by Floco Torres
When you walk into an art gallery to explore, there’s a collection of works that have been assembled and managed by a curator. One of the curator’s jobs is to best express an array of messages throughout the art you see on the gallery’s walls. When you walk into a music scene to explore, there usually isn’t a guide or starting point outside of what type of music you like or a particular band you came to see. Right in the middle of Akron’s boundless music scene you have Phil Anderson, Akron’s musical curator.
Phil Anderson is a pianist, singer, arranger, composer, producer and UA graduate. He left Akron shortly after college for “more musical opportunities,” although he admits he didn’t really know what that meant at the time. Bouncing around from Chicago to New York and then Austin Texas, Phil gradually realized that he was actually moving farther away from those aspired opportunities. Although he could’ve gone with musicians he met in the larger ponds, he continued to collaborate throughout the years with friends and jazz bandmates from UA who make up the band Bluelight. Bluelight wrote songs via email and during Phil’s short visits in town. They recorded nine tracks for their first EP in a fifteen hour day with only a weekend of rehearsals. Phil calls it “a testament to these guys’ musicianship that we can get together with minimal prep and make something happen.”
The energy from these sessions eventually brought Phil back to Akron for good. While he was in most of the cities on his journey, Phil felt there was a sense of “What can the city do for ME?” amongst musicians. It wasn’t all bad though, as he found his gig with the Quincey Jones co-signed project Playground Sessions in New York and continues to teach piano through the app daily. NY based MC and producer Lieutenant Headtrip is co-producing Bluelight’s follow up record to their self titled EP called “Tunnels” in an effort to capture some of the gritty sound of New York life. Still, Akron has the right amount of friendly competition and togetherness that he was inevitably looking for.
Phil’s main focus now is finding a way to gather up different artists in the scene and package it in a way that’s cohesive. Since his return to Akron, Phil has built a studio downtown in the historic arts district that is becoming a hub for not just his recordings, filmmaking and various projects, but for artists (like Gretchen E. Pluess) that he’s a fan of. He’s heading up the booking team for Sofar Sounds Akron, a new global network of musicians and volunteers creating shows in unique spaces to enhance discovering live music, and ahead of the release of “Tunnels,” Phil continues to collaborate with artists throughout the scene while using Bluelight as a vehicle for community building.
“Every new record will continue to feature more artists as a way to document the music scene,” Phil says.
There’s no one way to define a painting on canvas, just as there’s no one way to define the lyrics to a song. The difference in how you receive it is the display. With that being said, we should all be excited to step back and watch the walls slowly fill up with new art from Phil Anderson’s perspective.
[Photos by Heidi Rolf]