Image Courtesy of Andrew Belle
Stars in The Attic writer Adriana Rossi recently got the chance to catch up with American singer-songwriter Andrew Belle about his recent tours, his inspirations and how he keeps himself grounded in his downtime.
Adriana Rossi: You were recently touring the Black Bear album – how was that? What were the highs and lows of the tour?
Andrew Belle: I spent the better part of 2013 and 2014 promoting Black Bear/Black Bear Hushed. It was an interesting process because I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I first started. The lows were probably the first few shows when we were still figuring out how to play the songs but after about six months, we finally felt like we were playing the songs the way they were supposed to be played. At the start of 2014, however, I decided to simplify and strip things down so that I could travel and play shows by myself again. Audiences seem to respond well when I get a chance to play quieter versions of my songs and talk about them in-between, so I began doing that pretty regularly. After a while I decided that it would be fun to record a few of these quieter versions that I had developed in the live show, and call it Black Bear Hushed. One of my highs in the last few years of touring was being able to play a set at the Firefly Music festival in Delaware. We played in front of a few thousand people – I’ve never played for that big of a crowd and it was really exhilarating.
AR: You are also soon to be going on tour with Joshua Radin can you tell us a little something about that?
AB: Well, this is sort of a full circle tour for me because when I first began dating my wife, and hadn’t really accomplished anything musically yet, she was listening to Joshua’s album a lot in her apartment when I would visit. And so his songs became a big part of the soundtrack to the beginnings of our relationship. So to be able to open for him now is a really special and fun circumstance to find myself in.
AR: What got you first started as a singer songwriter? have you always been into music and writing?
AB: I became a singer-songwriter because I knew that bands were hard to keep together. I discovered that I liked songwriting when I was in college and by the time I was ready to graduate, I decided to try it for a while and see if there was any future in it for me. Guys like Denison Witmer and Greg Laswell were huge early influences and so I set out to achieve a career that looked like theirs. Writing is still my favorite part about what I do – much more than performing live or touring.
AR: Whose music has influenced and inspired your own over the years and who do you really like at the moment?
AB: My very first influence were the Counting Crows; that was the band that made me love music for the first time. After that I’ve floated to and from hundreds of other artists and genres, but right now I’m really gravitating towards alternative music. My favourites as I type this are Sylvan Esso and James Blake.
AR: Where has been your favourite place to play and what makes it so special to you?
AB: In my hometown, there’s a small little venue called The Space. I played one of my first shows there, when I had yet to really have an audience, and now I still go back regularly – even if I could sell more tickets at a larger venue. It’s incredibly comfortable and the people there are so generous and kind. It’s the ideal stop on a tour when you’re tired of playing dirty, loud clubs and need to be rejuvenated back to health.
AR: You were presented with a John Lennon songwriting award in 2009, how did winning such an award make you feel?
AB: Surprised. That song, “The Ladder”, that I won it for just sort of came out of my mouth one day when I was playing at a bar and no one was really paying attention. The melody came very effortlessly and the lyrics eventually came together quickly as well – I have to think that God has always had a hand in my words like that. Inspiring and pushing me to write words that, I don’t really know where they come from, but mean a lot to me and to other people as well.
AR: How do you keep your self grounded and what do you get up to in your down time?
AB: I play basketball, I cook with my wife, I watch a lot of sports, and I like to read. We live in a pretty quiet area and so we’re pretty much home-bodies.
AR: You are currently part of the critically acclaimed national touring group Ten Out Of Tenn, for those that don’t know, what is it all about?
AB: Ten Out Of Tenn is a group of singer-songwriters that occasionally tour together and put on one big collaborative show. Each of us get to perform two of our own songs, while the other 9 play in the band behind them, so it becomes one big, loud, eclectic experience. It’s the most fun because we all respect each others music so much, and even though we all are doing our own version of the same thing, everyone has a unique and special skill set. To be considered a peer among such wonderful talent is a true joy and has been one of, if not THE, highlight of my career.
AR: What piece of advice do you remember being given as a child that you still stick to today?
AB: My Grandfather always told me, “Be kind to everyone you meet on the way up – because one day they will be the same people you meet on the way down.”
AR: What was the first instrument you learnt to play and what would you really love to learn in the future?
AB: My dad taught me to play his twelve-sting acoustic guitar when I told him I wanted to learn how to play “Mr Jones” – a song by the Counting Crows. In the future, I would literally love to become a real drummer. I’ve dabbled for years but I’m semi-obsessed with percussion. One day I’ll buy a kit and drive my neighbours crazy.