Missy and Heine Andersen to perform in Aztec
FARMINGTON – As a two-time Blues Music Awards nominee in the category of best soul blues female artist, Missy Andersen makes no secret of the fact that she’s pleased to receive that kind of recognition and says it’s helped her get past the self-doubt that plagued her earlier in her career.
She certainly hasn’t let those achievements go to her head. But she’s not above enjoying the moment, either.
“I have not drunk the Kool-Aid,” she said, laughing, during a phone interview last week from her home in San Diego. “But I’ve taken a sip.”
In January, Andersen — who will perform with her husband, guitarist and songwriting partner Heine this weekend in Aztec — found out she had been nominated for the award for the second time in as many years, placing her firmly among the leading ranks of blues-soul female vocalists. It was heady stuff for a performer who, as a teenager growing up in Queens, N.Y., used to grow so panicked at the idea of singing in front of people that her mouth would go bone dry.
These days, Andersen finds herself being mentioned in the same company as fellow nominees Bettye LaVette, Dorothy Moore, Toni Lynn Washington and Vaneese Thomas — longtime veterans of the soul and blues scene who have generated numerous hit records and Grammy nominations between them while sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in popular music. The youthful Andersen may not yet have a resume that stacks up against that kind of competition, but she’s got the pipes to go head-to-head with them.
Still, Andersen said, those back-to-back nominations only mean so much. While it was nice to be seated “at the big table” during the Blues Music Awards ceremony in Memphis last year, she said, she understands that people outside the music industry may not have much of an appreciation for how meaningful that kind of recognition is. So it’s largely an inside baseball kind of thing that opens only a limited number of doors.
Andersen said even she still finds herself looking in the mirror, wondering if she belongs in such rarified company.
“You still talk yourself out of it sometimes,” she said.
And in her adopted hometown of San Diego, home to a very competitive blues scene, Andersen remains very much the junior partner in a market largely ruled by the likes of Candye Kane, Nathan James, Sugaray Rayford and Earl Thomas.
“I’m still little Missy, like their baby sister,” she said, laughing.
If all that sounds like Andersen hasn’t blossomed into a mature, fully realized talent in recent years, don’t be fooled. Things are happening so quickly for her now that she sometimes finds it difficult to keep up. Her phone rings much more often than it used to, she said, and even if most of those offers are related to one-time events, she and Heine are now working markets they couldn’t dent before.
“We’re doing a lot less solicitation, which I love,” she said. “Everything’s so much better when somebody’s calling you.”
A year ago, Andersen and her husband had firm plans to get back into the studio to record a follow-up to their most recent disc, 2014’s “In the Moment.” But they decided the better course of action was to put that off and continue to perform as much as possible while those offers were rolling in.
“We were sitting in Memphis (at the awards), and we realized that the people who are the most successful are the one that tour a lot,” Andersen said. “Those things kind of go hand in hand. … So we decided to delay it a year and spend more time on the road.”
The Andersens also reshaped their approach to performing by arranging many of their songs for just the two of them, rather than for a full band. After spending much of the fall close to home while they smoothed out that approach, they’re now embarking on their first real tour as a duo.
“We like our duo,” she said. “It’s very fulfilling and very intimate. And we get to come across more pure. You start to hear everything.”
At the same time, Andersen said performing as a duo can be a more demanding experience.
“It’s just the two of you,” she said. “There’s no band to blame things on.”
Andersen laughed again when she described how both she and her husband had to take on additional duties as they sought to fill out their duo sound. For Heine, she said, much of that came naturally as he added bass and percussion lines to his guitar work. The experience wasn’t the same for her.
“I can’t even clap on time when I’m singing,” she said, giggling as she recalled her early efforts to add percussion to her work. “Sometimes, Heine will look at me, like, ‘What are you doing with your hands?’ and I go, ‘Oh, sorry.’”
It’s a shift the Andersens had been planning even before those BMA nominations came along. Missy Andersen said she and her husband began writing songs with a duo arrangement in mind when they were compiling material for “In the Moment.”
“We were very conscious of that,” she said. “There are a lot of songs from the first CD we can’t do (as a duo) because they’re just too heavy, one way or another … We really thought about that a lot.”
She said she and her husband now perform about half their gigs as a duo and half with a full band. They’ve come to believe it’s wiser to play new territory for the first time as a twosome and perhaps build an audience before they commit to the additional trouble and expense of touring with a full band, and that is what this round of dates is about as the Andersens perform shows in Tucson and Dallas, in addition to several gigs in New Mexico over the first half of February. They have another duo tour planned in August.
“We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket,” she said.
Andersen said it’s likely her music will continue to evolve, explaining she leans toward more of a gospel sound now.
“In another year, we could be totally different,” she said. “We might discover another facet of it. I’m interested to see what happens next.”
As for her perspective on the music business, Andersen said she thinks she still wants the same things from her career that she always has.
“I want the opportunity to express myself, to do what feels good to me and not necessarily do something just because it will sell, although I hope a lot of that winds up being in the same box,” she said.
Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.
If you go
What: Missy and Heine Andersen concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13
Where: Crash Music at the Aztec Theater, 104 N. Main Ave. in Aztec
Tickets: $15 at crashmusicaztec.com or at the door
For more information: Call 505-427-6748 or visit missyandersen.com.