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
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 breaking it down at
this year's Adams Avenue Street Fair. Photo: Yachiyo
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
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
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'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
Heine Andersen and Marty Dodson BLUSIN' Photo:
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
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
Missy and Heine in sync. Photo: Jon
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
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
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
'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
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
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
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, "
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
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
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
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:
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
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."
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
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."
Missy and Heine Andersen and a fan. Photo:
Early next year Missy and Heine had been slated to represent
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
And the man of few words just smiles and says, "I
really didn't have a Plan B."
James: Southern California Roots Run Delta Deep; San
Diego's Mr. Natural... Billy Watson;
2013 San Diego Blues Festival; Phil
Gates Plays it Forward