Keith Anderson could be the poster child for the notion that good things happen to good people. He’s quickly earned the reputation of being an adept writer of award nominated hits, not just for his own projects but for other artists as well and his good guy persona is as widely known as his high energy, let’s-get-this-party-started live shows.
The release of his sophomore album C’MON! finds Anderson, the Grammy-nominated songwriter, in fine form. He co-wrote 10 of the disc’s 11 tracks, pairing with some of Nashville’s top tunesmiths including Rivers Rutherford, Tim Nichols, Chuck Cannon, Vicky McGehee, Jeffrey Steele (also the disc’s producer) and Bob DiPiero. “I wrote by myself for so long that it’s fun to co-write,” the Oklahoma native says. “I’m just such a social person that I love people and working together with them. Different co-writers have different strengths and I think you tend to tuck away certain ideas for certain co-writers.”
The album’s current single, “I Still Miss You,” was written by Anderson, Tim Nichols and Jason Sellers and is one of his fastest rising to date. “More than just writing a breakup song, we made it more a universal song of missing someone no longer in your life,” Anderson says. “You always hope to write a song that touches people.”
While it’s said that you’ve got a lifetime to write your first album and less than a year to write your second, Anderson was prepared for the challenge. “I moved to Nashville to get a record deal and while it didn’t happen as quickly as I’d have liked, it was a blessing because I got to spend those years writing and developing a song catalog,” he says. “And not just writing, but writing with people like Jeffrey Steele, Bob DiPiero, Craig Wiseman…guys like that. So while I wrote a lot of things for this record that reflect where I currently am in my life, it was also nice to be able to reach into that catalog.”
Anderson admits that he keeps his touring schedule and his writing schedule separate. “There’s not much down time or quiet time on the bus and there are so many things going on every day,” he explains. But that doesn’t mean that he can time those moments of inspiration. “I’m constantly grabbing my phone and leaving messages for myself or using my laptop to make note of something while on the road.”
Although he’s co-written hits for other artists, most notably “Lost In This Moment,” -the No. 1 smash for Big & Rich which also garnered him a CMA and ACM Song of the Year nomination – Anderson does not write with other artists in mind. “I think I’ll always write about what I know and feel and typically with myself in mind. But if it ends up as something I’m not going to cut, it does get pitched to other artists,” says the artist who co-wrote the Grammy-nominated “Beer Run (B Double E Double Are You In?)” for Garth Brooks and George Jones and “The Bed” for Gretchen Wilson. Hot newcomer Jason Michael Carroll has just cut “Barn Burner,” a tune Anderson co-wrote and also cut. “We cut it full steam but in the end, it didn’t make this new record,” he says. “Jason Michael had been begging me to cut it since his first record so the minute I knew we would not be putting it on this record, I gave him a call.”
Is it hard for Anderson to part with some of the things he’s written so that another artist can record it? “At times it’s really hard because there are some songs you let go and in the back of your mind you’re still thinking, ‘Man, if that becomes a big hit, it could’ve been for me!’” he admits. “You always worry that you’re going to let one get away but at the same time you want to make a career as a singer/songwriter which means letting others cut your songs.”
Anderson grew up in Miami, OK, near the Arkansas border, surrounded by a loving family that includes his mechanic father LeRoy, his mother Janice, his older brother Brian and his younger brother Jason. Always athletic, he didn’t pick up a guitar until well into his teens after realizing that girls dug musicians. He dabbled at songwriting while studying up on the hits of the Eagles, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson and the like and actually played drums on early gigs at his church.
Athletics continued to be an important part of his life and Anderson played baseball while pursuing a degree in engineering from Oklahoma State. He excelled in sports and academics: graduating top in his class with a 3.9 GPA and playing baseball well enough to catch the attention of scouts from the Kansas City Royals. A shoulder injury quickly put an end to a possible career with MLB, but Anderson stayed focused on his commitment to fitness, even coming in second in the Mr. Oklahoma bodybuilding competition. “There are so many reasons to stay fit,” says Anderson who later earned certification as a personal trainer from the famed Cooper Institute in Dallas. “Just for the brutal schedule…you’re working hard throughout the day and then getting on stage for an hour or more of rocking around and sweating.”
Upon graduation, Anderson accepted a job with a top construction engineering firm in Dallas, all the while continuing to work on his songwriting. In the end, songwriting and live performance won out. Anderson quit his lucrative day job and began performing as a regular at the Grapevine Opry and Six Flags Over Texas. Other quick money fixes included modeling and even singing telegrams for the Romeo Cowboys, a company he started.
He made his first trip to Nashville to record six of his own songs for a sampler that he’d then solicit to radio stations in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. His efforts paid off in the form of new friendships and relationships with people in the industry.
Anderson moved to Nashville in the spring of 1998 and took a job waiting tables. What he lacked in food service skills, he more than made up for in people skills. An early introduction to respected songwriter George Ducas lead to some songwriting appointments which opened further doors in Nashville’s songwriting community.
Another one of those early introductions was to singer/songwriter/producer Jeffrey Steele, the man who would go on to produce both of Anderson’s albums. “The minute I met him, I
felt like I’d known him for years,” Anderson says of Steele. “It was a natural chemistry; hanging out with him is like hanging out with one of my brothers. He’s a great friend first and foremost and being that comfortable with someone makes it easier to dig deep in the soul and write the happy stuff and also the deep, dark stuff.”
His debut – Three Chord Country and American Rock & Roll – garnered two Top 10 hits (accompanied by two No. 1 music videos), “Pickin’ Wildflowers,” and “Every Time I Hear Your Name,” along with singles “XXL” and “Podunk,” success that prompted music trades Billboard and Radio & Records to name him country music’s No. 1 new male artist of 2005. It wasn’t just his music that was getting attention. Anderson was named one of People Magazine’s “50 Hottest Bachelors,” Men’s Fitness magazine’s “Ultimate Country Star,” and continues to show up in Country Weekly’s fan-voted “Hottest Bachelor” feature.
And it’s not just the ladies who fill the house at his concerts, he’s fortunate to also be the kind of guy’s guy that men appreciate. “Watching my heroes – Garth, Tim, Kenny, George – those guys have a ton of female fans and a ton of male fans at their shows and I think that’s something that you develop over time,” he says. “Let’s face it, in order to have a real party, you’re going to need both!”
Anderson seems to have it figured out, building a successful career out of sheer talent, hard work and a clear vision of what he’s bringing to his own party. “What I love about him is that he is very centered about what he wants and how he wants to do it,” says C’MON! producer Jeffrey Steele. “Keith really brings that to the table and makes it very hard to deny.”