Interview: Harrison Anderson, Musician/Photographer

In recent months I’ve become fascinated by the routines and day-to-day practices of creative people, in an effort to understand how they actually get things done. Hence, a series of interviews where creators talk about how they accomplish anything at all in this busy life.

Watching Harrison Anderson grow as both a musician and artist has been an honor. [Full disclosure, I met Harrison at a dinner party that I barely remember when I was 19 years old-- in the five years since then, we've played music together for almost 3 years in several different bands.] Not only has he swiftly become one of Austin's most thoughtful bass players, he is also an emotional and generous photographer. As time wears on, Harrison continually impresses me with his positive attitude, genuine excitement for making things and his remarkable ability to quietly persevere and do the work.   

How do you deal with the continual ebb and flow of “success” as a maker? If it’s a step forward in my art then I’m a success. If I connect with one person through my art then I’m a success. I remember feeling success as a musician the first time I played Austin, and then I felt it again the first time playing The Mohawk, I cried after playing New York City for the first time a couple weeks ago. Everything is a success towards a greater success, you can’t escape the blues, but it doesn’t take long to wash them away and remember how much good you’ve done and are going to do.

When is a time you felt really successful? Or a time you felt like you failed?
Anytime I say yes to something new is a success, the times that I’ve felt like I’ve failed is when I’ve said no or I’m too busy or made excuses why not to work on a project. I remember being asked to join SMiiLE and was going to say no because I was already in two others bands and told myself I couldn’t commit, but I went to Barton Springs one afternoon and ran into a friend and told them my situation and they very bluntly said that was bullshit and to not pass on the opportunity. It’s been over a year since I said yes and now those other two other bands have broken up and SMiiLE just got back from an east coast tour and I feel more validated as an artist now than I ever have.

What is your biggest struggle as a person in the creative industry?
Doubt. A balance of wondering when the break will happen and judgment from those who just don’t get it. You can work so hard for so long and get lost in what you’re doing, but I read Madonna say that her favorite time was when she first moved to New York City and everyone was hungry and struggling and in it together and that definitely feels like right now. What I’m saying is that I want to be like Madonna.

What is your daily routine? Your weekend routine? I’ve been starting every day with an album, I’ve got a pretty hefty record collection and this past new years I began this little project for myself where I listen to each one alphabetically, I’m in the R’s right now….getting there, but it’s been so incredible committing every morning to an album or two with my coffee…Oh and coffee. Coffee is always there too... That’s the only daily routine, everyday is a different. Umm…I do most things at least a couple times a week, SMiiLE practice, yoga, walk Town Lake (most of my ideas come during my walks), shows, I go see a film in the theater by myself every other week, like a Monday at two in the afternoon…it’s a peaceful sanctuary. I take a nap every single day from 5-6ish PM, sometimes they slip into two hour siestas.

How do you motivate yourself to actually get things done? Deadlines rule! That always puts a fire under my ass and that’s where I surprise myself in what I’m capable of the most, the shorter the time-frame the better the results. Motivation finds you and not the other way around, I can never pin it down, it hits and I have to attack right away or it’s gone… No questions, no hesitation. Instinct is your best friend.

Especially given that it’s unusually expensive to make things, how do you afford to be a creative person financially? Do you have a day job? I’ve waited tables since I was 16, I think I’ve always known that this way of life is what I wanted since I was 16. I don’t create for money, I’d love to be paid for what I do, but that will always come second to the art and the work itself.

How do you manage the stress/anxiety that’s inevitable with putting yourself out there? Whiskey…no, really my comfort is that we’re all naked. Anytime I feel lame or stupid or that I should give up I remember that everybody else has felt this exact same way. Fuck it. We’re all lame, we’re all stupid, I just trust that my lameness and stupidity resonates with others.

How do you know when it’s time to rest? Oh believe me, I know. I go to nap city, population me, every day. I’m sensitive to exhaustion and trust myself when it’s time to stop. Every few months I go back to home to Bandera, Texas where my folks still live and take it slow.   

How do you manage the internet/social media?
Sometimes I hear friends tell me that they’ve deleted all their social media accounts and I’ll sigh and think how lovely, but the reality for my life and art is that it is an incredible tool for self promotion, I’ve gotten so many photography gigs because of Instagram and SMiiLE is able to spread so much faster because of the internet.

What’s your collaborative process like?
I moved to Austin in 2012 and the city loves collaboration, building each other up, it’s a “yes” environment. (I met you, Mary at a potluck one of my first months here and look at us, written countless songs, toured America, done photoshoots, and now interviews together!) The scene is welcoming and nurturing for everyone to be better. As far as process, listening, listening, listening to your collaborator, I’ve seen too many projects destroyed by ego. You’d be surprised at what can be created from listening to one another. It allows space for honesty into the room.

What’s your big dream? Do you have one? How do you set goals/set yourself up to achieve?

Find more of Harrison's work here or follow him on Instagram