By Claire Stern
Updated Jan 12, 2018 @ 5:45 pm
Credit: Joshua Black Wilkins

With his doe-eyed gaze and mop of curly blonde hair, Anderson East is definitely a looker, but it's his raspy and soulful voice that will really grab your attention. You can hear the full depth of his infectious drawl on the just-released Encore, the follow-up to his 2015 breakout album, Delilah. "The intent was for every song be played as the encore at a concert," he recently said by phone, ahead of his sold-out show at New York's Bowery Ballroom. Born in Athens, Alabama, and based in Nashville, East does not ascribe to any particular Southern music genre, though he's admittedly a big fan of country (no surprise, considering his girlfriend of two years is Miranda Lambert). Here, more from East about his latest release, gangster rap, and the most surprising thing about working with Ed Sheeran.

What did you do during your time off? I watched a good bit of television. We loved The Crown. And The Killing and The Fall with Gillian Anderson. All those crime shows are always super fun.

How are you feeling about the new album? I feel really good! I'm really excited and very proud of it. We never tried to make a genre-specific record, because that can get constrained to a lot of different things when people refer to it. Any stylistic choices we make are there to enhance what the song is at its core.

Country music does seem to get a lot of flack. I think when a lot of people hear the term "country," they step off from it. I don't see the labeling of this as country—I think it's really unwarranted—but honestly, I don't care what people call it; if they enjoy the music, so be it. I love country music, but I also love gangster rap.

Which rappers do you listen to? Who doesn't love Tupac? Those records have such swagger to them. The groove is just incredible.

What was it like collaborating with Ed Sheeran? He's had an amazing year. That dude's fantastic. He's an incredible writer and performer. We've had several friends in common for a while, and we're also labelmates, so it filtered through those channels. Getting to work with him in some capacity has been a real treat. I think what surprised me the most about him was how gracious and flattering he was about how the song turned out. He's a very kind guy. There's more to come.

And you worked with Avicii on "Girlfriend" too. How did that song come about? It was very impulsive. There was no premonition of it. What was actually supposed to end up being a writing appointment ended up turning into a whole session. We started at about 5 p.m. with nothing and walked out at 3 a.m. and that's what you hear on the record.

Were the lyrics inspired by your real-life girlfriend? It was something tongue-in-cheek that made us laugh. We were just trying to amuse ourselves.

You and Miranda are adorable on Instagram. How do you keep the romance alive? There's a true admiration there and a large level of understanding on both sides, for sure. It's always difficult to be a traveling musician and still keep things together. Understanding is definitely a huge factor.

What designers do you wear most often? I have a few: Nudie Jeans, AllSaints, and John Varvatos. And Costco—they have the absolute best underwear and socks, I'm dead serious. And their flannels are super warm and styley too.