Americana rising star Anderson East made his network television debut on Late Night With Seth Meyers last night with a brass section in tow, giving a performance that paid fine tribute to the kings and queens of soul. Playing a rousing rendition of “Satisfy Me” from his major-label debut, Delilah, the Nashville-based singer wrapped his weathered rasp around a song that feels like “Satisfaction” meets “Mustang Sally.” “I climbed Kilimanjaro but it was just a hill,” he sings. In the age of fast cars and faster Internet connections, it’s hard to find a thrill, but that’s what the music is for.
“I was in a band in middle school with a couple buddies, but I didn’t sing,” East tells Rolling Stone Country about discovering his voice. “My friend then hit puberty and he was squeaking a lot, so I started to sing all the songs. And I was like, man, this is a lot more fun than playing guitar.”
Indeed, Delilah is much more than just guitar songs. Though East spent plenty of time on the acoustic singer-songwriter scene in Nashville (and engineering country records like Kelsey Waldon’s The Goldmine at his Farmland Studios), it’s the golden soul-infused Stax Records sound that makes Delilah stand out — East spins just as much Wilson Pickett as he does Jason Isbell. His voice is a natural up against the crisp horn notes, and producer Dave Cobb made sure he tapped deeply into his southern R&B side with trips to Muscle Shoals, even recording a few songs for a special Live From Fame EP.
“One of my favorite rock & roll singers is Rod Stewart,” Cobb told Rolling Stone Country last summer at his home studio, where most of Delilah was recorded. “I always look for that rasp. Anderson has it. He’s incredible.”
On tour with the Lone Bellow and Brandi Carlisle, East — one of Rolling Stone Country‘s Artists You Need to Know — will also make an appearance at Nashville’s Americana Music Festival in September. Just don’t expect him to tailor his sound to a more banjo-happy crowd.
“I wanted to be in a different headspace,” he says of writing and recording Delilah. “Doing the singer-songwriter thing can get slightly morose and sad and sappy. And a lot of these are still sad songs or about wanting somebody or longing for somebody, but I think I took a little bit of a different perspective: instead of looking out of my own eyes, I was looking back at me.”
Delilah is out now on Low Country Sound/Elektra records.