Centricity Music acoustic/folk artist Andrew Peterson is no newcomer to writing songs that connect with his listeners.
In the Fall of 2008, Peterson released his unique project, Resurrection Letters Volume II, so Andrew took some time out of his
busy schedule to talk to Jesusfreakhideout.com's Laura Nunnery about his latest endeavors...
This interview took place on: 1/27/09.
Jesus freak Hideout (Laura Nunnery): Tell me a little about your new album,
Resurrection Letters Volume II. Has there been much confusion about the title?
I know it's kind of silly to title an album "volume two" before the first volume has even been started. In hindsight,
I see it as a way to force myself to follow through. When we moved into our house about a year ago there was this
twenty-year-old linoleum on the floor I promised my wife we would replace. Well, I came home one day to find that she had
already pulled up the linoleum and our kitchen floor was sticky plywood. Of course, I ordered the new flooring immediately.
That's how I see this thing. The idea of trying to convey the Resurrection story in a few songs is daunting, and maybe
even a little foolish. I can think of a lot of reasons not to try and pull it off. But we've released volume two, so the
linoleum has been thrown out.
It's been a little confusing to folks, but a quick look at my website or the back of the CD explains the whole hare-brained
JFH (Laura): Will Resurrection Letters Volume 1 be your next album,
or will it be further down the road? Have you been writing any new songs lately?
I've written a new song or two that I'm excited about, but so far they don't feel like Resurrection Letters songs.
I'll probably release another record or EP before digging into volume one. But really, I don't know. I try to be obedient to
the art, which is to say that while I'll try hard to make the songs excellent, I won't try to impose my will on them.
This is another whole conversation, but I think of creation as a kind of communion. It is a matter of serving the Creator.
So if this next batch of songs tells a different story, I'm fine with that.
JFH (Laura): When writing a song, do you usually write music or lyrics first?
Ah, the age-old question. There's a very simple answer: it depends. Unfortunately, for me there's no formula for writing
songs. It's different for everybody. I think for me a lot of times it starts with a concept. I think, "Oh, I'd like to
write a song about that." Other times, it's a state of mind (depression usually) that I'm compelled to sort of document,
to get down on paper. Other times it's a matter of getting to the bottom of how I feel or think. I don't know until the
song is finished how to make sense of this or that moment, so it's a kind of discovery. Sometimes I'm just trying to be
funny, or tell a story, or paint a picture. Sometimes it's a cool musical thing (cool to me, at least), whether a chord
progression or melody or vibe. I guess the real answer is, what comes first in songwriting is neither music nor lyrics,
but the willingness to do the work.
JFH (Laura): Who are your greatest musical influences?
These are the artists and records that come to mind, in chronological order:
(When I was about fourteen I learned to play piano to this album.)
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd
(When I was about fifteen I learned to play guitar to this album.)
Tesla, The Great Radio Controversy
(I was sixteen. My first concept album. It's loosely about the mostly-forgotten genius Nikola Tesla--Tesla was a concept band, really, because all their records were about him in one way or another.)
Extreme, Three Sides to Every Story
(This record had the biggest influence on Behold the Lamb of God.)
Marc Cohn, Marc Cohn
(Still one of the finest albums I've ever heard. When I discovered Marc Cohn my senior year, a lightbulb went on, and I realized that all along what I loved was not just music, but songwriting.)
Toad the Wet Sprocket, Fear and Dulcinea
(These guys reconciled my love for rock and roll with my love for great songwriting. The electric guitar on these albums is so good that even now, fifteen years later, you'll hear people in the studio saying things like, "I think this guitar part should be like a Toad thing." Their lead singer Glen Phillips is still one of my favorite artists.)
James Taylor, New Moon Shine
(This was JT's 10th or 11th album, and is one of his finest. That gives us young guys great hope.)
Counting Crows, August and Everything After
(I listened to this album so often that I think my wife tried to hide it.)
Susan Ashton/Wayne Kirkpatrick
(Once I finally started paying attention to Christian music, I discovered Susan Ashton. The songwriting on her albums
(much of it from Kirkpatrick) is effortless and intelligent and finely crafted.)
Rich Mullins, The World as Best as I Remember It 1 and 2;
A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band, and many of the songs on his other albums.
(I don't think I've written a single song without quoting Rich in some way. He wrote some hokey songs, but he also
wrote songs whose lyrics astound me to this day--I am more surprised by them now than the first hundred times I heard them. I can think of no other artist I would rather influence my work than Rich Mullins.)
JFH (Laura): How have you grown musically and lyrically since your first album?
Andrew: I think so. I hope so.
JFH (Laura): Tell me a little about your book "ON THE EDGE OF THE DARK SEA OF DARKNESS".
Andrew: On the Edge is an adventure story about three kids who discover one day that their little
town is full of big secrets that basically ruin their lives. It's not an allegory or a Gospel tract disguised as a fantasy
novel. I just wanted to tell the best story I could, and hopefully give children (of all ages) that delightful flutter in
their stomach when imagination comes awake. That said, of course I'm a Christian, so certain themes are bound to arise.
JFH (Laura): What inspired you to write it?
Andrew: Books have always been as much a part of my life as music, and I've dreamed of telling a story
like this for years. Six or seven years ago my brother (who's a much better writer than I am) and I decided to stop talking
about writing books and actually do it. We had a contest to see who could finish a book first. (His novel is being shopped to
several big publishing houses now.) The three main characters of the story are loosely based on my own children, and
I wrote it to be read aloud as a family. Some of our best family time is at night when the kids are in their pajamas and
we read together. It's been thrilling to meet whole families at my concerts who have read it together and want to know what
JFH (Laura): What has the reaction to your first book been?
Andrew: The reviews were good, and the emails and letters I've gotten have been very encouraging.
No compliment is as high as one from a child. If a child doesn't like something they'll usually tell you. That said, I think
a lot of people are justifiably wary of a book written by a singer/songwriter. Often, crossovers are disastrous. I watched
Kevin Costner and his country band on the Grand Ole Opry and felt terribly embarrassed for him. It was pretty bad. And I'm
a big fan of some of the guy's movies. Being good at one kind of art doesn't make you good at another, and I confess I was
a little surprised when I found that novel writing and songwriting are so vastly different. The common denominator,
though, is my love for words and language and story. Hopefully people will see that when they read the books.
JFH (Laura): How far along are you on the second book?
Andrew: I just finished the first draft. I'm deep in the editing process now to meet the August
2009 release date. It's titled, North! Or Be Eaten, and is much darker than the first. Bad things are
happening to the Igibys.
JFH (Laura): What is your favorite venue to play and why?
Andrew: It used to be the New City Cafe in Knoxville. It was intimate and the proprietor always
encouraged people to pay attention. It wasn't one of those places where folks play checkers while you're pouring out your
heart. There are other places like it that I'm discovering, like Acoustic Jeremiah, near Atlanta. I also have to admit
that there's no place like the stage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. In general, though, I'd rather play a small room
that's packed than a big boomy auditorium.
JFH (Laura): If you could tour with any artist, who would it be and why?
Andrew: I don't think I'd want to tour with anybody other than the members of the Square Peg Alliance
I already tour with: my regular band, The Captains Courageous (Ben Shive and Andy Gullahorn), Jill Phillips, Eric Peters,
Derek Webb, Jeremy Casella, Andrew Osenga, Randall Goodgame. The community is rich, and their artistry inspires me.
JFH (Laura): What is the biggest misconception people have about you?
Andrew: That I'm humble. I hear it in emails and after shows sometimes, but the truth is, I'm as
self-centered and selfish as the next guy. I remember Rich Mullins saying once that the forty-five minutes people hear of
him on albums or at shows are his best forty-five minutes all year. It's the part I let you see.
JFH (Laura): How do you juggle being a musician and being a husband/father?
Andrew: I have a great family who remind me what's important when I forget.
JFH (Laura): Do you think music can be categorized as Christian? If so, what should be the criteria?
Andrew: I don't have a well-formed opinion on the matter. I used to think about it a lot, but nowadays
I'm content to keep my head down, try to do good work, and let others worry about categorizing it. That said, yeah, I think
there's something unabashedly Christian about some music, and it can be excellent music. Rich Mullins comes to mind again.
How else would you classify a song like "Sometimes by Step?" It's a chorus that can be sung in corporate worship, but the
verse lyrics are some of the best he ever wrote: "Sometimes I think of Abraham, how one star he saw had been lit for me /
He was a stranger in this land, and I am that, no less than he." That's not Americana. It's not country.
It's not even straight-up singer/songwriter stuff. It's Christian music. And that's okay.
JFH (Laura): Do you feel the Dove Awards are an accurate representation of the
best in Christian music? Why or why not?
It's not a good representation of "the best" because I think that's impossible to know until a decade has passed and what
is timeless and true and worthy has floated to the surface. Industry awards are about celebrating what's the most
popular and has made the industry the most money. History has shown that popular and excellent aren't necessarily the same
things. Still, it's nice when really great work is honored.
JFH (Laura): What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the Church today?
I think the pressing issues for the church are the same now as they've always been. We have a hard time loving God and our neighbors.
JFH (Laura): If you could play in a band of a completely different musical
genre than you are currently, what genre would you choose? (ie punk, hardcore, electronic, etc)
Country music, but the Alison Krauss/Lyle Lovett/Johnny Cash kind.
JFH (Laura): Lennon or McCartney?
McCartney, mainly because of Penny Lane.
JFH (Laura): The staff of Jesus Freak Hideout recently listed our favorite
Christian albums of all time. What are your top five favorite Christian albums of all time?
Rich Mullins, A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band
PFR, Goldie's Last Day
The Waiting, Blue Belly Sky
Sixpence None the Richer, This Beautiful Mess
Caedmon's Call, Share the Well
But my most recent favorites are (and not just because we're friends, honest):
Ben Shive, The Ill-Tempered Klavier
Andy Gullahorn, Reinventing the Wheel
Jill Phillips, The Good Things
Fernando Ortega, In the Shadow of Your Wings
Eric Peters, Scarce
JFH (Laura): If you could no longer make music or write books, what would you like to do for an occupation?
I'd be a farmer. I'd be terrible at it, but it wouldn't stop me from trying.
JFH (Laura): When do you plan to tour next?
In February, I'll be on the road for two weeks of free concerts out west, promoting RLII. In the Spring, I'm
doing my second Easter tour with a band. This December is the tenth annual Behold the Lamb of God Christmas tour, and in
between, I'm doing shows with the Captains Courageous. That answer just made me tired.
JFH (Laura): What is the most challenging thing for you about being a follower of Jesus?
Believing that I am lovable.