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My 2010 Jon Anderson The Living Tree Interview  

Extreme Peach

Here's another of my archive interviews for any of you Jon Anderson or YES fans. My November 2010 interview with Jon Anderson formerly of YES discussing his solo album at the time, "The Living Tree" which he wrote and recorded with former YES composer & keyboardist Rick Wakeman.

Jon Anderson: The Living Tree

By Arlene R. Weiss

© Copyright November 4, 2010-2016 By Arlene R. Weiss-All Rights Reserved
© Copyright November 8, 2010-2016 By Arlene R. Weiss-All Rights Reserved

For people who have long admired the angelic singing voice and celestial talents of Yes’s Jon Anderson, they are well aware that throughout Jon’s creative career as a prolific solo artist, his ongoing collaborations with many esteemed artists, and with Yes, he has always held a deep reverence, both professionally, and personally, for nature and our planet, and their spiritual connection to us.

After being hospitalized and sidelined in 2008 with acute respiratory failure, Jon is now in excellent health, enthusiastic spirits, and has just released a new album with Yes keyboardist, Rick Wakeman, The Living Tree. The album embraces Jon’s own spiritual connection to “The Garden” as he lovingly calls it, and its uplifting and healing powers that helped guide Jon through that difficult time to once again be well, full of light and artistry, singing, writing, and performing music.

The Living Tree is an exuberant and sparkling creative collaboration between Jon and his lifelong friend Rick. It’s also their first album that they’ve created together, aside from their many albums and tours with Yes and their two albums with Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe. Jon and Rick wrote and recorded the entire album over the Internet, with the two emailing music and vocal parts back and forth to one another from their prospective homes in the USA and England, to craft this radiant collection of inspirational songs.

Now, Jon and Rick are bringing The Living Tree to the concert stage with an intimate show and UK Tour, billed as the “Anderson/Wakeman Project 360”, from October 9, through November 15, 2010, where the two artists share their many mutual musical gifts, delightfully witty repartee and jokes, and great bond of friendship. Jon will then return to the U.S. to enjoy the holidays with home, hearth and family.

Then Jon will tour the USA and Canada from December 1, 2010 through May 21, 2011 on his own, in an “An Acoustic Evening With Jon Anderson.” Both tours will find Anderson lyrically strumming his acoustic guitar, while beautifully singing both the “Wonderous Stories” of classic songs from Yes and new songs from The Living Tree, while he regales audiences with his fond storytelling and artistic reflections.

Yes’s Jon Anderson took time from his busy tour schedule of the UK with Rick Wakeman, to share his thoughts on his and Rick’s creative process on The Living Tree, their tour together, and his always inspiring light and positivity.


Arlene R. Weiss: The Living Tree is both a deeply personal and a profoundly spiritual concept album, imbued with great meaning. What was the impetus for you, and for Rick, collaborating together, writing and creating this eloquent, beautiful, songbook, crafted, from the heart, and for the soul?

Jon Anderson: Thanks for your wonderful words. Rick and I have this very open way of thinking musically. He’ll send me really well thought out music, and on hearing it, I will sing it, from start to finish. Most of the time, I don’t listen to what he has sent, just the first few bars, then I’ll sing more instant music ideas.

It’s the same with lyrics, they just pop out as I sing. Usually seventy percent of the lyrics are written this way, on the first take. Then, after the first pass, I’ll figure out what I’m trying to say in the lyrics and finish the song, before sending it back to Rick for his thoughts.

Jon Anderson & Rick Wakeman Photo Credit: Rob Ayling

Arlene: Your music, both on your solo and collaborative projects and with Yes, has always expressed a reverence for nature and for our planet and their positive connection to us, and us to them. Tell people what The Living Tree refers to, in this regard.

Jon Anderson: Having been through near death moments a couple of years ago, I became more connected to the Garden. I couldn’t sing for six months, so I painted and listened, and I watched this amazing nature that surrounds us. “The Living Tree” song came from these far reaching thoughts while I was recuperating. We are the “Mother Earth,” like our Indigenous friends say. We’re the caretakers of “Mother Earth.” We surely need to slow down and take care of our surroundings. It’ll take time to reverse what has been done, but it must happen.

Arlene: You and Rick, wrote and recorded this entire album, two continents and an Atlantic Ocean apart, with you writing and recording the lyrics, melodies, and your vocals here at your home in the USA, and Rick, writing and recording the music and his keys from his studio in England, and the two of you emailing parts, back and forth to one another, over the Internet. What are the unique challenges and advantages of this songwriting and recording approach, and how did the songs, conceptually evolve for both of you?

Jon Anderson: Surprisingly, there were very little challenges. This kind of recording has been done for many years now. I started about seven years ago, working with people around the world. It’s a new way of creating.

Arlene: What personal experiences and inspiration did you draw from, on writing the lyrics throughout the album?

Jon Anderson: As I mentioned, most of the lyrics come to me immediately. I think about a common thread of an idea, for example, the song, “23/24/11,” this came from me watching the chaos in the war in Afghanistan, and the wounded soldiers who have to come home, wounded inside and lost. War is a very dark world, and one we must learn to live beyond.

Jon Anderson Photo Credit: Robin Kauffman

Arlene: I so agree with you, that we must do, and with peace. The anti-war social commentary of “23/24/11” really captures the darkness, loneliness, and emptiness of a soldier’s experience on the front lines, especially in your lyrics, “We are the first generation to know, that war doesn’t believe. It just breaks the soul.”

You’re a person and artist that’s always full of such hope, positivity, and light. Is it particularly challenging or even emotionally painful for you, to write such stark lyrical content? Where in essence, through your lyrics, you guide people through a difficult journey, wading through the darkness with them, to safely uplift and bring them back into hope and light?

Jon Anderson: I’m singing for myself in the hope that someone else feels the same, very simple really.

Arlene: You really embrace new, exciting, and innovative technology and media in your records and in your music. On your September 23, 2010 Facebook Post, you wrote about your song “House Of Freedom:”

“Rick Wakeman sent me this really special music while I was on this last tour, I have studio on my Lap Top, so one day…I sang this song for the new album, The Living Tree.., all my singing was recorded “on the road”..such a new world…it will be great to sing on stage….Just wonderful music to sing on.”

You sound so excited and enthusiastic about singing and performing this music. It must be great fun for you.

Jon Anderson: This music, on stage is perfect to sing on many levels. It’s as though I’m learning every night, it’s a wonderful world of song for me. And Rick plays better every night. We both feel very blessed and very happy to perform this music.

Arlene: The enchanting and lovely “Forever” is such a heartfelt and joyous song of love, and your exuberant vocals really shine. What inspired this song?

Jon Anderson: We’re surrounded by a beautiful energy, call it the “Divine Energy,” and it gives us pure love every single second of everyday. Just open up and let it come through.

Arlene: I love the beautiful album and video artwork by Mark Wilkinson. The Living Tree’s branches and leaves are musical notes and birds in flight. Was that your idea or Mark’s?

Jon Anderson: I suggested to Mark to find a strong looking tree, and make it gold and red and sparkling, and alive and powerful, with energy coming out of it, from music to equations. He was perfect from the word go.

Arlene: You’re also touring the UK, right now with Rick, October 9-November 15, 2010, on your “Anderson/Wakeman Project 360” Tour, with a mixture of music from The Living Tree, classic songs from YES and humorous anecdotes. Your show is getting rave reviews from press and fans alike. What inspired you and Rick to put together this intimate show?

Jon Anderson: It just comes naturally to have fun on stage, and at the same time try to put on a great musical event. We love our audience and we respect them, and the music that we perform.


Poster for The Living Tree

The Living Tree is already available for purchase, as of October 11, 2010, through the website of Jon Anderson’s and Rick Wakeman’s record label, Voiceprint, at and digitally, in online stores, including, Amazon, Gonzo, iTunes and Rhapsody. It will be released in retail stores, November 29, 2010 in the UK and Europe, and on January 11, 2011 in the USA.

© Copyright November 4, 2010-2016 By Arlene R. Weiss-All Rights Reserved
© Copyright November 8, 2010-2016 By Arlene R. Weiss-All Rights Reserved

Posted : November 6, 2015 6:07 am
Universal Peach

Wow! Great work. I wish Jon and Rick had toured more extensively, and in the USA! The questions in this are stellar, you drew amazing responses. thx

Posted : December 18, 2015 9:42 am
Extreme Peach

Wow! Great work. I wish Jon and Rick had toured more extensively, and in the USA! The questions in this are stellar, you drew amazing responses. thx

Thank you very much!! Jon Anderson is amazing. Also love his solo work and his song with Tangerine Dream for the Ridley Scott movie "Legend", called "Loved By The Sun".

Posted : January 8, 2016 5:43 am