Con man had promised investors that he was putting together a high-profile benefit album that would include Springsteen, Petty, Gaga, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Arcade Fire and others.
By Fred Mills, BLURT Editor
When news broke last week about Portland-based singer-songwriter Kasey Anderson, 34, being sentenced to prison for fraud, it was pretty much “news” only in the Northwest; the Seattle Post-Intelligencer posted a pretty straightforward accounton Tuesday, July 22 that detailed how Anderson had convinced investors to pony up close to $600,000 over a roughly three year period for a West Memphis Three benefit compilation, Trapped Like a Ghost, that was to feature the above-listed artists, among many, contributing songs in order to raise funds for the West Memphis Three Legal Defense Fund (which has been a pet project among rock musicians, notably Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder).
Read the entire P-I story at the SeattlePI.com website. Reporting by Levi Pulkkinen.
Then as the word slowly trickled out to music websites the story got more and more coverage, and by the weekend it had essentially gone viral. That’s where yours truly comes in: as soon as I read about it on Saturday, I realized that BLURT had perhaps inadvertently played a part in helping make Anderson appear credible to the people he ultimately bilked.
During that same time period, Anderson was also a blogger for us, posting a series of columns we dubbed For The Sake of the Song. For the blog, Anderson interviewed fellow musicians and songwriters, noting in his first installment, penned in Portland, on April 5, 2010, that the column would be about “songs that made lasting impressions, and the people they made the impressions on. For as long as Blurt will allow me to, I’ll be interviewing fellow songwriters, journalists, novelists, actors, comedians, friends, and enemies about the songs that burrowed into their memories – about what the songs might mean, and what the songs mean to them.”
Indeed – “for as long as” we allowed him to. Anderson subsequently submitted, and we published, a handful of columns in 2010. Among the folks he interviewed were Peter Case, Rachel Flotard, Matthew Ryan and Adam Duritz—the latter now seems opportunistic, since Anderson’s band The Honkies had been tapped to open for County Crows.
Then he disappeared for a year or so, going silent on us. Then he resurfaced in 2012, asking to relaunch the column, which we did because, after all, it had seemed like a good effort. “Unfortunately,” he wrote in his comeback column, “after a few installments, and for any number of reasons, everything fell by the wayside.”
By “everything” he meant, specific to BLURT, the blog. But in retrospect the “for any number of reasons” was deeply cryptic, yet revealing, because with the time-line in the benefit album fraud case now available, it looks like Anderson also had his hands very full working his marks.
At the time, this is how we billed Anderson to the BLURT readership: Kasey Anderson is a songwriter, singer, dog owner and bacon enthusiast from Portland, Oregon. His three albums, Dead Roses (2004), The Reckoning (2007), and Nowhere Nights (2010) have earned plenty of praise from critics (No Depression, USA Today, The Onion) but, unfortunately, have not as yet yielded the Swedish Fish endorsement Anderson so badly desires. If you’d like to have Kasey Anderson sing, play harmonica and strum a guitar at you, you’ll find him on tour all spring and summer (dates and info available at www.kaseyanderson.com), or if you’d simply like to read on as Anderson discusses various songs with other artists, writers, friends and cohorts, you’re in the right place.
Er, right. What’s interesting is that initially Anderson had promised us a very compelling range of interviews that included the very BLURT-worthy Case, Jason Isbell, and Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz. Wrote Anderson, “The folks kind enough to lend their time and song choices to the interviews, you’ll have heard of but many you may not have. To that end, I’ll keep it simple. I write songs and make records. Maybe you’ve heard ‘em, maybe not. For the purposes of this column, that’s really neither here nor there. My job, as it applies to Blurt, is simply to allow some of my favorite artists and writers a platform to discuss some of their favorite songs. Where it goes from there, is up to them. Or, more accurately, up to the songs.”
Who knows how much was fantasy and how much was fact on Anderson’s part while he was a member of the BLURT blogging staff, which has included such stellar artists as James McMurtry, Coco Hames of The Ettes and metal goddess Otep. Maybe we were hoodwinked by Anderson, maybe not; he was a decent enough writer. But obviously there was a whole lot more to him than what he portrayed on the surface, eh?
Methinks Anderson will be thinking about a specific song genre for the next four years, with such timeless delights as “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Back on the Chain Gang” at the top of the list. At the bottom of the page you can find links to most of Anderson’s BLURT pieces, followed by a YouTube clip of him in 2010 performing a song titled, propetically enough, “Don’t Look Back.” Meanwhile, to recap the man’s legal saga, here’s a summary that media reports have detailed:
*In January of 2013 Anderson was arrested on fraud charges and made an initial appearance in the U.S. District Court in Seattle.
*The following August he pled guilty to the federal fraud charges, saying that he was “driven by mental illness and substance abuse,” specifically citing sleeplessness, depression, compulsive lying and “spending money recklessly.”
*Last week he was sentenced by Judge Ronal Leighton to nearly four years in prison and remained in custody following the sentencing hearing.
*Anderson had pursued investors by promising that Springsteen and other superstars would be on the aforementioned West Memphis Three benefit album, and that he next “impersonated a well-known Seattle tour manager” who claimed to have “firm agreements” from Tom Petty, Pearl Jam and Johnny Depp to appear at a companion benefit concert.
*Later he claimed that he was waiting for a Springsteen-Lady Gaga collaboration, forged an email from the wife of one of the West Memphis Three defendants (in matters relating to the Springsteen-Gaga song), and he also impersonated a music industry lawyer while trying to pass off previously released Springsteen material as a Springsteen-Arcade Fire collaboration.
*Anderson obtained money under false pretenses from two friends after he was arrested and also “lied about his aging father” to get money from the friends.
*In a letter to the court Anderson admitted, ”I lied to myself and others, and believing those lies, I told myself consistently that whatever was going on with me … I could fix it on my own. I convinced myself that it was normal… I am a deeply flawed and mentally ill person who made some terrible choices, causing so much emotional and financial damage to others. But I believe I have much to offer my community…. I am so sorry for what I’ve done and want so badly to make it right.”
A bit late for that, bro. The sad thing is that Anderson is a pretty decent musician, worthy of the public’s attention. Clearly things spiraled out of control at some point, however, and he lost sight of who he should be and where his true gifts resided.
To anyone reading this and, especially, to anyone who was defrauded by Anderson, I would just like to apologize on the behalf of BLURT if at any point Anderson also used his so-called “status” as a published writer/blogger for us to impress people and, in theory, give him additional credibility.
Kasey Anderson at Blurt (list includes reviews of his records):
-“For The Sake of The Song” initial blog: http://blurtonline.com/2010/04/for-the-sake-of-the-song/
-“For The Sake of The Song” blog interview: Peter Case: http://blurtonline.com/2012/05/peter-case-kasey-anderson/
-Album review: Anderson’s Nowhere Nights (Red River Records): http://blurtonline.com/review/kasey-anderson-nowhere-nights/
-“For The Sake of The Song” blog interview: Visqueen’s Rachel Flotard: http://blurtonline.com/2010/05/kasey-anderson-grills-rachel-flotard/
-Album Review: Anderson’s Heart of a Dog (Red River Records): http://blurtonline.com/review/kasey-anderson-and-the-honkies-heart-of-a-dog/
-“For The Sake of The Song” blog interview: MTV VJ/pop pundit Dave Holmes: http://blurtonline.com/2012/05/dave-holmes-kasey-anderson/
-“For The Sake of The Song” blog interview: Matthew Ryan: http://blurtonline.com/2012/05/matthew-ryan-kasey-anderson/
“For The Sake of The Song” blog interview: Standup comedian Rob Delaney: http://blurtonline.com/2012/05/rob-delaney-kasey-anderson/
“For The Sake of The Song” blog interview: Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz: http://blurtonline.com/2012/06/adam-durtiz-kasey-anderson/