on it now, I think it definitely is a blessing…So, it's just good simple country living. Everybody knew each other. Everybody was in each other's business and everybody was taking care of each other and my entire family's still there. And everybody lives no more than two miles from each other. And I'm the only one that's ever left."
On the Cook in the Family
"Both of my grandmothers on both sides. My grandmother on my mother's side, she still to this day, has full family dinner every Sunday. Everybody's over and just real Southern cooking. My stepmother's amazing. My mom's amazing."
On His Relationship With His Grandfather
"He was the epitome of 'strong Southern man.' He's like 900 feet tall and just Jesus and fishing— was like his world. That was all. So we were in the boat from before the sun came up until it got too hot. A very wise man. He was in the Air Force and we look identical. If you look at pictures of him when we were a similar age, it's like, 'oh, God, genetics is a real thing.' So he's handsome as can be, I'll tell you that. Still full head of hair. But yeah, definitely a great role model. And he raised three pretty amazing women one of them being my mom and then us grandkids. He was always the one to look up to within everybody's faults that they have. But he's led a really tremendous life."
On His New Album Inspiration and Grandmother's Alzheimer's
"I'd kind of just had the thought of what are you at the end of your life if your memory is gone? What part of you is this person? I know a lot of people have seen family members go through that thing. And it's the hardest thing to just watch that deterioration of memory, And so I was thinking one day, your essence has to be more than these electrical impulses that are firing in your brain that somehow is triggering these memories… And I don't have any kind of definitive answer on what you actually are and I just couldn't wrestle the thought down. I'm a fan of the idea of the soul and things that live on... I couldn't just accept the fact that this is what this person is now, if that makes any kind of sense?"
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