After suggesting we meet on a Sunday afternoon at a cafe that isn't actually open on Sundays, and then immediately directing her the wrong way down a one-way street, Karla Anderson is still unshakably calm, cool, and collected. It appears that's the way Anderson goes through life: rolling with the punches, going with the flow, and so on and so forth.
"I was a stay-at-home mom for 14 years and I didn't really have any intention of playing music," she says of her start. "The first [open] stage I went to, I wasn't going to take my guitar because I was so nervous. I didn't want to play in front of people."
Then Anderson landed a slot at the Edmonton Folk Festival, playing amongst the likes of Daniel Lanois, and Patty Griffin, and just like that, her music career kicked into a new gear. The exposure the folk fest brought led Anderson to the recording studio, and a roomful of doors waiting to be opened.
It's not like Anderson just fell into music, however. She's always been the one to volunteer her voice for weddings, but it wasn't until she picked up the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron that she began writing her own lyrics. In the wee hours of the morning when her three sons were asleep, locked away in a chicken coop converted into a makeshift music room, Anderson would "stare at the wall" until songs were born.
The sleep deprivation paid off. Her smooth yet soulful vocals play on top of a traditional acoustic roots sound, with lyrics touching on love, loss, and all the emotions that span the gap. Far from her small-town Alberta home, Anderson's songs have connected her with people from all around the world.
Emails from people located in the United States and Canada to the Netherlands, Japan, the Ivory Coast, and Morocco, all find their way to Anderson. They contain stories of how her songs have affected the lives of people she's thousands of miles removed from.
The singer's globe-sized network owes big thanks to the television drama, Joan of Arcadia. Her manager sent two of Anderson's tunes to the series' music director along with 17 other tracks, and it was Anderson's "Waiting For Beautiful" and "What Else Can I Do" that were chosen to go to air.
In particular, "What Can I Do" struck a cord, and it's been the topic of many of Anderson's discussions since. And after talking about it ceaselessly, she still hasn't grown tired of the song.
"It really brings something new all the time. It connects people and it brings them out of themselves to tell me their stories and it just feels so good," she says. "I feel that song's such a blessing. It's a gift to me. It's not mineůit's like your kid, it comes through you, but it's not really yours. I'm thankful for it."
The track is included on Anderson's first record, The Embassy Sessions. Recorded live-off-the-floor in an "old creaky house" in Calgary, the album has continued to pick up speed, bringing the singer continued attention.
"That little record is doing a lot of work. We released it in July last year and I'm just blown away. It keeps selling, it just keeps selling, and people keep emailing, and it gets exposure and links us to other people. It's really neat to see."
Not only is Anderson concentrating on promoting her music, raising three kids, and working a fulltime job, but she's also in the process of building a new house, which she's contracting herself ("Balance? What is that word? Can you define that for me?"). While she's trying to juggle all aspects of life at once, she doesn't seem all that stressed about what the future will bringůmust be that whole calm, cool, and collected thing presenting itself again.
"You get to a place and you think, 'Wow I never really thought that I would be here, or that this would happen.' So I feel like there's been lots of success already. It's not a destination; it's just part of the journey. I'm happy to say I've been walking these miles for this time in my life. And who knows what the future brings."
If everything fell into perfect alignment and her music career took off, then Anderson would be willing to follow it wherever it might lead her. Then again, if it doesn't happen, if it doesn't take her to the top of the charts and on a sold-out tour of Europeůthen it doesn't happen.
"If I'm not supposed to be here then it will stop, and that's good enough for me. Because you don't want to be doing something that you're not supposed to be doing," Anderson says, putting full trust in the journey. "You keep going, and if the door is closed, then you know it's time to find something else. There are a million things to do in life. I have lots of things I'd love to do."
Please visit www.karlaanderson.com for more information.
Writer: Jaclyn Arndt