A native San Diegan, Anderson grew up in Encinitas, quickly becoming immersed in music.
“Playing music is something I've done since I was a child,” she said. “It really is just a part of me.”
She cites the generosity of local musicians for helping her make the transition to professional musician.
“Over the years, I was and still am inspired by friends that are innovators, entrepreneurs and musicians, such as Jim Austin, Eric Lieberman, Brande Lindsey, Benno Baenziger, Bob Haro and Adrian Demain. These people are all incredibly skilled and talented. They have encouraged me and taught me that you can achieve whatever you want if you dedicate yourself to it.”
Anderson’s first public performance took place in 1987 at Miracles Cafe in Cardiff.
“My friends had a little jazz combo and asked me to sing with them,” she recalled. “I learned ‘Girl from Ipanema’ on the spot and sang it for a large, open-mic crowd. I didn't suck. Thankfully, it was a forgiving and friendly audience though. It couldn't have been very good.”
In the ensuing years, Anderson has performed in various genres, including jazz and country, currently finding her niche in Americana.
“It’s a modern blend of traditional American music: jazz, blues, rock and country,” she said. “When I write, it's a mix of these, so that seemed to be the genre in which my music fit best. My musical heroes are X, The Blasters, The Beat Farmers, Dinah Washington, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson and BB King.”
She said she is also a big fan of area musicians.
“I have big place in my heart for the California roots rock/punk bands -- great live shows, energy, music and, most importantly, songwriting. They blended country, blues and punk to make their own sound of rock that is very Southern Californian and much what I strive for.”
Though she has appeared on several European jazz collections, to date she’s only released one album called “Beyond the Lights,” earning two “best album” nominations in Americana and jazz at the 2012 San Diego Music Awards. Although she’s been a part of many bands over the years, she prefers to perform solo.
“I chose to make a solo record because I wanted to be able to change my sound for different situations,” she Anderson said. “I like to change things up, and I wanted control of the sound of my records without having it become a band democracy. It also gives me the ability to book myself solo or hire players, depending upon availability.”
Next up for Anderson is more road work and recording.
“I plan to be back on the road in 2013 and to make another album by spring 2014,” she said. “I enjoy touring. I love exploring new cities and traveling. I love the challenge of different stages and audiences and being pushed out of my comfort zone. The worst part of touring is being away from my son. In the meantime, I'm writing and performing for a project called “For the Sender” and collaborating with more musicians of different styles. I'm working on collaborations now with a couple of rock bands, singer/songwriters and even some electronic house music.”
Anderson said she is happy to be playing in Ocean Beach and happy with the local music community.
“Ocean Beach has always been welcoming to me as an artist, but I think many people think it is a difficult part of town to get to,” she said. “I think San Diego is very supportive of its musicians. From local bloggers to audiences and media, I’ve got a lot going on in San Diego and I'm always surprised at the turnout for events. In addition, the musicians in this town really support each other too.”
With more than two decades of experience in local nightspots, Anderson said she is still thrilled to be making music.
“I appreciate the fellowship among musicians and that magical feeling of connecting not only with the audience but with the music,” she said. “It's kind of like being the music. It's indescribable and doesn't always happen, but it's something every musician feels.”
• Nena Anderson performs at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7 at Java Joes, 4976 Newport Ave. All Ages. www.javajoessd.com