From Songwriting Partners to a Duo
Updated: Jan 27
"We Went Down" was written by myself and Mark O'Bitz in 2002. It was one of the very early songs that we were really excited about when we first started writing songs together.
If I remember correctly, Mark had to leave California to work on a cruise right when we started recording Not At One, my 2003 debut album as a solo artist. That's Grammy-winner Randy Ray Mitchell on guitar. We both love Randy and his wonderful guitar playing, but I wonder what would have happened if Mark had been able to play on this album.
Though 37 or 38, I was very new to songwriting and singing and I was swept up by the chance to work with Randy on this song that felt so important at the time. Looking back, I wish I had waited for Mark to return from his cruise job.
You can really hear the difference in guitars as you listen to what became the "We Went Down Reprise," which Jeff Peters was able to cobble together from jam sessions caught on my lame digital recorder (I should have used an old analog eight-track) :
Mark and I agree that I should have included "We Went Down" on my 2016 release, Big World Abide: The Best of Eric Anders:
I also should have included this song, "So Wrong," which was placed in the feature film starring Academy-Award-winner Christopher Plummer, Man in the Chair:
"So Wrong" was written about the second Bush presidency. I adapted it for our 2017 anti-Trump album, Eleven Nine:
Mark and I both prefer the original version. I think we rushed a bit on this acoustic version meant for Trump.
Mark and I took a break from songwriting from about 2005 to 2017. I graduated from my training to be a psychoanalyst the same year I met my wife: 2004. I released Tethered to the Ground in 2006 (produced by Mathew Emerson Brown), which was the year my first daughter was born. Tethered to the Ground has been our (Mark's and my) favorite album for a long time, only recently surpassed by American Bardo/This Mortal Farce for me.
I married my wife in 2005 and moved to Seattle in 2006. I moved back to California in 2007, unable to tolerate the wet, cold, and overcast of the Pacific Northwest. All this moving around and having babies made it difficult to work on music after Tethered to the Ground was released and I would not write songs with Mark for five years.
Mark and I would not really see each other for several years after that. I was married, having babies, working as a therapist, and I adopted my wife's son, who was three when we got married in 2005. (He will soon be going off to college.) All the while, Mark continued to tour the world while working on cruise ships.
Prior to Tethered to the Ground, I released my election-year anti-Bush EP in 2004, Songs for Wayward Days, and my sophomore LP in 2005, More Regrets. Almost all of the songs on both releases were Anders/O'Bitz songs.
Jeff Peters produced and mixed Songs for Wayward Days. I had the opportunity to work with Randy Ray Mitchell on guitar, Davey Faragher (Cracker) on bass, and Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello, Rock Hall of Fame) on drums. Randy Ray produced and played most of the instruments on More Regrets. Randy and I wrote three songs together and two of them ended up on Big World Abide: "Icarus" and "Settlin' Comes."
I released one CD every year for four years starting in 2003 and ending in 2006. Almost all of the songs were Anders/O'Bitz songs, but Mark was seldom around when it came time to record. I was glad when he'd get a break from cruising the world and we had a chance to write songs.
In 2011, a year after my second daughter was born, Mark and I got together to write a couple of songs for a project I was working on, Remains In Me.
This five-song EP was inspired by the 1992 Michael Apted documentary, Incident at Oglala. Apted, by the way, recently passed away. I wrote the title song and "Genocide and Justice" with Mark. The electric guitarist on the EP is Jeff Fielder (Mark Lanegan).
I would take another five-year break from songwriting after working on Remains In Me. During those five years, I would move to San Diego from the Bay Area and then back to the Bay Area. I got flooded out of a house I loved and ended up moving my family around way too much. At least most of the moving we did as a family took place within our eastern part of the East Bay, which now truly feels like home.
In 2016, I released Big World Abide. Soon after this came Trump's illegitimate election win and I scrambled to put together the best protest album I could in a short amount of time. I wrote two new songs for Eleven Nine with the producer, Mathew Emerson Brown ("Inside the Sacrifice Zone" and "Do You Feel") but mostly reworked old Anders/O'Bitz political songs written about Bush. I will write more about Eleven Nine in a later post.
The new songs I wrote with Matt encouraged me to get back into songwriting after a decade of focusing on family and career. I called up Mark and we agreed to work on an album together and to release it as a duo. It was clearly time to get back into it--and to get back into it together.
The album that came out of these renewed songwriting sessions became our debut release as a duo, Of All These Things (2018).
The cover is supposed to look like an aged Not At One cover--with a photo of Mark added.
I wanted to do the cover this way because, looking back, I wish Not At One had been a duo project--and all of my solo projects after that. More than 80% of my songs prior to Of All These Things are Anders/O'Bitz songs.
One of the things I love about Of All These Things is that Mark is playing his guitar throughout the album. I wish I had slowed down and waited for Mark to be involved with recording all of my solo projects. Randy Ray Mitchell joins us on our sophomore album as a duo, Ghosts To Ancestors, but all of the songs are Anders/O'Bitz songs and Mark is playing many instruments too. This is even more true with our duo releases with Mike Butler at the helm: American Bardo, This Mortal Farce, and our collection we are calling "music in the time of coronavirus," in which "Careful Now My Son" is the first song. Not only are all of these songs Anders/O'Bitz songs, Mark is playing more instruments throughout all of these releases.
So the worn cover of Of All These Things is supposed to be a nod to the Not At One cover and, in a way, an apology to Mark for not releasing all of our music as a duo. Luckily, he has forgiven me and we continue to make music together. We have many more songs in us and we are both looking forward to working more with Mike Butler who has been so helpful to us with regard to producing and mixing these songs.
The two Spotify playlists below are Anders/O'Bitz songs from 2003-2011 and the best of our work as a duo from 2018-2020.
Eric Anders, January 2021