Carlton Anderson grew up in Cypress, Texas, a town northwest of Houston where sports dominated daily conversation and Friday night. A defensive player with a competitive streak, Anderson eventually turned to the other Texas pastime: Music.
Touring, red dirt, and roadhouses are commonplace, but the musicianship and songwriter tradition are legendary. Every teenage son of the Lonestar State knows the heritage and the playlists of their heroes.
Anderson’s musical awakening started with Willie Nelson, who he refers to as “his drug” and quickly advanced to George Strait and a long line of musical mavericks. Styles varied, but the common denominator was that even though they were born in Texas their music transcended borders.
Anderson’s grandmother had an auto harp, but the family followed military not musical pursuits. After the service, his family found work in the oil fields surrounding his hometown.
Anderson started working in the oil fields at 16 – two years before it was legal – and worked at Texas grocery story HEB after school to put away enough money to buy a guitar and small PA so he could play the honky tonks and dancehalls around his hometown after graduation. But the goal was always Nashville.
He was accepted at Nashville’s Belmont University three times before anyone in his family could co-sign his tuition loans. He moved to Music City not knowing a soul and immediately started looking for ways to pay the bills because as he said, “if I failed, it was on me.”
No sooner had Anderson moved into his dorm, he was headed downtown looking for a gig. He parked on Fourth Avenue across from the Swingin’ Doors Saloon and heard the band playing “In Color.” He walked in, asked to play a few songs, and the manager offered him a job. He went on to play there five more years.
Anderson was the first to graduate college in his family, which had a firmly grounded “go to work or go to war” mentality. He graduated from Belmont in 2016 with a degree in Music Business, but he learned the ropes through hard work, practice, paying his dues in Texas, and playing for tourists and bachelorette parties in Nashville. He focused on “connecting” with his audience, no matter how distracted or inebriated they were. It wasn’t long before more than tourists were taking notice.
Anderson was signed to a publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music and began writing with some of the most sought-after songwriters in Nashville. He gained a reputation for his work ethic and his steadfast belief in authenticity before trends.
“If I’ve lived it, I can sing about it,” he said. “If I haven’t lived it, I’m not a good faker.”
The balance between traditional sounds and contemporary themes is evident in Anderson’s music. His first Arista Nashville single, “Drop Everything,” will be released soon.