That the Anderson brothers are musical comes as no surprise to anyone who graduated from Groton between 2000 and 2010. Each of the four brothers distinguished himself—in the Choir, serving as Choir president, and around the music wing of the Schoolhouse, playing piano, drums, guitar, or whatever musical instrument seemed handy. Growing up, the brothers had a band in their family house in Lincoln, Massachusetts, where the living room was dominated by baby grand piano, perfectly situated for one of the brothers to stop, if only for moment, to run scales or work out a tricky melody on the way to soccer or hockey practice.
As the last brother to cross the stage at Prize Day, Ian ’10 was perfectly positioned to spark the renewal of a family band. The summer before college is often fraught with ennui, caught between two lives—one that was and one that isn’t quite yet. Ian took to writing songs. Charlie ’06 was in a similar position, a new college graduate betwixt and between; he took comfort in the continuity that music provided after he took up his professional life at Bloomberg LC.
Together they recorded three of Ian’s songs, with Ian laying down the drum beats and Charlie providing vocals. Then they shared the finished songs with anyone they could. Despite the forces that would keep them apart come fall—Ian’s freshman year at Wesleyan University and the challenges of an 80-hour work week at Bloomberg—the two decided to formalize their musical relationship. Oliver, the band, was born. Named after a favored family dog, the band had a name and three good songs, but Oliver’s members needed to figure out the next step—made easier by another Grotonian and their mother, Eliza Storey Anderson ’79.
Eliza’s Groton roommate, Mary Beach ’79, a television, radio, and film writer, lives in Allenhurst, New Jersey, coincidentally—or not—the town just north of Asbury Park. Asbury Park is home to a vibrant music scene, anchored by the legendary Stone Pony bar, and populated by working and well-paid studio musicians. Mary Beach brought Ian and Charlie’s songs to the attention of Jon Leidersdorff, who is well-known in musical circles as a go-to studio and road drummer as well as the force behind the recording studio, Lake House Music. Leidersdorff listened to the songs and offered to meet the brothers.
The meeting opened the world of professional music to the Andersons. They spent close to three hours discussing music, Ian’s songs, the work that would need to be done on them, and the creation of new songs. For Charlie, it was an intensely organic experience, delving into their musical backgrounds, their vision for the future, and the centrality of music-making to their collective and individual lives.
Ten months later, after countless trips to Asbury Park and studio sessions with a cadre of musicians known for working with headline acts, the brothers emerged with their first album of original music, “Might Like Me.” The process was more arduous and emotionally draining than they had believed possible. Charlie credits Leidersdorff with helping them strip away the non-essential elements of their songs and making them tighter, cleaner, and more powerful.
Editing and rethinking the songs was painful at first. What first had to go was Ian and Charlie’s certainty that they knew their songs and what they should sound like. Like many nascent artists, they loved their songs, their arrangements, and couldn’t bear that someone else didn’t love them just the way they were. But with care and craft and the occasional cudgel, Leidersdorff led them to hear their songs differently. He persuaded them to change how they approach song writing. It was like getting your first essay back in Third Form English only to find that your carefully crafted exposition lacked sufficient support and was awash in purple prose, clichés, and lifeless examples from the text. What was harder for the brothers was that in English they could blame an absurdly picky teacher, incomprehensible text, or incomplete preparation; it was only one paper, one grade. But the producer was working with their art, their sense of themselves as musicians and artists. Leidersdorff helped them find alternate facets of their talents and dig more deeply into their intellect and emotions. Though a little bruised, Charlie is the first to say that the process was ultimately affirming of the choice to pursue their musical calling.
Charlie continues to pursue a career in finance at Bloomberg LP, and received a promotion to sales for the company. He has been given the Connecticut region, which potentially brings him closer to Ian, who is now a sophomore year at Wesleyan in Middletown, Connecticut. Ian plans to declare a music major and is pulling together a college band to balance his semi-professional pursuits.
The brothers intend to use “Might Like Me” as a springboard to live shows in the tri-state area. From time to time, they hope to pull in another Grotonian, Geoff Arner ’06, who has played drums for them in the past.
Bound by DNA and a love for making music, the Andersons don’t feel a need to rush these first steps of their musical career. They can give Oliver time to mature, find its voice and its footing. They can nurture Oliver in much the same way that they have been nurtured in their musical lives by their parents, their schools, and their friends.