The former Yes lead vocalist and long-time creative force in modern music has been working on a new song for a year. On Oct. 25, he’ll release “Open” as a digital download.
By Jeff Schwachter
ATLANTIC CITY — Jon Anderson, one of the most recognizable voices in classic rock as the long-time lead singer and songwriter with the progressive-rock group Yes — and as a member of numerous incarnations of bands with many of the same members of Yes, in addition to other artists such as Kitaro — is giving himself a birthday present for his upcoming 67th birthday on Oct. 25.
Anderson, who spoke with Atlantic City Weekly on Thursday, Sept. 29, from his home in central California, where he has a cottage recording studio, is about to embark on a tour with sometime Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman.
The pair’s tour of the U.S. and Canada will stop in Atlantic City at the Tropicana on Saturday, Oct. 29.
Four days before the Atlantic City date, Anderson, who recently wrapped a successful tour of the East Coast, dubbed “An Acoustic Evening with Jon Anderson,” will release a brand-new song called “Open.”
The song, which Anderson has been working tirelessly on for several months, will only be available as a digital download — at least upon its initial worldwide release on Oct. 25, Anderson’s birthday.
“I’m releasing a 20-minute work on my bithday,” Anderson tells Atlantic City Weekly, “on the 25th of October. I’m just finishing that up now. It’s called ‘Open,’ and you’re the first person [from the media] I’ve spoken to about it, so — exclusive!”
Anderson says he composed the song in 2010 and since then has had neighbors, friends, colleagues and musicians from just about everywhere help him construct the piece.
“Last summer I was with the young teenagers from the Paul Green School of Rock on Long Island, and they just did a tweak here, a piano part there, and this and that and that was sounding great, so they helped. And then I brought in other people a couple months ago. Then I started singing it and I thought, ‘OK, I think it’s getting ready to be finished now.'”
Anderson worked on “Open” between a couple successful tours. Since getting off the road from his latest acoustic tour, he says he has been able to hone in and put the final touches on the song, which is actually 21 minutes long to be exact.
In June of this year, Anderson released a new solo album, filled with 11 new compositions and entitled Survival & Other Stories.
Anderson suffered serious health issues in 2008, which put a halt to his busy work schedule. For decades he had been the driving force behind Yes, but in recent years the band has continued with a new lead singer.
Anderson says he doesn’t hold any grudges, and is just happy to be creating music.
The song “Open,” he says, is in “what you would call the Yes classic style of music. That’s what I did for 35 years. And I would always go in with these crazy and wild ideas with Yes [to] try big pieces of music, [teling the other band members}: ‘don’t be afraid,’ and [meanwhile] the record companies and managers are all tearing their hair out.”
Anderson has always felt very strongly that music is a powerful medium.
“We shouldn’t have to stop short at three minutes and thirty seconds simply because [a song] is not able to be played on the radio,” says Anderson. “You should always create music for what it is — and that’s what I do.”
Music, says Anderson, is art — not a commercial product.
“Being part of [the creative process], in your heart you think you’re doing this or that, but actually you’re just a conduit to the world [and] to the energy that surrounds us,” he says.
“And I’m just happy to be able to do it. And I think people like this sort of music so we’ll see if we can get a lot of people to download it.”
Anderson says “Open” will be available as a download on mainstream sites such as Amazon and iTunes.
“After that, if people really like it, I’ll put it out with other songs next spring or something like that,” he adds. “That’s what I was thinking.”
Anderson hopes to have the song’s final mixing completed by next week.
“I’m busy everyday in my studio, writing new songs, recording with different people and now this wonderful piece of music I’m trying to get a lot of fixed and mixed this weekend,” he says.
Hopefully, adds Anderson, by the time he and Rick Wakeman hit Atlantic City on Oct. 29, people will have already heard the song.
“I’ll be dying to hear what they think,” he says.
Anderson allows a brief description about what “Open” is about.
“It’s about being open,” he says without a trace of humor, “and how if you open the doors of your heart that you will be fulfilled in all things that surround you, all the beautiful goodness of the world. Because if you close up, and remain all closed up, and do too many drugs, or do this or that, or eat too much food, shopping, whatever, you [wind up] meeting the same kind of people and everybody drags everybody down to a very unhealthy place.
“So you got to be open about life, and very open about things because there are people out there who are very, very joyful and helpful and beautiful. So, the more that we open up, the more that we will understand how beautiful life is and that we’re all born on this planet and that we [need to] look after Mother Earth, because Mother Earth is ours. And if we’re messing with the planet then we’re messing with [ourselves] — you know, that kind of thing.
“There’s sort of a revolution going on because of the Internet,” adds Anderson, “a sort of waking up of the truth.”
Despite Anderson’s motivation to create this 21-minute piece of music — i.e, that there are a lot of closed-minded people in the world, which in turn has created a wealth of problems on “Mother Earth” — the British Californian who lives with his “beautiful wife and kids,” is far from a pessimist.
Does Anderson think there is hope for the future of mankind?
“Oh gosh, yes. Totally,” he whips back unequivocally.
“Right in the middle of the song, in fact, the words are: ‘There is always hope.’
“And that’s what happens. You know, [I] write songs and I’m guided into writing the kind of music that I write and the songs that I write and it inspires me and inspires other people so why not, you know?”