Anthony Crane might have been a late-bloomer to music, but for the past decade, he’s been making up for lost time.
Crane — who brings the band that bears his last name to Barley’s Maryville on Friday night — didn’t pick up a guitar until his freshman year of college, he told The Daily Times this week. He grew up surrounded by tunes; his dad was a singer-songwriter with an appreciation for classic rock — the Allman Brothers, Bob Seger — and his mom favored the Motown sounds of Otis Redding and Percy Sledge.
In the beginning, Crane said, playing guitar was just a way to pass the time and meet girls.
“I was 18 years old in a huge school, and I had some buddies that played, so that was the thing we did when we would hang out,” he said. “All through high school and in my younger days, I was kind of a jock, but when I got away from all the sports and went to college, the music thing became a bigger part of what I had going on.”
He never took a lesson, learning instead to navigate the instrument by ear, and within a couple of years, he was part of a band. The group was “awful,” he added, but it got him up in front of people, and the attention was a kindred spirit to that he felt as an athlete, he said.
“I got a rush out of having those eyes on me and letting people know what I was about,” he said.
After the band folded, he forged ahead as a solo artist, combining the sounds of his childhood with the soundtrack to a city. Atlanta, he pointed out, is as musically diverse and hard to pigeonhole as his own style, which ranges from James Taylor to Outkast. In terms of the delivery, he’s reminiscent of Michael Franti, a fellow reggae-based folk-soul rocker who combines numerous influences to make a unique sound; some of Crane’s personal favorites include Ben Harper, Jack Johnson and the Black Crowes. Whatever well he draws from, however, has to strike the right chord — musically, of course, but emotionally.
“It’s a passionate project,” he said of the band, Crane. “We’re not necessarily talking about any type of world movement, but the passion is undeniable. We’re in love with what we’re doing up there, and every show’s a little different. The setlist is never the same, and we really feed off of the folks who are there.”
There’s a joyous freedom to the music of Crane that’s undeniable, and much of that comes from the namesake’s own freedom. For the first several years, he juggled a solo career with a 9-to-5 job, wearing a tie and sitting in a cubicle and dying a little on the inside every day. Eventually friends put together the band Wrong Way, a Sublime tribute group to which Crane still belongs. He dropped out of the corporate world and when Wrong Way wasn’t working, he fine-tuned Crane, releasing two EPs — “That’s the Boogie, Vol. 1” and “I Love Women.”
Saturday night, both Crane and Wrong Way will split a bill in Nashville, and because the two bands share members, they’ll all be attendance at Friday night’s Maryville show. As a surprise, the Barley’s gig is actually a split bill — an hour of Wrong Way, and an hour of Crane. While he hopes there will be plenty who stick around for the latter, it never fails him how many fans there are of the former, which he’s grateful for as well.
“I’m always taken aback by how young the audience is,” he said. “We get a lot of requests for ‘Santeria’ and ‘Wrong Way,’ but sometimes they’ll ask for deeper cuts — ‘Hope,’ or some of the slower B-side stuff, which we love, because we know they’re the real fans who have dug into the whole catalog. But 80 percent of the time, the crowd just knows the big hits — but that’s still a fun show.”