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Missy and Heine Andersen

Missy and Heine Andersen
Putting Rhythm Back in the Blues

By T.E. Mattox

issy and Heine Andersen are literally and figuratively, on the same sheet of music. Their new album, 'In the Moment' was released in late summer and is currently climbing multiple music charts. They have a break-neck performance and non-stop touring schedule well into next year that would kill most normal people. And most recently, in early December Missy received a 2015 Blues Music Award nomination in the Soul Blues Female Artist category

Before you jump to the conclusion that their journey has been an overnight success story, don't. It hasn't. But if you can envision two different artists from opposite sides of the planet finding one another, working tirelessly at perfecting their craft and then, defy all the odds by refusing to give up on the music that they love…well then, your perception of the Andersen's is almost picture perfect.

Our conversation started with exactly how they describe the music they make. "I just call it Rhythm and Blues," Missy tells me, "just make it that broad. But not like R&B, not like when they turned it into initials. Like rhythm and blues, like it meant before… when it captured everything. It wasn't jump blues, it wasn't Chicago blues, and it wasn't Piedmont or Delta. It was Rhythm and Blues and everyone had a different style, but it all fell under that umbrella."

Missy Andersen and the band performing at the 2014 Adams Avenue Street Fair
Missy Andersen and the band breaking it down at this year's Adams Avenue Street Fair. Photo: Yachiyo Mattox

Music has always been a big part of Missy's life. Born in Detroit, but raised in Queens, New York she readily admits, "I'm a city girl." She starts to smile. "I listened to a lot of music growing up; my parents had a big record collection, soul, jazz, gospel, R&B, a little blues. Then while you're learning how to sing, you go through different periods. I had a jazz period, and R&B period… a small country period."

It was Missy's grandmother that initially introduced her to the blues. "She was a big blues fan, but I have to be honest," she begins to shake her head. "When I was growing up I considered blues to be old people's music. I'm ashamed but it's the truth. Sometime's when you're really close to something you don't really appreciate it as you would if you learn it later… because it was right there, all the time. That's old people music; I want to hear some new stuff."

All things considered the same could be said for America's acceptance and appreciation for blues. It was all around…the Delta South, Memphis, Texas, Chicago and Detroit, but it wasn't fully acknowledged or appreciated by the masses until it was reintroduced to a younger generation by a number of amplified and electrified British youth.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"….once I started listening to blues I started to realize that ice cream comes
in a whole bunch of different flavors. And they're ALL good."

– Missy Andersen             

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Missy's husband/band leader/guitarist Heine, agrees "I think that's very normal and just in general, you know? Stuff that's in your back yard you never appreciate."

Heine, a native of Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark, says there are noticeable differences living in Scandinavia and living in Southern California, "You can't beat the weather here." He grins and then adds, "I don't miss the Danish winters."

The million dollar question is… how did a young man from Denmark get hit so hard by American blues and roots music? "It really started with me being introduced to the music of Jimi Hendrix," he says. "That caught my attention and then by reading about him I got to learn who influenced him, which was a lot of the old blues guys. You know even though he took it to (laughing) obviously a different place. I was very fortunate there was a great library in the town I lived at the time and they had all these artists from the Library of Congress; all the field recordings all the way up to later blues and everything in between. So basically, I could go in and explore all of these for free. I wouldn't have been able to buy all this stuff, I could just go in and get the records and listen… and did."

Heine Andersen performing with Marty Dodson
Heine Andersen and Marty Dodson BLUSIN' Photo: Yachiyo Mattox

Heine says his appetite for blues grew and his further exploration uncovered some of America's national treasures. "I remember this one album by Mississippi Fred McDowell, a live album he did back in the 60's. I think it was on a student campus or something like that, and it had 61 Highway and Red Cross store and all those. So that one I really got into and there was a double album, a Blue Note by T-Bone Walker, like a double LP and got really into that, too." Heine, I'm discovering, is an encyclopedia of who's who in the Blues. He continues, "And Albert King, pretty much his greatest from the Stax years, and I remember this album by Freddie King. Those were the first… and then eventually Son House, and really into Bukka White! I was very fortunate that they had all those reissues like the early Delta stuff."

Cultural and geographical backgrounds aside, the couple has managed thus far to avoid most of the pitfalls that surround the business of music. Attending a live show or listening to their CD's, you won't hear the stereotypical and grossly overworked 'classic' and 'pop' elements so Industry prevalent today. They have opted instead to invest a little more time and attention to detail to create something fresh, original and inspiring. Crazy, I know. But by revitalizing a few standards, adding depth with new arrangements and writing more original compositions, Missy and Heine have personified the phrase, 'What was once old is new again.'

"That's the spirit of it," Missy says "the blues is steeped in that experience of telling a story. That's how it originated. You can't tell some else's story, you can't impersonate someone else and do it the way THEY did it, because you lose your own authenticity. If you don't somehow get your own story into it, then you've missed the whole spirit of the blues. It's not real blues until you somehow manage to make that story… your story."

Missy and Heine Andersen
Missy and Heine in sync. Photo: Jon Naugle

There are so many different styles of music today and almost all of them are probably considered more lucrative than Blues, or Gospel or R& B. The blues seem to be a 'personal' choice.

"It is for me." Missy agrees. "Once I started listening to blues, first of all when I was trying to sing… being a vocalist is really hard," she looks at Heine. "And it must be the same for musicians. Because when you're learning how to do it you mimic other people. And when you can't get your voice or your fingers or whatever, to sound exactly like that person it's really discouraging, (laughing) especially as a singer. But once I started listening to blues and some of the qualities of their voices I started to realize that ice cream comes in a whole bunch of different flavors. And they're ALL good. So your flavor doesn't have to sound like someone else's… I mean you could be the 'Chunky Monkey' (laughing) or something that hasn't even been discovered. So once I let go of trying to sound 'pretty' I actually started to be a little bit more free to just let whatever came out… come out."

And the flavors that Missy began to sample could not have been any tastier. "Like Gladys Knight, I love the timber of her voice. It's low, but she's quite an alto but the top of her voice is…'precious' and it's all the storytelling. I mean, like Aretha Franklin is just great… great! She's up there all the time and in-your-face, but there are some people that are just subtle in the way they do it. Like Ray Charles whose voice is all 'crinkly-crackly' and has all that texture on it but it hits you all the way down at your toes."

For Heine, he says it just comes down to one thing. "To me, it's just what moves me, really. It could even be something more contemporary… whatever moves me. That's really the short answer."

The West Coast beckoned and a job opportunity that Missy found she just couldn't refuse. Her new job also came with a new title; Juke Joint Jezebel. "We actually added the 'Juke Joint' to soften the Jezebel part. (laughing) I came to California to visit a family friend who had joined the Marines. He and his wife lived in Oceanside. I decided to stay because I liked the weather and it was different from New York, more relaxed and laid back. When I got here I thought I wasn't going to sing, I pretty much thought, 'Arrgghh! It's never going to happen for me and I'm too timid… I'm not good enough.' So I was doing the karaoke circuit (laughing) and got a call from one of my karaoke friends, a flight attendant, who said she was on this flight and Earl Thomas got on and she's like, 'Hey, I know you.' They got to talking and he told her he had this project in mind, so she basically started singing for him right there… in the air. He said he wanted some backup singers and she just started singing. So he goes, 'Do you have any more like you?' (laughing) And she just started calling us up and so pretty much that's how I became a 'Juke Joint Jezebel.'"

Earl Thomas would end up being a musical connection for both Missy and Heine. "Well, the first time I saw Earl perform was in Copenhagen," Heine smiles at the memory. "At a blues club over there called 'Mojo.' I thought, 'Oh man, this dude can sing." Heine says he and a couple of other musicians he'd been working with in Denmark thought, "'hey, maybe we ought to try and put something together and back this guy up? That would be cool to do some touring or some gigs over here.' So we established a connection and the next time he came back to Copenhagen we had learned three sets of his material and were ready to go. So we did some gigs over there and then eventually talked to Earl about maybe coming over here (to America) to play some gigs."

Missy, a card-carrying Juke Joint Jezebel, was already in the band. "We were already backing him (Thomas) up and that's how we got the Jezebel name. We were doing this spiritual, more like a gospel show, but eventually we started doing more blues with him. It was only supposed to be one show but he liked it so much he said, 'Let's do it again… and again, and again.' At some point he brought over the guys, the Danish dudes and he wanted us girls. We all got together and were a ten-person band at one point. We did a lot of shows here in the U.S. and then went to Europe."

One big happy family…Missy and Heine meet and then...? "Well then, nothing!" Missy laughs, "…because we had bad social skills. (laughing) We were together for like six months," she looks at Heine, " and then you guys went back for three months and then came back for three months. And it wasn't until maybe a month after that we (the girls) went over to Denmark. I don't think that Heine and I had even had a conversation that lasted longer than four seconds. 'Hey Heine, how are you? I'm well.' That's it." (laughing)

Obviously, a man of few words…

Let's talk a little about life on the road. "The best part for me is the travelling," says Missy. "The touring part is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. But the experience of different places, cultures and meeting new people, I say it all the time… I love my job, because I get to do something I have passion for, stand in the front row and meet new people."

Foreign audiences can differ from country to country and Missy remembers only too well one particular scenario. "The first time we got to do a Missy Andersen-like tour in Denmark. We sing a song and when we finished," Missy counts under her breath, one Mississippi, two Mississippi… "maybe four seconds, maybe five before anyone would actually clap. The excruciating pain, that silence right there. So after the first set I went backstage and I told the guys, 'I think they hate me!' And they're like, 'No, they don't. They're getting into it.' Missy's not buying it. "Are you kidding? It was like… quiet, nobody's doing anything, and nobody's dancing. And they said, 'look at their fingers, look at their feet.' Then I'm looking, 'Oh yeah, they're tapping.' It would be something as subtle as that." Missy smiles and adds, "I still do that, when we're in places and I get uncomfortable, I look to see if you're tapping your foot, even if you're not looking at me…and I go, she rolls her eyes, 'Whew!'"

Heine agrees but with the caveat, "Depending on the setting for an American touring artist, it's more like a concert setting. So everybody is seated and I think you can experience some of that here (in the U.S.) as well. I don't think it's a negative thing. I've played settings in Europe where people are dancing, like a local blues club in Copenhagen. So, it really depends on the setting and the venue or if it's more like a concert or 'sit down jazz' or classical music."

It would be while Missy and Heine were working together in a San Diego band called 'Tell Mama' (Heine was also pulling double-duty playing with another Southern California icon, Candye Kane) when they both decided to step into the unknown. "We wanted to do our own… something?" Missy grins. "And do it for our own sensibilities. Heine had kind of convinced me that I could actually stand in the front row. It was a hard transition for me because really, I am timid. Heine convinced me that I could do it. I'm like, 'I do not have the personality.' So, it took me awhile."


Missy Andersen live and 'in the front row.' Photo: Yachiyo Mattox

The first CD simply entitled, Missy Andersen receives critical acclaim right out of the box. Missy says deciding which songs would be on the disc were the least of her worries. "Those were some of the tunes we were already doing. And honestly, on that CD we were up-side down. And so almost as soon as I decided to be Missy Andersen the girl, not Missy Andersen fronting Tell Mama, one of Heine's band mate's in Denmark said, 'I can book you a tour.' I mean we didn't have anything, we barely had a website, I was still printing business cards on my computer and the ink was still wet. We went to Europe the first time in April and we went right back that same year in November. And in between the tour we recorded. We had two songs and just some of the things we were already doing that we had in our repertoire. And it came out really, really good."

San Diego guitarist, Nathan James was featured on that album as well. "Yeah, that was kind of an accident." Missy admits. "We were recording at his Sacred Cat Studios and while we were doing it he got inspired and pulled out his slide guitar and he was just playing along while we were recording. And when we came back and were listening to the playback he did it again. And we're like, 'we need that!'

Your road schedule includes a lot of wineries in and around Southern California. "It's wonderful." Missy says. "We started really digging in and beefing up our local gigs. We started out just at Miramonte and sometimes we'd get there and there would be 25 people and sometimes there'd be TWO! We'd never know what we're gonna' get. I think even today, even though we have built up a following, I still expect when we turn the corner to only see two cars!" (laughing) "I still expect that!" (laughing)

In August this year you release your second CD, 'In the Moment.' Heine says, "For me it's really a mixture of what we listen to at home. There's definitely some gospel influence on it. There's a Ray Charles influence, some Bobby Bland from his early period with the horns."

cover for Missy Andersen's second CD: In the Moment
The latest from Missy Andersen

If you ask Heine to speak to the process of writing music with Missy, he defines it simply as "Collaboration… whatever it starts with… a musical riff or idea of a groove or one chord. Then, okay what could this song be about?" Heine says ideas happen sometimes when you least expect them. "'Whole Lotta Nuthin' actually started sitting at the table playing a card game. Missy was looking at her hand and saying, 'Well, I got a whole lot of nothing.' I said, 'Well, that's a song right there!' (laughing) We talked about it, then I started thinking about that B.B. classic, 'Whole Lotta Love.' It's where he's declaring his love…but what if you did the opposite? I have nothing for you, a whole lot of nothing. The tunes go through a lot of transformations. It started sort of like that B.B. up tempo shuffle, and then we tried for a short period where we took it into more like a jump blues, sort of a Ruth Brown thing. But that's not quite it, what if we tweaked it with more of a New Orleans kinda' second-line thing? And that's when it started coming to life."

With a sense of giving back, both of the Andersen's have been involved with Blues in the Schools programs and Missy says, "That was so much fun. Everyone has a different approach to it, but we tried to come up with a presentation that used their language and that they could grasp. And to understand how blues influenced the music that they listen to today. We did it for quite a few years."

the writer with Missy and Heine Andersen
Missy and Heine Andersen and a fan. Photo: Yachiyo Mattox

Early next year Missy and Heine had been slated to represent San Diego at the 2015 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, but those plans changed in early December. Missy explains, "I received a Blues Music Award nomination in the Soul Blues Female Artist category. That nomination, however, made me ineligible to compete in the upcoming International Blues Challenge so Heine and I were subsequently disqualified. No worries though, Ben Powell will be competing in our stead. So yeah, I was disqualified from the IBC… because I received a BMA nomination. I'd say that's a pretty good problem to have."

So this wouldn't be a complete blues interview without at least one story about the craziest club or weirdest bar you've ever played. Heine obliges. "We played this club and basically, we played for the bartender and one regular all night. And when the night was done we said, 'well you sure don't have a lot of people in here.' (laughing) What happened was the place had just reopened after a boyfriend of one of the waitresses had walked in with a shotgun and shot her right there in the bar. So people were afraid to come back. We were playing basically, after it just opened again." (laughing)

Music is such a big part of your existence, but did either of you ever give much thought to what if it wasn't? "I think we're just living the life." Missy beams. "I've always wanted to sing and if Heine hadn't come along I would still be doing what I was doing, and just trying to find an outlet for music some other way. Doing backup vocals for some other person or studio work, but now I'm in the front and I didn't even have to find another personality to do that. I've managed to stay that same awkward, quirky girl."

And the man of few words just smiles and says, "I really didn't have a Plan B."

Related Articles:
Nathan James: Southern California Roots Run Delta Deep; San Diego's Mr. Natural... Billy Watson; 2013 San Diego Blues Festival; Phil Gates Plays it Forward


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Let Tim know what you think about his traveling adventure.

I was there at the Shrine to see Bob come in riding on a baby elephant. He says in the interview it was either '68 or 69: it was both – it was New Year's Eve (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite),

Debbie Hollier, Nevada City, CA

* * * *

Who else played with Canned Heat and Deep Purple at the Shrine in '68?

Bill, LA

I think the Shrine show on New Years in '68, where Bob Hite rode out on the elephant, also featured Poco, Lee Michaels, Black Pearl, Love Army and Sweetwater. Don't know that Deep Purple was booked on that evening.

Bill, maybe you're thinking about the International Pop Fest in San Francisco a few months earlier that featured these fine folks... Procol Harum, Iron Butterfly, Jose Feliciano, Johnny Rivers, Eric Burdon And The Animals, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grass Roots, The Chambers Brothers, Deep Purple, Fraternity of Man & Canned Heat or possibly the following year in Jan of 1970 when Deep Purple appeared with Canned Heat and Renaissance on a triple-bill in London at the Royal Albert Hall.

One final note: The current Johnny Otis piece didn't mention it, but it was Mr. Otis that took Canned Heat into the studio the very first time to record in 1966. Small world, ain't it?

Tim

* * * *

Thank u for posting it! Bob is still boogin' around!! (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite),

Stefano Di Leonardo, Fisciano (Salerno, Italy)

* * * *

Great Read! (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite) I will post it on Bob "THE BEAR" Hite Official Facebook Page,

Dave Tohill, Brandon, UK

* * * *

Hello Tim, thank you so much for letting a huge Canned Heat fan check out this
interview with the Bear. I really enjoyed it.

Best regards,

Rick Caldwell, Fairfield, Ohio

* * * *

I knew Bob Hite in the 60's. Canned Heat played at our high school prom 1966 Rexford High. The Family Dog, Chet Helms, Skip Taylor.

Max Kalik, Los Angeles, CA

Dear Tim,

I just discovered you from an email I received from Preston Smith disclosing his next event. I wanted to tap into his website Prestonsmithmusic but it would not link from your site for some reason. I have to say Preston really is a genius and I met him in Glendale at a jazz club about three years ago, after a fatal accident. By chance, I was invited to spend time hanging out with Preston and some friends after his gig. He is everything you say and I will never forget his amazing creativity and his positive influence in my life.

Janelle, Palm Springs, CA

Love the article! (on Lowell George) Lowell was my father.

Forrest George, Warren, Vermont

This Bob Hite interview is the most interesting thing I have read concerning Canned Heat. I have Fito's book, but I always was interested in learning more about Bob Hite. You did it here my friend...great interview!!!!!

Tony Musto - Pittston, PA

Hey Tim, Great article on Preston! I really enjoyed it and you did your homework. I'll probably catch PS this weekend.

Best,

Dave - Northridge, CA

* * * *

Hello, what a great article on Preston Smith! I actually met Preston one evening after an Acoustic set of my own at the Prestigeous Carlton Hotel here in Atascadero, Ca. We were loading up and he happened to be walking down the sidewalk and stop to say hello. I must say that he is a truly interesting and talented man that NEVER forgets to let me know when he is playing around the Central Coast where I live. It was so fun to read about who he truly is...(as if you don't know him the first time you meet him)! My adventures have only just begun as I recently returned from Nashville recording my self titled debut EP. I can only hope that my adventures down the road are as enlightening as Preston's and that I have the honor of a great writer such as yourself to share them with the world. Thank you for doing just that, sharing "Preston Smith" with the world.

Sincerely,

Amy Estrada - Atascadero, CA

Hi Tim,

My name is Bert, I'm from Italy and I'm a blues harmonica player...I read your article and it reminded me of the two trips I made in the Delta, in 2008 and 2009. I love Frank's music and I think it's a shame people don't really know his work. It's important that people like you write about him. Thank you! In the Delta I was only a "stupid" tourist, but it was a great, unique experience I consider one of the most important in my life: driving on the highways, Listening to the blues everywhere, jamming in places like Red's and ground Zero in Clarksdale or the Blues Bar in Greenville... are priceless things, something I will keep in my heart for the rest of my life. I met a beautiful, lovely woman there too (named Hope), but I behaved like a stupid kid and I lost her... Alas! I will never forget that days and the chance I had to find happiness...Well, I also wrote something about Frank on a website, but it's in Italian... I give you the link of the first part (the second will be published in the next weeks) anyway if you know some Italian or somebody who can understand it... Even if I'm thinking of making a translation ...www.bluessummit.com

Cheers,

Bert - Pavia, Italy

I wanna be Tim!

Brent, Seattle, WA

* * *

Those pictures give you an idea of what the Rockin' Pneumonia actually looks like and it looks BAD! But the man can still play! Enjoyed the article - give us more TRAVELING BLUES BOY!

Steve Thomas - NA, INDIANA

* * *

Good Stuff, Tim. Having been a Johnny Winter fan since the first time I heard Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo, it was great hearing his take on some his highlight moments that defined his blues career. His affiliation with Muddy Waters was particularly interesting. Kudos for bringing that out. Thanks to your dedication to covering the blues scene, this "one of a kind" music still lives for servicemen & women around the world. Keep it Up!

Brandon Williams, Moreno Valley, CA

* * *

Impressive! What a legend and how cool that you got so much time with him, Tim.

Don, Louisville, KY

Tim - Great article, enjoyed Little Feat/Lowell George story, really brought me back in time. Did not know he was a fishin' man! Wonder what surfaces out of the abyss of your memory next?

Steve Thomas, New Albany, IN

* * * *

Tim,

I really liked your travel back in time with Lowell and Little Feat. As a long time Feat fan (mostly the stuff with Lowell) it was cool to read. I learned several of their songs back in the day and they still stand up today when played live. Another singer I really liked from back then is TimBuckley. Thanks for the article.

Chet Hogoboom, Arroyo Grande, CA

Loved your last issue of TB, especially the Mayall piece. I want that guy's job!

Brent, Seattle, WA

Tim,

This is a great write up. Has it been printed in any magazines? It's better than a lot of things I read in my guitar magazines, so props for that.

Caejar, Moreno Valley, CA

Tim,

I can tell that you have this passion for jazz. I wonder if you yourself play any instrument. Or are you just a groupie like most of us?

I talked with a mid-aged flute jazz artist a few weeks ago and he lamented that despite his talents (and he is extremely talented) he says that the industry hasn't been kind to him. He said jobs are few and far between. He said the music industry is combating piracy and competition due to technology being readily available to private homes and that they are not as profitable as before. So they are replacing live talent for synthesized or digital instruments.

Do you see the same trend in your relationships with your music network?

Bob, Pasadena, CA



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