If Backyard Tire Fire's new album Good to Be seems more cheerful than other albums from the rootsy rock band, it's no coincidence. Ed Anderson, the frontman and songwriter for the Bloomington, Ill.-based group had plenty of reasons to be excited about things that were happening heading into the project.
"It was challenging, but really fun and positive," Anderson says. "It's just a positive vibe, where perhaps on some of the other records that we've made there's more melancholy, more reflective stuff."
One key reason Anderson's world has taken a turn for the better stemmed from an opportunity to open a concert in October 2008 by one of his all-time favorite bands, Los Lobos. Backyard Tire Fire's opening set caught the attention of the headliners, who watched the set intently, and then invited Anderson and his bandmates to sit in during part of the group's set.
Los Lobos saxophonist/keyboardist Steve Berlin was so impressed that he contacted Anderson a week later, asking to produce their next album — no small invitation considering Berlin is a seasoned producer who has worked with Rickie Lee Jones, Raul Malo, and others.
Anderson says, "I feel like I wrote some really good ones as a result of working with him."
Anderson did some of his best writing for the album, which was released in February. It's easily the best Backyard Tire Fire disc to date.
The album opens with "Roadsong #30" — a churning rocker about perseverance in a touring band (a theme that reappears frequently on the CD) that's energized by its grooving beat. Anderson's ability to build sit-up-and-take-notice pop melodies into his songwriting is apparent on the title track and "Learning to Swim," while he also shows a nice touch with rough hewn balladry on "Once Upon a Time" and "Food for Thought."
In a very real way, Anderson says, he feels like it's a new beginning for Backyard Tire Fire. "I feel like right now it's like the sky's the limit, and it's exciting to be where I'm at in my life, and feel like it's just beginning," he says. "It's taken me 15 years to get to a fresh start."