Jon Anderson Is Still Enjoying the Ride

Ex-Yes singer talks about touring solo, what's in the works and the stage he's always wanted to play.

by Teresa Palagano
eTalent Spotlight

Jon Anderson is flirting with his wife.

The ex-frontman of Yes, one of the most successful progressive-rock bands in history, is writing a song for his summer Brazilian tour and wants his spouse, Jane Luttenberger Anderson, to sing it for him. "She speaks perfect Portuguese. She's really good," he coos. "I've tried to get her to sing on stage with me so many times. She's very shy... but she's certainly not shy with me."

Winding down the solo tour he started in February and gearing up for performances in London and Brazil, the legendary vocalist says he doesn't much care where the stage is. "I just like to get up there and sing to people-it doesn't matter if it's for 100 people or 10,000. I love the energy of a stage. Now, in my solo show, I'm able to tell more about my life, share crazy jokes and sing a few songs." Being on the road alone without the band he co-founded in 1968 with bassist Chris Squire has been somewhat freeing. "I'm singing the Yes songs the way I originally wrote them," he says of his current setlist, which also includes Paul Simon's 'America'-a nod to his recent US citizenship. Anderson has moved past any bad blood that may have spilled in 2008 when-after illness kept him from touring for four years-Yes replaced him with Benoit David, an Anderson sound-alike who had fronted the Yes tribute band Close to the Edge. "We all have a ticket for this life and we should just enjoy the ride," says Anderson.

It's a seemingly fit mantra for the musician at this stage of his 50-year career-a career that was almost cut short when, in 2008, an asthma attack caused acute respiratory failure, landing the singer in the hospital and in need of six operations. "I'm a little hoarse this morning," says Anderson. "I took my medication, an inhaler, a strong one that I take once a month, and it tightens up the voice box." But aside from that, Anderson says he's never felt better and his voice, never stronger. "My secret?" Honey and lemon spray. Oh, and I drink a lot of water.

"I'm very optimistic about life," Anderson continues when asked what drives him these days. "The abundance of life is just amazing. We all have this feeling that things will change... and change we must. We have to start sharing the beauty of this world and it's amazing abundance with everybody on this planet."

Anderson, who's lyrics often explore high-flown allegories and muse the meaning of life, is enjoying the structured long-form again as evidenced in 'Open,' a 21-minute opus he released last November. His next release, 'Ever,' is an extension of that song. Also on tap: The debut of a new album in Asia this summer. "It's a coordination of songs and tranquil ideas that have been hovering around me for the last couple of years," says the artist who once famously claimed to see fairies in the fourth dimension.

"I told my friend, 'find me a good record company and we'll put it out.' It's different these days," he continues, "because you can choose to just put it out there on the Internet or you can use a record company to promote you." With more than 9,000 Facebook likes and almost as many Twitter followers, the refashioned musical landscape isn't lost on Anderson. In fact, 'Open' was released online for digital download.

The man behind warhorses of classic rock radio-songs like ''And You and I,'' ''Heart of the Sunrise,'' ''Long Distance Runaround'' and ''I've Seen All Good People-was introduced to a whole new audience when his vocals from 'In High Places' were prominently featured in Kanye West's 'Dark Fantasy.'

"It's great to get your voice heard by different people around the globe," says Anderson of the unexpected guest spot. "[Kayne] sells so many records. My voice is recognizable, so you might get one or two people thinking 'who is that' and go on line and find out. Then they open that door and find out, whoa there's so much music. It's a whole new generation of fans-why not."

Anderson says given the choice, his collaboration wish list would include Stevie Wonder ("when I hear his voice... he's just on another planet") and Bonnie Raitt ("she's so soulful"). And his dream venue is Carnegie Hall. "I've always wanted to play it. So I practice every show. I'm hoping one day I'll get there."

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