Photo by Brad Hodge
Life on tour can be a lonely existence. The long miles between gigs, that constant, unending road leading away from home and family. It can chew up musicians and spit them out in the shoulder already littered with the debris of failed bands.
Yet, it can also be exhilarating. For some, the road becomes home. The chance to play music for a living can outweigh the difficulties of a nomadic lifestyle.
It seems to me Ed Anderson falls into the latter description. Anderson, who turns 38 next month, is the leader of Backyard Tire Fire. His brother, Matt, who plays bass, and drummer Tim Kramp complete the trio that hails from Bloomington, Ill.
BTF is in the middle of a long tour in support of its latest record, the exceptional "Good To Be." I talked with Ed last week while he was driving between Montana gigs in Missoula and Bozeman. You can read the result of that interview here.
Our conversation drifted to his youth in the western suburbs of Chicago (he and Matt graduated from St. Charles High School). He joked that as a kid he wanted to grow up to play shortstop for the Cubs. He never really considered becoming a rock star. But as he got older music became a viable option, thanks mostly to his blue-collar work ethic.
BTF has played between 150 and 200 shows a year for the past decade.
"It's been a haul," Anderson said. "We've worked our asses off, but even if you work really, really, really hard, there always has to be a little luck involved."
Luck for the band came in the form of a show opening for Los Lobos in October 2008 (more details can be found in the article I linked earlier). Because of that the band is riding an unprecedented surge of popularity, though BTF is far from a household name at this point.
But that isn't the point. Ed, Matt and Tim are doing what they love. They are creating music that is connecting with people. They are doing that one town at a time, finally getting a boost from commercial radio stations that have begun spinning "Good To Be" in regular rotations.
No wonder Ed is able to say, "It's OK, it's all right, I'm alive and it's good to be," as he does on the title track.
"I feel fortunate to have found something that's challenging and that I love," he said. "So many people don't get that in life. They end up having to do things they don't want to do. I never wanted to be one of those people. I always wanted to be happy with what I was doing.
"I think I found what I'm supposed to be doing, you know?"
I, for one, am happy he has.