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Interview with Evan Anstey
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
My parents aren’t musicians, but they were always playing music in the house when I was a kid, and a variety of it, too. In terms of playing, I began taking violin lessons in 3rd Grade. It was my first instrument and my favorite to this day. Since then, I’ve played in a number of ensembles, both in school and outside of it.
Even if music never became a big part of my life, I imagine I’d still be doing something with writing. As a child, I often wrote short stories for fun; one actually ended up in an anthology of short stories by young Americans. By day, I’m a journalist for a TV news station website. So, I’m grateful that I not only get to express my passion for writing in music, but in my day job, too.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Outside of music, I like bicycling and being outside. I’m a bit of a sci-fi and fantasy nerd, too, so I enjoy a lot of movies and video games of that type (among others).
The sights and sounds I take in from the environment around me often show up in my lyrics. And at the same time, something unexpected like a Godzilla movie or a favorite character from a musical might inspire me to write, as well. I don’t like to feel limited.
How long have you been making music?
I first started playing music 22 years ago. After performing in string orchestras throughout my school years, I started playing in rock and folk bands, too, when I was about 17 or 18. I continued playing in symphonic and jazz ensembles in college, as well.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’m based out of a small town north of Buffalo, NY. I grew up in this area, and being so close to the Great Lakes, Canadian radio stations had no problem broadcasting a clear signal to my home. Along with the rock and country I’d hear on Buffalo stations, I also took in a heavy dose of bands of like The Tragically Hip and Big Sugar from stations out of southern Ontario.
My grandparents came to Western New York from West Virginia in their early 20s, and have stayed here ever since. I can credit them, along with my mother, for introducing me to bluegrass like Ralph Stanley and Alison Krauss. My violin teacher growing up, Paul Monaco, encouraged me to play various kinds of music, too, by hosting summer fiddling programs and adding selections like “Stairway to Heaven” and “Eleanor Rigby” to school orchestra concerts.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
One of the most memorable shows I ever played was with an Americana band called Tonemah in early 2020. We travelved from Buffalo to Scottsdale, Arizona to perform at a festival there. It was mid-January and the weather was a very welcome change from the cold back home.
Recently, I crossed over into my 30s, and to celebrate, I held a big concert with four bands I play in at one of my favorite local venues – Live Edge Brewing Company in Burt, NY. After a night of grunge, folk, bluegrass, prog, indie, emo and punk, I was dead tired and my voice was mostly gone, but I had an amazing time.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
There are so many venues in Western New York that I love to play at, but a couple of my favorites are Steamworks Coffee in Lockport, Becker Farms & Vizcarra Vineyards in Gasport and Mr. Goodbar in Buffalo. At some point, I’d like to go on a short tour and explore more venues both in the area and outside of it -- maybe something around the northeastern U.S. and southern Ontario? My favorite venue in Buffalo to see a show is the Town Ballroom. I hope to someday have the opportunity to perform on that stage.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I think if I was doing a show with my prog/indie band Meat Raffle, I’d want to open for Radiohead or Foo Fighters. For my folk band though, I would love to play on a bill with any of the members of Nickel Creek or another one of my favorite songwriters, Aoife O’Donovan. There are so many I could list.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Practice, practice, practice. If it takes a while to make something sound right, that’s OK! It’s worth the time and effort. If I could give advice to my younger self, I’d tell him to not worry so much about the future and just embrace the moments in front of him.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
It’s a toss up between “Celebration” and “Heart Beats Again.” They’re both songs of hope. “Celebration” is about appreciating the good things around you even when the world gets noisy and frustrating, while “Heart Beats Again” is about rediscovering the powerful feeling of love.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
My favorite songs to play are “Coffee + Whiskey,” “Everything Is Okay” and a Julian Lage/I’m With Her cover called “Ryland (Under the Apple Tree).” I’d say the most requested songs are “Emerald City” and “Are We Lucky Yet?”
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
It’s hard to say. I don’t really have a set process; I just sort of let things come as they come. Sometimes, it’s lyrics. Sometimes, it’s music. I just like to take various pieces of things and form them together into something I like, and hopefully others like, too. I record dozens of voice memos into my phone because when inspiration strikes, I don’t want to forget it. It might take me 20 minutes or even a year to write a single song. However long it takes though, I want to feel good about it and not have any regrets when it comes time to record.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
The world’s a better place when we show love and care for one another.
Also, it’s OK to not be OK. I love that art lets people express that in a healthy way. It helps us not feel alone.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
In a few months, my wife and I are expecting our first child. I look forward to raising our boy around music. While being a dad, I plan to continue writing and recording, too. Another “alternates” EP could be on the horizon in 2024, but before that, my band Meat Raffle has our sophomore album on the way this Fall.
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
The best way to find my upcoming shows, news and music is by going to EvanAnstey.com. All of my releases are on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and more.
· Facebook: Facebook.com/EvanAnsteyMusic
· Twitter/X: @AnsteyEvan
· Instagram: @EvanMAnstey
· TikTok: @EvanAnsteyMusic