Anders Osborne | Music, Meditation and Living Sober

As we get older, life doesn’t necessarily get easier. But if we’re lucky, we do learn a thing or two along the way.

Anders Osborne’s latest album released in April, “Buddha and the Blues,” delves musically into a 1970s Topanga Canyon vibe while considering the aspects of a divided mind and the daily resolve to be happy, healthy and helpful toward others.

Brews, Jazz and Funk Festival | Aug. 10

2-3:30 p.m. | Sal’s Greenhouse
3:30-4:30 p.m. | Rigmarole
4-5:30 p.m. | Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds
5-6 p.m. | Rigmarole
6-8 p.m. | Anders Osborne

Aug. 11

2-3:30 p.m. | Jellybread
3:30-4:30 p.m. | Reno Jazz Syndicate
4-5:30 p.m. | The Humidors
5-6 p.m. | Reno Jazz Syndicate
6-8 p.m. | Five Alarm Funk

“I’m having a dialogue with myself in the songs,” he says. “It’s the exploration of my own experience of reaching midlife and diving into those emotions. I have friends going through sickness and addiction and I’m trying to be positive and grateful as much as I can.”

While the introspective Swedish artist who lives in New Orleans has been practicing meditation on and off for the past three decades, he’s revved it up in the past few years as way to support his recovery from the netherworld of drug and alcohol addiction.

“There’s something to the isolation and regular stillness of meditation,” he says. “It’s a way of life, to stay in the present moment.”

Just like the album concept, Osborne found divergent means for composing the material for the record.

“I think there are two ways I write, in the moment, stream of consciousness and a more premeditated method where I set out to approach a certain aspect of my life or something, I think could maybe be useful to someone else. The word ‘blues’ is about choosing to embrace the sadness and melancholy. You can choose the blissfulness of life or you can choose despair,” he says.

Since Osborne got on the wagon 10 years ago, fans have formed a sober group at shows called the Lucky Ones to support him and each other through life’s mercurial journey. The benefits of this positive lifestyle change have reverberated through his music and performance as he works to be in the moment with himself and his audience.

“I still struggle with being anxious and nervous before the shows, but now it’s incorporated into the experience,” he says. “If my stomach is upset and I feel fatigued and tired, then that’s what it is. If you keep taking the edge off the experience, you aren’t really having the experience.”

In particular, Osborne has found the writing process to be easier since he’s gotten clean and sober.

“It’s 10 times better, maybe 50 times better,” he says. “There is so much more creativity in sobriety than when I was loaded. I talked a lot about creativity when I was high or drunk. And there are times on marijuana, acid or mushrooms when you feel pretty connected to the universe and it’s all pretty great, but it’s hard to sustain it for more than a few years.”

The lucidity of abstinence has also freed Osborne to develop a sharper sense of purpose both in the studio and on stage.

“It becomes a much clearer connection with the intent and making sure of what you’re trying to do,” he says. “I still use the stream-of-consciousness approach, but I am more alert to what other people feel. You can tell when they’re bored. It’s like, ‘Oh sh**, I better stop noodling on my guitar.’ When I was loaded, I’d just keep going on and on.”

As he turns 53 this year, Osborne has realized he’s not the brash, invincible young man he used be, but something much more.

“I think the culture of New Orleans music stands out in that aspect,” he says. “If someone is having a financial struggle, if somebody is a mess, we pitch in. There’s very little division between up-and-coming beginners and well-established old mentors like George Porter, Art Neville and [the late] Dr. John. Everyone is a part of each other’s life. Everyone has a chance to interact and learn from each other and pass on that musical tradition.”

Osborne headlines Brews, Jazz and Funk Fest on Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. on the Main Stage. This two-day festival features an array of tasty beers and music. All proceeds benefit the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe. |