There are many shades to Anders Osborne’s blues.

Three Free Amigos, the first disc released by the Swedish-born singer-guitarist, is a sunny set of laid-back roots rock. It’s quite a contrast from last year’s Black Eye Galaxy, which rages with the ferocity of a Category 5 hurricane.
“Any time you make a record, it’s a reflection of what’s going on in your life,” muses Osborne, speaking from New Orleans, the city he’s called home for 30 years. “Not just within you, but around you. Is it springtime?Are there leaves on the trees? Is your family doing okay? Are you drinking? Are you exercising? There are millions of things that determine the way a record sounds.”

These days, with a dozen releases to his credit, Osborne simply goes with the flow. “I try not to try so much,” he says with a chuckle. “As I get older, I try to just let things happen. I go into the studio with some general ideas —tones, textures — but I try not to force things.”

For all their variety, Osborne’s albums feel as if they’re cut from the same cloth: the raw, soulful American roots music Anders has loved since his teens. “This music never felt foreign to me,” he says. “It always felt like my songs, my musicians.” He also became acquainted with classic jazz via his dad’s collection of vintage Blue Note LPs — though when Anders took up the guitar, he was infatuated with the folk-rock of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young. It was Mitchell’s music that introduced Anders to open-D tuning, which he relies on almost exclusively, using a capo to play in various keys.

Anders plays with a combination of pick and fingers, cupping the pick in his palm to free his fingers as needed. He’s a stellar slide player on both electric and acoustic, and he sometimes crafts his own slides from wine bottlenecks. “I like Italian bottles,” he says. “There’s something special about the glass that makes it resonate slightly more darkly than anything else. I don’t drink anymore, but if there’s a Chianti bottle lying around my neighbor’s house, I’ll definitely steal it.”

For his live acoustic numbers, Osborne relies on a trio of Yamaha guitars: a small-bodied AC3R and two jumbo-sized models, a CPX1200 and a CPX1000. “They’re all beautiful and well-made,” he says. “The necks have a perfect medium thickness, so I think both amateurs and professionals can use them without straining themselves.”


Anders emphasizes the reliability of his Yamahas. “I have a lot of guitars, including some superb ones from the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Some of them are phenomenal for recording. But when you play live, especially with a band, you want things to be very, very consistent. You don’t want the feel or the action to change at all. You want a real workhorse, and that’s exactly what these Yamaha guitars do for me.”

Anders is particularly fond of the guitar’s SRT pickup system, which mimics the complex resonance of a miked acoustic guitar without the use of an external mic. “There are both microphones and pickups inside, and you can control the mix,” he explains. “If you blend in more mic, you get a more resonant, less direct sound. If you need the sound to cut a little more, you can mix in more of the direct pickup sound. You can also control the width of the sound. If I want a big strumming sound, I go wider. For blues stuff, I make it more focused. You can also choose between three studio mic simulations. My favorite is the Neumann U67 sound. Having all those options is really valuable. These Yamaha guitars are so versatile.”

Osborne’s most recent release, Peace, hit stores in early October. “I wanted a slightly different tone for this record,” he says. “I wanted a more linear record, one where the sound doesn’t vary too much from song to song. We spent several days working on the miking and the sounds, without worrying too much about getting everything done real quickly. We took our time, letting the project grow into something. And I just love this record.”

Whether singing or playing, Osborne says he strives to speak with the same voice. “When I play guitar, I try to make the same sounds I would make with my vocals, and vice-versa,” he says. “I just want everything — the lyric, the tones, the sounds, the melodies, the rhythms — to move me as much as possible.”