Marisa Anderson

Marisa Anderson is an American multi-instrumentalist and composer based in Portland, Oregon. She is primarily known for playing the guitar, mixing American primitive guitar with various genres from throughout the United States and the rest of the world, and for her largely improvised compositions. She has released 10 albums under her own name since 2006, as well as several others with the bands the Dolly Ranchers and Evolutionary Jass Band.

Marisa Anderson
BornNorthern California
OriginPortland, Oregon
Formerly of
  • The Dolly Ranchers
  • Evolutionary Jass Band

Early lifeEdit

Anderson was born in Northern California and grew up in Sonoma.[1] When she was young, she listened to church music, classical with her mother, and country – notably Doc Watson and the Oak Ridge Boys – with her father.[2][3] She started playing guitar at age ten.[3] In her teen and young adult years, she took lessons from fellow California guitarist Nina Gerber.[4] A self-described "weird teenager", she learned about various styles of folk music from different parts of the world – including Mississippi Delta blues, British, African, and Appalachian music – by reading books from folklorist Cecil Sharp.[5] She attended Humboldt State University before dropping out at age 19.[1][3]


After dropping out of college, Anderson spent about ten years living without a fixed address.[6][3] Most of this time was spent organizing and participating in political protests, including multiple cross-country walks which raised awareness for causes including environmental issues, Native American sovereignty, and the anti-nuclear movement.[5][7] Some of this time was spent in Mexico, including a stint with a circus where she played for the anti-government guerrillas protesting during the Chiapas conflict in Southern Mexico.[3][8] She was a member of the country-folk band the Dolly Ranchers from 1997 through 2003, playing on both of their albums and at their four-sets-a-night gig at a cowboy bar in New Mexico.[8][3] She also worked at Rock Camp for Girls between 2003 and 2011, and contributed to its eponymous book.[3] She settled in Portland, Oregon, after traveling to the Pacific Northwest for the 1999 Seattle WTO protests.[1] In Portland, she joined the improvisational ensemble Evolutionary Jass Band for six years, recording three albums.[8][3]

Her first solo album, Holiday Motel, was released by 16 Records in 2006, and earned her a nomination for the OUTMusic Award for Best Female Debut Record.[3] That album was followed by 2009's The Golden Hour and 2013's Mercury, both released by Mississippi Records;[3] and another 2013 album, Traditional and Public Domain Songs, which was released by Grapefruit Records.[3][9] In 2014, she appeared as a guest musician on Sharon Van Etten's Are We There, playing guitar on its first track "Afraid of Nothing".[10] In 2015, she released a split album, Tashi Dorji / Marisa Anderson, with Bhutan-born guitarist Tashi Dorji, which was released by Footfalls Records.[11] The year after, she released Into the Light on her own label Chaos Kitchen Music.[12] On October 31, 2017, she announced that she had signed to Thrill Jockey,[13] with whom she released her next four albums: 2018's Cloud Corner;[14] 2020's The Quickening, a collaboration with Australian drummer Jim White;[15] 2021's Lost Futures,[16] a collaboration with American folk guitarist William Tyler; and 2022's Still, Here.[17][18]

Anderson had a cameo appearance alongside fellow Oregon musician Michael Hurley in the 2018 film Leave No Trace where they performed the songs "O My Stars" and "Dark Holler".[19][20] She has also composed for films including 2022's Lake Forest Park[21] and A Perfect Day for Caribou.[22]

Anderson has toured and played live with numerous artists, including her album collaborators Tashi Dorji,[23] William Tyler,[24] and Jim White,[25] as well as Yasmin Williams,[24] Giorgos Xylouris, Ed Kuepper,[25] Circuit des Yeux,[26] Emmylou Harris,[27] Godspeed You! Black Emperor,[28] Charlie Parr, Bill Callahan,[29] and Thurston Moore.[30] She has performed at music festivals including Big Ears Festival,[24] Pitchfork's Midwinter at the Art Institute of Chicago,[31] Le Guess Who?,[32][33] and Moogfest.[34] She also performed on NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts series in 2014, mostly playing songs from Traditional and Public Domain Songs and Mercury.[35]


Anderson's music has been described as falling into the American primitive guitar style introduced by John Fahey in the 1960s, and she has been called a "neo-Americana guitar outsider".[36] She mixes in influences from various other genres such as gospel, country, Appalachian folk and blues,[37] jazz, circus music, minimalism, electronic, drone, and 20th century classical,[3] while also including global influences such as Tuareg and Latin music on Cloud Corner[38] and flamenco on Still, Here.[39] On some albums, her music is also referred to as experimental.[15][40]

She is known to improvise music rather than compose it on many of her recordings, including the entirety of her album The Quickening.[41][15] On the subject, she has said she likes "to think about improvisation as a conversation" and that it's "really just an art at being literate and expressive no matter what language you are in... I am trying to be very present with the music and to make my intention realized with every performance."[2] When asked in an interview how she got into improvisation, she said she grew up playing classical music where "there's a boss. What's on the page is the boss. What the composer intended, that's the boss. In classical music, you're not your own boss ever." She said that's fine and that she's not opposed to structure, but that "in the creative process, I like to be free. Once it's the performance, there's room for all of it in my music. Some things I do exactly the same, and that's its own fun thing, is to adhere to that. Some things I do differently. In performance, what changes is the dynamic in the room."[4]


Anderson's main instrument is guitar, both acoustic and electric, but she has also employed other instruments across her albums such as lap steel guitar, pedal steel guitar, and Wurlitzer electronic piano on Into the Light;[37] and charango and requinto guitar on Cloud Corner.[42] Her instrument collection also includes a Dobro from the 1930s, a terz guitar, a nylon-string parlor guitar, a custom Warmoth Telecaster with Lollar P-90 guitar pickups, and a Gibson ES-125 from the early 1940s.[43]





  • "Into the Light" (2016, Into the Light)[44]
  • "He Is Without His Guns" (2016, Into the Light)[45]
  • "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" (2020, Jealous Butcher Records, with Tara Jane O'Neil)[46]
  • "The Lucky" (2020, The Quickening)[47]
  • "Gathering" and "Pallet" (2020, The Quickening)[48]
  • "Lost Futures" (2021, Lost Futures)[49]
  • "Hurricane Light" (2021, Lost Futures)[50]
  • "At the Edge of the World" (2021, Lost Futures)[51]
  • "Waking" (2022, Still, Here)[52]
  • "La Llorona" (2022, Still, Here)[53]
  • "The Fire This Time" (2022, Still, Here)[54]

With the Dolly RanchersEdit

  • Ten O'Clock Bird (2000, Chaos Kitchen)[55]
  • Escape Artist (2002, Chaos Kitchen)[55]


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  6. ^ Beta, Andy (July 22, 2016). "10 New Artists You Need to Know: August 2016". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 24, 2022. From age 19 to age 29, I lived with no fixed address, hitchhiking, living in tents, school buses, whatever.
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  10. ^ Walker, Gary (November 10, 2021). "The Genius of... Are We There by Sharon Van Etten". Retrieved December 10, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Joyce, Colin (November 10, 2015). "Tashi Dorji and Marisa Anderson Embrace the Openness of Americana on Split LP". Spin. Retrieved December 10, 2022.
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  13. ^ Reid, Mike (October 31, 2017). "Classically trained guitarist Marisa Anderson doesn't sing, but DOES sign to Thrill Jockey ahead of European tour". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved May 7, 2023.
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  15. ^ a b c Horowitz, Steve (May 19, 2020). "Jim White and Marisa Anderson's The Quickening Takes an Experimental Journey". PopMatters. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
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  19. ^ Kermode, Mark (July 1, 2018). "Leave No Trace review – flawless, deeply affecting". The Guardian. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  20. ^ Boscaljon, Daniel (July 25, 2018). "Refining and redefining home: Leave No Trace strips contemporary notions bare". Little Village. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  21. ^ Raiman, Paola. "Lake Forest Park". Entrevues Belfort Film Festival. Retrieved April 27, 2023.
  22. ^ Lodge, Guy (August 12, 2022). "A Perfect Day for Caribou Review: Fathers and Sons Get Lost and Found in a Winning Monochrome Miniature". Variety. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
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  25. ^ a b Young, David James (May 3, 2022). "Dirty Three's Jim White announces new duo shows with Xylouris White and Marisa Anderson". NME. Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  26. ^ Hussey, Allison (April 7, 2018). "As Circuit des Yeux, Haley Fohr Builds Mysterious, Mesmerizing Songs". Indy Week. Retrieved December 18, 2022.
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  28. ^ Major, Michael (August 22, 2022). "Marisa Anderson to Tour With Godspeed You! Black Emperor This Fall". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  29. ^ Major, Michael (February 7, 2023). "Marisa Anderson Announces International Tour Dates With Charlie Parr, Godspeed You! Black Emperor & More". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  30. ^ Garmon, Ron (May 15, 2017). "The Thurston Moore Group + Marisa Anderson @ the Teragram Ballroom". L.A. Record. Retrieved March 28, 2023.
  31. ^ Galil, Leor (November 14, 2018). "Pitchfork's Midwinter brings Kamasi Washington, Slowdive, Laurie Anderson, and dozens more to the Art Institute". Chicago Reader. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
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  33. ^ "Marisa Anderson". Le Guess Who?. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  34. ^ Pareles, Jon (May 22, 2017). "At Moogfest, Untamed Sounds and Futuristic Protests". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
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  40. ^ Haver Currin, Grayson (December 23, 2015). "The Best Experimental Albums of 2015". Pitchfork. Retrieved December 10, 2022.
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  42. ^ "Cloud Corner". Thrill Jockey. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
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  46. ^ Sacher, Andrew (April 9, 2020). "Stream Marisa Anderson & Tara Jane O'Neil's 7" of Gene Clark & Cole Porter covers". BrooklynVegan. Retrieved May 7, 2023.
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  53. ^ Gallacher, Alex (August 8, 2022). "Marisa Anderson – "La Llorona" (Tune of the Day)". Folk Radio UK. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  54. ^ Todd, Nate (September 8, 2022). "Marisa Anderson Shares "The Fire This Time" Single". JamBase. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  55. ^ a b Seigel, Stephen (January 3, 2002). "Soundbites". Tucson Weekly. Retrieved May 7, 2023.