Arts September 27, 2019

Red-Headed Ambition

The roots of this country soul singer started with a rock 'n' roll mom

With the recent release of his sophomore album, “Steady Your Aim,” Hailey-bred country singer-songwriter Andrew Sheppard was branded a “heartland rocker with an outlaw country soul,” and tapped as an artist to watch by industry monitor “Wide Open Country.”

The middle child of a popular, local, ’90s rock ‘n’ roll singer, Sheppard was weaned on the blues. His sponge baths were heavy on honky tonk. His play dates were largely with his older sister, Mayson, dinking around their mother’s band practices, where she would sometimes join her mom at what was then Bruce Willis’ The Mint Bar, belting out “Wild Thing,” where Sheppard tinkered with the bass and a skateboard, and mingled with the talent.

The hub of this wheel of fame is a spunky redhead hairdresser named Lisa Anderson, 56, who dragged her toddlers to concerts of all ilk when not singing with her own bands, The Distractors and The Beauty Operators.

Anderson had a third and, ultimately, musical child, Celeste, for whom she set aside her own music ambitions to raise. Mayson likewise became a stylist and continued singing, eventually forming New Wave-rockabilly bands with her husband Brad Williams in Salt Lake City and now Boise.

But so far it has only been Andrew who took the leap into the music business without a net.

“Andy was always an old soul from day one,” said Anderson, taking a break between clients at Tula’s Salon in Bellevue to talk about her talented children—mostly, this day, her son, 31. “He always had the extra drive, the extra passion to take it all the way.”

Sheppard started his own punk rock band while at Wood River High School, graduated early, and headed to L.A. at 17 to join a skateboard demo team with the Vans Warped Tour, one of the annual family pilgrimages.

Sidelined by a knee injury at 19, Sheppard wasn’t ready to let the touring lifestyle go, so he put on his big boy jeans, tuned into his genes, pulled out the guitar and founded Gypsy River Haunts.

He spent nearly 10 years in L.A. before
“I knew I wanted to be my own boss and not be obligated to someone else’s schedule.” He packed up his dog, quit his day job and began a life on his own road, “ … regardless of life’s curve balls. I was determined to learn how to hit them and stay true to my course.”

He lingered back in Idaho long enough to “land a band of my good friends,” and produce his first solo album, “Far From Here,” which he performed at music festivals like Stagecoach in Indio, Calif., and Treefort in Boise, gaining followers who liken him to his own influencers: Tom Petty, John Prine, and CCR.

If the sound became too familiar, or the experience too far from what he was singing about, he hit the road again, collecting stories. “I never stay anywhere too long as far as creativity goes. I think it just comes from life experience no matter where I am.”

Sheppard now lives in Nashville, where he sits on his porch and writes. He then retreats to his home studio to cobble it together. When he comes to town, little sister Celeste Cortum, now 16, who cut her own album, “The Void,” as part of her high school personal project, often opens for him, and Mayson and Mom have been known to join in.

“There isn’t any rivalry. Mayson’s pretty busy with my nephew, and Celeste has a couple more years of high school left. I’m curious to see if she will pursue music. Someday, we’ll do the family band thing.”

Sister Mayson is putting out feelers for a new band in Boise and baby Felix is already auditioning to be a drummer.

Mama is just waiting for Celeste to grow up and choose her creative path before reinventing herself and doing something with all the songs she’s written over the years.

“They each took a little of me and made it their own,” Anderson said. “I feel that if this is my legacy, I have done a wonderful job. If that’s what I can leave for these kids, and they can carry it through the next generations … Music makes the world go ’round.”

This article appears in the Fall 2019 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.