"All that's been very exciting. It was a pleasure to get back with Warner Brothers as they were the first label I ever had dealings with, so it was a good thing. None of the same people are there that were there years ago when I was. But still going back to the label and having them receive me with such open arms was very kind of them."
The collaboration between the two men is reflected in the songs on the album. "He brought some, and I had some. We pretty much went through the best stuff we had at the time and was picking and choosing among it," Anderson says of the process. "As I recall, all the A&R process, as far as picking material and all that, was really easy. In fact, John and I did most of that mainly just in small talk, like, ‘hey, what do you think we oughta go in and cut next?' and we'd mention three or four titles, and he'd say, ‘yeah, those might be good' or ‘maybe not this one, but this other one,' and I'd say ‘yeah, that might work.' We were both in agreement on the songs that we recorded from day one."
One of the most touching songs, "Bonnie Blue," a sentimental look at the South, comes from a co-writing session between Anderson and MuzikMafia member, hick-hop artist Cowboy Troy. "I think it's a different bag for him. Troy had the idea for the song, and when he told me about it, I was intrigued by the title, the idea," Anderson says. "That melody just hit me like some melodies do, not much different than any of the rest of my songs as far as that, but Troy and I worked together on it also. It was surprising how much of the same type little notes we both had written down, you know, it was really surprising. So we were both pretty much in tune with the lyrics. Basically it's a song about the Southland with a little bit of reverence."
Anderson took the opportunity to stretch a little on songs like "You Already Know My Love," a laidback conversation between a man and woman laid on a mellow bed of steel guitar, fiddle and piano which exemplifies the tone and texture of Anderson's unique vocal delivery.
"That one was a bit different, and John and I both knew the difference that it was, but it was a different kind of thing that we both liked. So, we figured we should try this and see how it turns out. Well, it made the record, so I guess it turned out pretty good, or at least I thought so," Anderson says. "When I heard it, I could relate to it, and, of course, I knew right where it was coming from, and it was just a matter of seeing how it would sound with me doing it. Like I say, that was just something we had to go in and try, but it seemed to work out."
Some critics have singled out the more in-your-face production of songs like "Easy Money," "Funky Country" and "If Her Loving Don't Kill Me" crediting it to Rich's more rock influenced production, but Anderson doesn't hear it that way. "The tracks, they're jumped up a little bit, but only because of the sonics, the new recording methods that we have. I don't think they were approached much differently than some of that old stuff we did with ‘Black Sheep' and ‘Eye of the Hurricane'."
Putting Anderson's vocal style with that of other great stylists is the song "Willie's Guitar" which compares the heart of a broken man to the venerable Martin of Willie Nelson. "John brought that one. He had that song, and it was written by some buddies of his, and I thought, ‘boy, that's a fine song, it'd be really special if we could get Willie to play on it.' I looked at him and said we probably could get Willie to play on it, you know, I think he would do that for us and, indeed, we asked him and he was gracious enough to do it. When we got his okay, we were actually talking about putting Merle on it too, so we put a call out to Merle, and he obliged us also. We were very thrilled."
Willie and Merle are just a few of the artists Anderson counts as friends. Recently he has kept busy turning in guest appearances with Pam Tillis, Josh Turner and on the Bruce Hornsby-Ricky Skaggs collaboration. In fact this interview was book-ended by studio time with Deanna Carter, for her upcoming project and Billy Joe Shaver, for his upcoming gospel release.
"I certainly appreciate the friends calling me. All these folks are my friends, and it's certainly nice to get a call to work on a great project…and I'm a big fan of all their work too, so it works out good like that."
In addition to helping out his friends and promoting his own new release, Anderson has another project ready to go: "I've got a whole gospel album that we finished that I'll probably be putting out before too long myself."