Q&A with Muriel Anderson, one of the world’s foremost fingerstyle and harp-guitarists, across various music genres

"Music stirs the emotion in a powerful way, I would like it to encourage the good in people, I believe it’s important for artists to keep that in mind in this age of too much negative in our music and too much dissonance in our lives. Good music can give people a purpose, joy, and connection to others... even more of a connection when enjoyed with a good meal."

Muriel Anderson: Respect & Joy of Music

Muriel Anderson’s obvious joy of music, humor and her comfort across genres of folk, classical, bluegrass, popular and international music is revered by guitarists worldwide. Considered one of the world’s foremost fingerstyle guitarists and harp-guitarists, she is an engaging performer with a unique approach to the instrument. One minute she launches into a startlingly authentic Spanish-style original, then a Beatles’ tune, and next virtually transforms the guitar into Bluegrass band, a marching band, then a Japanese koto. Muriel’s innovative CD that lights up, “Nightlight Daylight” was chosen as one of the Top-10 of the decade by Guitar Player Magazine. Her new project is an international cookbook "Acoustic Chef" (2019) with a CD containing a tune for each recipe. Her music can be heard in Woody Allen's film "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and her "Heartstrings" recording accompanied the astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery. 

Muriel Anderson / Photo by Bryan Allen

Many of her shows are highlighted by a backdrop of stunning visuals by celebrated photo-artist Bryan Allen, bringing you on a world tour, and even into space. Muriel is the first woman to have won the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship and has performed and recorded with Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Victor Wooten and the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. She is host of the renowned Muriel Anderson’s ALL STAR GUITAR NIGHT® and founder of the MUSIC FOR LIFE ALLIANCE charity.

Interview by Michael Limnios               Special Thanks: Jesse Finkelstein (BRI)

How has the Roots music and World culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I grew from roots music, I mean that I started with folk, country blues, and bluegrass music as a young child, and the first time I heard a folk dance group playing Bulgarian music I asked my parents to stop the car and I ran over to join the line dances. I remember it being so exciting and fun to hear this music and learn the steps just by watching the person next to me. When I travel to different countries I make it a point to learn some of the language, and I can’t help but to learn some of the music as well.

How do you describe your music philosophy? What touched (emotionally) you from the fingerstyle and Harp-Guitar?

I try to get out of the way of the music, to let the music write itself and to let the instrument play itself. It takes a lot of attention to detail, to nuance of feel, and often learning new techniques to let the music live the way it wants to. Fingerstyle guitar and in particular the harp guitar give me the ability to play several parts at once, with different qualities of tone for each part, turning the instrument into a real orchestra. When the instrument is playing me, it gives me a great sense of wonder, and profound respect for the Music.

Are there any memories from travels, gigs, jams, and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I feel like my life is sometimes magical, and I’m sure it’s the music that brings me closer to that. I’ve talked to many musicians who feel the same. The day I recorded JS Baklava happened to be the first day of the annual Greek festival, so of course I ended up eating baklava, dancing Greek line dances, and finding a bouzouki player. When I recorded the bluegrass/roots medley it happened to be the night of the full moon pickin' party, so I ended up jamming bluegrass tunes until late into the night. Just after I wrote “Tuvan Horseman” the Tuvan throat singers “Alash” happened to be traveling through Nashville with a free day, so they did the super-cool throat singing and played their authentic instruments on the tune. Django’s grandson Lulo Reinhardt found time to record on my “Under Paris Skies.” I have to say, almost every day something amazing happens.

"I grew from roots music, I mean that I started with folk, country blues, and bluegrass music as a young child, and the first time I heard a folk dance group playing Bulgarian music I asked my parents to stop the car and I ran over to join the line dances. I remember it being so exciting and fun to hear this music and learn the steps just by watching the person next to me. When I travel to different countries I make it a point to learn some of the language, and I can’t help but to learn some of the music as well." (Muriel Anderson / Photo by Chuck_Winans)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past?

Well, today there are so many little enclaves of different styles in different places that about anything I could think of that I miss from the past I could find someplace if I searched long and hard enough.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I fear that people will start fearing the future. I have heard young children talk about how the world is likely going to end from one of several ways. If we spend our energy fearing the future we are less likely to make the world a better place for ourselves and others. My hopes for the future are that we can keep the population under control by having fewer children around the world, to improve the quality of life for people and leave space for wild plants and animals as well. Love of the arts, education and empowerment for women, are key.

How started the thought of "Acoustic Chef"? How does taste affect your mood and inspiration? What was the hardest part of writing this book?

I had been wanting to release a cookbook with music for each recipe for many many years. It’s a natural extension of traveling, playing music, getting to know different people and different cultures, and enjoying quality of life (yes, which has nothing to do with a big bank account). The recipes from various countries have given me inspiration to write in new styles and I've enjoyed this challenge,to capture the heart of each. I’m looking forward to seeing how my music will evolve for the next one!

"I try to get out of the way of the music, to let the music write itself and to let the instrument play itself. It takes a lot of attention to detail, to nuance of feel, and often learning new techniques to let the music live the way it wants to. Fingerstyle guitar and in particular the harp guitar give me the ability to play several parts at once, with different qualities of tone for each part, turning the instrument into a real orchestra. When the instrument is playing me, it gives me a great sense of wonder, and profound respect for the Music." (Muriel Anderson / Photo by Bryan Allen)

What are the lines that connect the legacy of 'folk' music around the world from US to Andalusia and from UK to beyond?

They are similar to the lines that connect cuisine. We enjoy and revere the tradition of our own, but have the freedom to explore other flavors as well.

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

I don’t think acoustic music really differentiates according to sex the way sports does. Once I start to play, I’m treated as an equal in just about any musical situation.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Music stirs the emotion in a powerful way, I would like it to encourage the good in people, I believe it’s important for artists to keep that in mind in this age of too much negative in our music and too much dissonance in our lives. Good music can give people a purpose, joy, and connection to others... even more of a connection when enjoyed with a good meal.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Well, it depends on if that time machine allowed me to change the outcome of the present or just visit as a bystander. Very different answers in either case.

Muriel Anderson - Home

(Muriel Anderson / Photo by Bryan Allen)

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