"I'm not exactly sure where it really originates from," Anders Osborne says when asked how he's tapped his well of inspiration. It has flowed continuously for the singer-songwriter, who last week released his 12th album, Spacedust & Ocean Views.
"I know I'm really focused on my craft, really dedicated to it, but I don't think there's a specific emotion making it happen," Osborne said by phone from his Mid-City home during a brief respite from the road. (He performs at Wednesday at the Square March 23.) "What I'm learning is that the more you put into the whole process — the writing, the music, all that stuff — then the more that just happens. It's a ripple effect."
In the past year, Osborne has been a whirling dervish of high artistic yield. He is in demand as a producer. He continues to collaborate with the North Mississippi Allstars, having released the critically and publically popular Freedom & Dreams in 2015 and just wrapped up an extensive national tour with the bluesy group. Last December, in a new twist on his fourth-annual sold-out two-night stand at Tipitina's, Osborne painted live as part of a reception celebrating his first-ever art show at John Bukaty Studio and Gallery in the Warehouse District.
Has anything spurred his creative output?
"Who knows?" he says. "Maybe it's just that I don't have any hobbies."
The now-sober rock star and family man says he's "pretty hardcore into reading philosophy books," most recently pursuing the benefits of self-manifestation as revealed in Zen and the Art of Happiness.
The soul-searching quest seems to have woven its way into Osborne's music. The 12 songs composed for Spacedust & Ocean Views, released March 18 on his Back on Dumaine Records, are largely graceful and reflective, the tones of a talk between a man and the mysteries of life surrounding him. An acoustic J-45 Gibson guitar sets the mood for most songs ("Burning"), though the opening track "Pontchartrain" drifts along to a 1906 Gibson Junior, which co-producer Mark Howard equipped with a mic and ran through a low-wattage amp to create its ambient sound. Fans of Osborne's heavier, crunchier bent shouldn't fret; he brandishes his electric 1970s ES-335 for the album's first single, "Lafayette," a barn-burning bounce-along, and "Big Talk," which soars with arena-rock swagger.
But with titles such as "Life Doesn't Last Too Long," it's obvious Osborne is painting bigger pictures with broader strokes on Spacedust. The album's title is enigmatic. "It's a meditation," Osborne says. "When I was writing all this stuff, I felt like I was either staring into space and questioning my relationship to it, or I was sitting in front of an ocean. These moments of pondering mortality can be inspiring. Sometimes it can be scary, like concern for my family, what they would do if I passed on. That's not heavy — it's a new way of thinking, a process that started for me a few years ago. It's a different perspective of where I am, now closing in on the other side."