Q: What happens when a veteran Seattle rock musician collaborates with a classical pianist?
A: Mad Andersons
Only musicians who have spent years honing their craft can create an album as thoughtful and masterful as Light Through Glass. But what sets Mad Andersons apart and what gives them their unique sound is the disparate nature of Catherine’s and Nolan’s musical gifts—and that comes from the different paths the two of them took to arrive at this incredible album.
Songwriter Nolan Anderson has been a journeyman multi-instrumentalist in the Seattle music scene for years. He’s played everything from punk to blues to country rock in such bands as Connections, Bad Bones and the Big Haired Girl, and Vagabonds. Nolan plays guitar, bass, accordion, piano, and drums.
Catherine Anderson was a classical concert artist for most of her career. She began piano lessons at the age of 5, won a young artist’s competition at age 11, and performed Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” at age 17. She was on the faculty of the University of Idaho Lionel Hampton School of Music from 1997-2006 and toured as both a pianist and vocalist with the UI's Palouse Opera Project. Catherine currently keeps very active as an independent collaborative pianist for students and faculty at the University of Idaho.
Nolan and Catherine grew up in the same small town in eastern Washington state and started crossing paths from Grade 6 on through high school. They met again for the first time three years ago—on Facebook.
“I told him he should have asked me out in high school,” jokes Catherine.
A personal journey
While it's tempting to wonder what kind of music the two could have created had they paired up earlier, it certainly wouldn’t have been Light Through Glass. This is an album born from the personal experiences Nolan had while he was going through a divorce, taking care of his aging mother, and raising his young daughter.
“I had pretty much decided that I would spend the rest of my days alone and I was trying to come to grips with that revelation. As a songwriter I still draw from those years of being alone.”
Of course, the album isn’t all sadness. Part of the joy of listening to Light Through Glass is that there is a strong undercurrent of hope. “Those are the songs I wrote after having met Catherine.”
Recording Light Through Glass
Nolan takes an old school approach to songwriting. “He scores everything—even the drums,” says Catherine. And while this definitely aided the recording process, the Andersons left plenty of room for improvisation.
“That’s the great thing about working with such talented musicians as Chris G and Dennis Staskowski. They instinctively knew when to stick to the score and when to let loose. The album simply wouldn’t have been the same without them.”
“Nolan is such a prolific songwriter,” says Catherine, “that the hardest part of creating Light Through Glass was figuring out which songs to leave off.”