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anderson-east

Anderson East is among the first performers at the first EastFest, Sunday in the Village of East Davenport.

There's nothing new about a musician changing his name.

But for Mike Anderson, changing his moniker to Anderson East after releasing several albums under his given name meant more than just how he was billed.

"Mainly it stemmed off being tired of myself," he said in a phone interview from Nashville. "I think it gave me a freedom to say things that I wanted to say. It gave me some kind of protective barrier between writing songs and myself.

"I feel like it was a way for me to have an outlet to be more honest, as odd as that sounds," he added.

The 27-year-old is, rather appropriately, among the headliners at the first EastFest on Sunday in the Village of East Davenport. The festival will include local and national musicians as well as dozens of local brewers and culinary experts.

The Athens, Ala., native released his first major label album, "Delilah," in July.

"People seem to like it, and that's usually good enough for me," he said of the response to the album. "I don't really keep my ear too much to that kind of thing, but people are showing up to the shows and enjoying it. Everybody's been incredibly supportive about it.

"In my mind, it feels good," he added.

Daytrotter.com founder Sean Moeller, who helped book acts for the festival, has praised Anderson East for his "his Elvis Presley-Muscle Shoals vibes, writes Sam Cooke-caliber love songs."

East said his sound is a result of his raising.

"I came up in the church, singing in choirs and stuff like that. I always enjoyed being around music, but music wasn't very prevalent when I was growing up," he said. "Then the adolescent years kick in and you want an electric guitar and something more raucous.

"It all stemmed as an outlet as a mildly frustrated youth to be noisy, y'know?," he added.

East said he doesn't care what genre others might want to label him.

"As long as they like it, they can call it whatever they want," he said. "I think R&B music and country music and even gospel music all share the same seed. It's just a different part of the plant at that point. It's how you dress the song up."

Getting to record and landing on a major label were enough of a dream fulfilled, he said, that anything beyond that is gravy.

"I don't really look at it like where we can go," he said. "We're just keeping our head down and doing what we want to do, and that's good enough. I don't have grandiose ideas about things — not that I don't want them to happen, but I never thought that I'd get to this part.

"I always dreamed I would, but you never expect your dreams to really get fulfilled like that," he said.

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