The Ian Anderson Interview

By Shawn Perry

The last time I spoke with Ian Anderson, he was in the midst of a Jethro Tull tour. He was also preparing to embark on his very first solo tour — a show he called Rubbing Elbows, which was set up like a musical talk show where Anderson — between low-key versions of Tull and solo numbers — co-mingled with local radio DJs, special guest musicians, and members of the audience. Witnessing one such performance firsthand, I half expected Anderson to snag a slot on FOX to begin rubbing elbows with the masses. But, alas, it was not to be.

Instead, he carried on with Jethro Tull, as he has for almost 40 years. He also started sitting in with orchestras on the side. This particular gig became more predominant in Anderson’s musical life and suddenly took on a life of its own. In 2005, he released the Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull CD and DVD set. Taken from a December 2004 concert in Mannheim, Germany, the famed and flamboyant flautist is delicately backed by the Frankfurt Philharmonic, as well as his Rubbing Elbows band — performing solo, classical and Tull material. And while Jethro Tull is still his primary bread and butter, Anderson is now returning to America this summer and fall to play with various orchestras around the country. In the process, he’s hoping to introduce a bit of high-collar culture to his Jethro Tull brethren.

The following interview took place a couple of weeks before Anderson's tour. We spoke at length on many subjects — his work with orchestras; the differences in playing with orchestras and Jethro Tull; digital downloading; DVDs; and U.K. copyright laws. We touched on everyone from Pink Floyd to Britney Spears, eventually settling upon his own rich and prolific legacy. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to ask him about the use of “Thick As A Brick” in the Hyundai commercial. That would have segued perfectly into my suggestion of selling “Calliandra Shade,” a song about the joys of coffee from Anderson’s 2003 solo outing, Rupi’s Dance, to Starbucks. I’m sure if he’s reading this, he’ll send me my share of the profits.

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