Originally from Northern California, Anderson's earliest musical memories include hearing church music, classical in her mother's car, and country in her dad's truck. She has been playing the guitar since age ten. She dropped out of college at 19 and relocated to Portland in 1999. As an environmental activist, she spent part of the early '90s living in her car or a tent, and walking across the United States to raise awareness about environmental issues with 100 other people. She was also part of Circo de Manos and performed among the indigenous peoples and subsistence farmers during the Chiapas conflict in Southern Mexico.
Her early musical projects included membership in the Dolly Ranchers from 1997 through 2003; she played on both of their albums. She also worked at Rock Camp for Girls between 2003-2011 (and contributed to its self-titled book). Anderson spent six years with the completely improvisational Evolutionary Jass Band, with whom she recorded three albums. Her first solo album, Holiday Motel, was issued in 2006 by 16 Records, and was an OUTmusic Award nominee for Best Female Debut Record. In 2009, she recorded the completely improvised The Golden Hour for Mississippi Records. Its 12 selections for guitar or lap steel were recorded on four-track tape. The solo guitar effort Mercury followed in 2013 (also on Mississippi). The album was internationally acclaimed and made numerous year-end lists in print and in digital media. She also released Traditional & Public Domain Songs through Grapefruit Records that same year. Given her increased profile, Anderson's concerts and festival appearances in Europe and the United States were more often than not sold out. In 2014, she was a featured guest on Sharon Van Etten's Are We There?, and the following year Anderson and Tashi Dorji released a split LP for Footfalls Records. Anderson's fourth album, Into the Light, was released in June 2016 on her own Chaos Kitchen Music. Playing guitars, lap steel, pedal steel, and electric piano, she referred to the recording as "an imaginary soundtrack for a science fiction western." After signing with Thrill Jockey, she returned with the textural and wide-ranging Cloud Corner in the summer of 2018. Her music has also been featured on several soundtracks, including Smokin' Fish, For the Love of Dolly, Girls Rock, and Gift to Winter. In an inspired collaboration, Anderson paired up with Australian drummer Jim White (Dirty Three, Xylouris White) in Mexico City to record a collection of improvised works which came out in May 2020 as The Quickening. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi