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Lesbian musician talks Etheridge, Kate Clinton, Amy Ray
by Sarah Toce

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Out lesbian Jamie Anderson knows enough about women's-music festivals to be considered armed and dangerous. She's toured with the best of them—Melissa Etheridge, Kate Clinton, Amy Ray, Holly Near, and Meg Christian—and has the stories to prove it. After nearly 30 years of braving the entertainment industry as only she knows best, Anderson presents her take on the wild and crazy world of the stage in the tell-all Drive All Night ( Bella Books ).

Windy City Times: You write in the foreword of Drive All Night that some of the personal stories you tell in the book should probably have remained so. Which ones are you referring to?

Jamie Anderson: In this business, it's better not to burn any bridges, but I don't think anyone's going to really be mad about anything I've written.

WCT: Can you tell us what made you ultimately decide to share such personal renderings?

Jamie Anderson: The idea took seed after I told a road story to some women I'd met over breakfast at the Highlands Inn. They weren't the first to tell me I should write a book, but I was there with some time on my hands and found it was really fun to write out the stories. I'm a singer-songwriter and we often share personal stories. This book was like one long song. And I didn't have to rhyme.

WCT: How have the subjects in your book responded to it?

Jamie Anderson: Just last night I read a chapter at a bookstore event and two of the women were in the audience. They laughed pretty hard. I [didn't] even use their names in the book, but they knew. I suspect that's how a lot of the people I write about will feel. Because I don't always use real names, folks won't know who I'm talking about except the ones who were there.

WCT: You began touring in 1987 and at one point you lived with a pig. Please discuss.

Jamie Anderson: I didn't live with a pig. I shared housing with one for a few days. My host was very nice and I liked the place, but it was a teeny bit unusual to share it with a huge animal.

WCT: You took your shirt off for Amy Ray? Now, you have to fill us in on that one!

Jamie Anderson: I was an emcee at a festival where she was playing. Taking off my shirt made it an extra special introduction. Fortunately, she didn't run away. In fact, she thought it was pretty funny. And for the record, I was wearing a modest bra under the shirt.

WCT: There is something flavorful about how you became your own booking agent at the start of your career. As women, we often have to do this type of thing to get our careers going—whether it's in the arts, photography, the office—even the homestead to make ends meet. Were you always self-sufficient?

Jamie Anderson: I've never had a manager or a label ( except my own ) but I had a booking agent a couple of times in my career and I mention them in the book. The first one got me a gig or two but quit after she realized she'd make more money flipping burgers. ( There are tens of dollars to be made in folk music. ) The second time was much more successful, but it was only for a special comedy show. For most of my career, I've booked myself. Other performers and agents were helpful, though, and often shared contacts or allowed me to share a stage. I'm grateful for their help and have tried to pass it on to the new performers I meet.

WCT: Having interviewed many female top-rated performers, there's a common thread I've found: To many of them, it's a man's world. Do you agree?

Jamie Anderson: It can be a sexist world, for sure, but I've been lucky and have been in many places where it was a woman's world.

WCT: In your experience, did the female performers at the larger festivals get along offstage?

Jamie Anderson: Yes. Some have been very supportive and I talk about that in the book. There was one performer who was really rude to me, but I don't mention her by name.

WCT: What three things have you learned from your colleagues Kate Clinton and Melissa Etheridge?

Jamie Anderson: Truth be told, while it was exciting to meet them both and to share a stage with Kate, I've learned more from artists like Holly Near and Meg Christian—how to be entertaining, for one, and how to introduce important issues in a way that leaves an audience uplifted. I've also learned how to be gracious with fans. I've seen Holly Near get stopped numerous times by fans and she always listens and thanks them.

WCT: Speaking of Melissa, your first time meeting her was an interesting [situation]. If given the chance to do it all over again, would you do anything differently?

Jamie Anderson: Probably not. I was an awkward mess, for sure, but I'm sure she gets that all the time.

WCT: You have a section on your website that is labeled, "Gets Bored Easily." How true is that statement? We want examples.

Jamie Anderson: [It's] a joke. If I'm really interested in something, I can focus for hours—a good book, writing a song, hearing a great performer, etc.

WCT: The comedy song "Run" was inspired by your Facebook fans. That could've been dangerous, but in your case, it was hilarious!

Jamie Anderson: I asked my Facebook friends when they knew a relationship was over. I got a lot of funny answers, and some that were bittersweet, that I thought would make a good song. And who hasn't met our best friend's new love and thought, "Ooh, she should run?"

WCT: It's been almost 30 years since the start of your career. If you could go back and do two things over again, what would they be?

Jamie Anderson: I would've been more diligent about learning guitar technique. I'm a decent player, but I could be so much better if I'd really studied early on. I honestly can't think of anything else I would've done differently. Even if something didn't have the expected outcome, I learned something from it.

WCT: What is in your future that you've left to cover but won't stop until you do?

Jamie Anderson: I'd love to learn to play that banjo I've had stashed in my closet for years. Also, I've got a lot more books in me. I'm currently working on one about women's music.

Drive All Night is available via Bella Books. Find out more about Jamie Anderson by visiting her website: .

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