SALT LAKE CITY — Abby Anderson had only been talking for a few seconds before she interrupted herself.
With a slight Southern drawl, the 22-year-old country-pop singer abruptly stopped the conversation to ask if she had called at the right time. She was on East Coast time, speaking from Battle Creek, Michigan — about two hours outside of Detroit. It was noon where she was, but for a moment, Anderson was worried she had called when it was still early morning in Salt Lake City.
“I was homeschooled, so the time zone thing, I didn’t get that in my education and sometimes I get a little confused,” she said with a laugh. “I’m traveling so much.”
The on-the-road life is just one thing Anderson is getting used to as an artist on the rise. Last year she released her debut single, a ballad called “Make Him Wait” that caught the attention of “little bit country” singer Marie Osmond. A few months later, Rolling Stone magazine listed Anderson as one of “10 new country artists you need to know.”
Now, the bubbly, up-and-coming singer from Dallas is opening for alt-rocker Rob Thomas, the lead singer of the band Matchbox Twenty. That tour, which stops at Salt Lake City’s The Depot on June 11, is a whirlwind taking Anderson from coast to coast with more than 40 performances. But it only took one show — the tour’s opening concert on May 28 in Red Bank, New Jersey — for the young singer to feel right at home.
“I get to learn from a rock legend like Rob Thomas,” she said. “He came out to the audience and introduced me before my set. I’ve never even heard of a headliner introducing an opener before to the audience. It’s very humbling and something I want to do one day when I headline.”
‘I’m not jaded yet’
“When” — not “if” — she headlines.
Although new to the music scene, Anderson speaks resolutely. It’s a boldness that once led her to try out for the football team at her local middle school and later led Anderson, who is the second oldest of seven kids (six girls and one boy), to pack her bags and make the solo move, nearly 700 miles east, from Dallas to Nashville at 17.
“I think God made me naively optimistic,” she said with a laugh. “I was raised by (parents) who taught all of us kids there’s no reason not to get what you want out of life, (and) there’s no reason not to grab your dreams and be excellent at everything you do if you want it. I moved to town with that confidence and stars in my eyes, and I feel lucky to still have that confidence in me. I’m not jaded yet. I don’t plan on getting jaded anytime soon.”
Since moving to Nashville four and a half years ago, Anderson has made the most of Music City, performing at the Grand Ole Opry's Ryman Auditorium and the Bluebird Cafe. Each time she takes the stage and sings for an audience she gets an adrenaline rush, and it takes her back to a defining moment at her childhood home in Texas when she noticed her parents’ friends had stopped what they were doing to listen to her play the piano.
“Growing up in a big family you’re just not used to getting a lot of attention, just ‘cause you’ve got to share it with six other kids,” she said. “And all of a sudden … I look over my shoulder and I’m like, ‘Oh shoot, people are listening to me!’ and then the attention hog in me just came out. The performer in me was ignited that day.”
Even though she’s a long way from her Texas home, Anderson keeps her family close with the music she writes. Her debut single from 2018, “Make Him Wait,” stemmed from dating conversations that were inevitable in a family of six girls.
“Young women do value themselves and do have great self-worth and know what their value is, it’s just that no one’s singing about it,” she said. “I was raised in a home where I was taught that I set the standard for how I want to be treated by a young man, and if he doesn’t meet that standard, then I go date somebody else. That’s a message that I hope to bring to young women everywhere, is that they are a queen and they ought to be treated like one.”
Since her breakthrough with “Make Him Wait,” Anderson has released another single, “Good Lord,” and lent her voice to the soundtrack of the recently released film “A Dog’s Journey.” Now she’s touring the country, adjusting to different time zones and learning the art of light packing along the way (she currently has her load down to a 40-pound suitcase with “room for some shopping”).
As Anderson and her suitcase trek across the country and into Utah, she’ll get a family reunion of sorts once landing in Salt Lake City. It’s where her father — who attended Highland High School — is from, and along with some aunts and uncles, it’s where Anderson’s beloved “Grammy” still lives. The country singer doesn’t have much time in Salt Lake City, though. Just two days after her show at The Depot she performs in Woodinville, Washington, but Anderson plans to work in a visit to her grandmother — or at least her grandmother’s kitchen so she can “steal some cookies out of her cookie jar.”
But after that, it’s all business. She’s got a show to do.
“If you’ve never seen Rob Thomas, it is definitely worth the ticket,” Anderson said. “He puts on an amazing show and I’d like to think I do too, you know?”
If you go …
What: Rob Thomas Chip Tooth Tour featuring guest artist Abby Anderson
When: Tuesday, June 11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Depot, 400 W. South Temple
How much: $75