Cataldo's Eric Anderson grows up with powerful new album

Cataldo's Eric Anderson grows up with powerful new album
Photo by Andrew J.S.

In previous years, it might have been easy, though inaccurate, to lump Cataldo creator and frontman Eric Anderson into the broad category of "Seattle musicians with guitars who play music about feelings." But with Cataldo's forthcoming fourth album, "Gilded Oldies," Anderson breaks far from that archetype to create a record that is more mature, both in substance and style.

"Gilded Oldies" is "about getting a little older and reconciling the difference between what you thought adulthood would be like and what adulthood actually irrefutably is," explains Anderson, 27, who has been making music since he was a teenager.

But, he's quick to add, "it's not always depressing. There are definitely hopeful moments on the record."

On previous albums, in part because of financial constraints, Anderson did all or most of the creative work himself, writing the music he himself could make with his tools and recording on the cheap. As a result, the music was heavy on guitar and lyrics.

Albums like "Prison Boxing" focused more on events and storytelling, which, while gaining Anderson acclaim for his complex, eloquent lyrics and heartfelt delivery, made it difficult for him to stand out in Seattle's deep field of folk-inspired musicians.

For "Gilded Oldies," though, he took a new approach.

"I had a very constructive conversation with my then-roommate, where I was explaining how I was going to make the record in the same way I made the last one...and he was like, 'Well, that sounds very sensible, but what do you want to do?' And, it seems ridiculous, but I had not deeply considered that."

"He asked me what was stopping me from making the album I really wanted to make, and they were all really easy-to-solve problems. That really knocked me aside."

As a result of that conversation, Anderson, who says he was always inspired by funk, soul and R&B, took a leap of both production and faith, incorporating those influences and producing an album with a rich horn section and powerful, moving percussion arrangements.  He spent more time with it, searching for the right collaborators, the right studio space. 

The outcome is a record that is both elaborate and more accessible than previous albums -- it is relatable and unexpected.

A native of Moscow, Idaho -- a city whose supportive environment and arts community he ruthlessly defends -- Anderson began making music at a young age, recording CDs in his friend's basement on rudimentary equipment. After high school, he moved to Minnesota for college, though he spent his summers commuting from Moscow to Seattle to play shows. He eventually moved to Seattle after college in 2008, when he began meeting other local musicians.

"I met Matt Bishop from Hey Marseilles at a house show I was playing and he told me about this band he was starting," he explains.

Anderson and Hey Marseilles remain close. Not only will they be playing on the same bill on Monday, January 13, they also share a member;  Colin Richey drums for both Cataldo and Hey Marseilles.

Other members of Cataldo include Aaron Benson, Jacob Hoffman and Matt Batey, all of whom have musical projects of their own.

"I feel so lucky to have people of that caliber who want to do my thing," he says of the bonds he's formed with other Seattle musicians. It's those same same friendships and working relationships that have helped him grown to the point where he was able to create "Gilded Oldies," an album that Anderson calls "the one I really wanted to make."

"If I'm not doing exactly what I want to do, there's no point to doing it. All I care about is doing what I want because, ultimately, it's kind of a very expensive vanity project."

In addition to the different sound of "Gilded Oldies," Anderson says there's also been more of a focus on the performance and presentation of the music. 

"We sort of had a State of the Union with the band where we agreed that we wouldn't play any more shows until we had something interesting to say."

From the meeting came the decision to improve the stage performance and focus on being both musically sound and also visually interesting and entertaining. Now, when taking the stage, the band dresses up -- Anderson himself wears a full suit -- and includes more movement and performance elements. 

"We're doing this new type of show which, to be frank, requires me to dance a lot," he laughs.

Which, though it sometimes makes him nervous, compliments the albums sound -- it's a more grown-up show to match an album about growing up.

In the liner notes on Cataldo's website, Anderson explains that "Gilded Oldies" is about "reconciling my conception of adulthood with actual adulthood."  And like many young musicians, part of that reconciliation includes balancing his music with the other demands of life.

Anderson says he's had a lot of advantages in that department -- particularly regarding his day job, which has supported him in crucial ways.

"I manage an ice cream shop. That's my job," he explains, "and it's a great company to work for...There aren't a lot of jobs where you can go on tour for three weeks and come back your job is still there and you have health insurance and dental insurance. It's really nice."

Still, his life looks different than he thought it would. And though Anderson explains that the gap between perceptions and reality is "not always the easiest yawning gulf to traverse," he feels very fortunate to have been able to make the album that inspects it.

"When I listen to it now, I really am thrilled that this big idea that I had come to fruition in this cool (to me) way, and also that I didn't just stumble my way through another record. I set out to do something and I kind of achieved it...I don't know how I got so lucky."

Cataldo plays Timbrrr! Winter Music Festival this Saturday, Feb 11, at 5:00pm in Leavenworth, and Monday, January 13, at 8:00pm with Hey Marseilles at Neumo's.

For more information and to pre-order "Gilded Oldies," visit Cataldo's official website