I met Andrew Landers at The Redstone Room in Davenport Iowa after his show in July. I have wanted to meet Andrew ever since I heard his first CD Gertrude’s Barn. I loved that CD and I thought the writing was wonderful. It turns out that Andrew Landers is very much like the songs he writes. He is open, friendly and sometimes funny. I very much enjoyed chatting with Andrew Landers; I hope you enjoy reading the article.
Billy Rose: It’s nice to finally meet you Andrew. I’ve wanted to get together with you for some time now, but our paths just never seemed to cross.
Andrew Landers: Oh yeah bro. I love what you do with your radio show and everything man. I really respect you for that. I’ve wanted to meet you too.
Billy Rose: Let’s start talking about the beginning. So you grew up in a musical family, that’s how you got started?
Andrew Landers: Yeah totally! In a lot of ways it started in the church. It was a very gospel oriented church. We listened to that blues shuffle kinda stuff. I just got birthed into a lot of that. My dad was a huge big band fan. So as a little drummer, growing up playing the drums, Tommy Dorsey, Stan Kenton I was exposed to all the big band greats. I grew up on that too. I really got into a lot of classic stuff growing up. In my Junior High and High School years I listened to stuff like Led Zepplin and lots of rock on all levels. My heart though was always close to that kinda grassroots music. The James Taylor’s and Jim Croce’s. The storytellers. People like Bob Dylan. For some reason I couldn’t get away from that. It spoke to me. I felt like the power of the narrative is when somebody sings a song and go wow.
Billy Rose: Your dad was a preacher.
Andrew Landers: He was yes.
Billy Rose: When I was watching you on stage, I thought you’re a preacher too. You are preaching from the stage. I mean that in a totally positive way. Do you feel that?
Andrew Landers: Well on this new disc I think one of the things that I feel most, on the song called Lower Case Prophet, I kinda feel like that. I feel like an advocate for those who have been disillusioned by the church. They have been hurt by the church. They have dealt with the hypocrisy of the church. I grew up in that environment man. There are a lot of messed up things about the church. Still today I don’t know where I stand on a lot of that stuff. But I do know this; there are still a lot of good things about it that I forgot along the way. So yeah I guess I feel that in some ways my job is to challenge people. Not to go to church or to think that my position on God or this or that is right. But more to challenge the humanity around us to say what’s our life for. Is it just about us and building up our little kingdoms. Or do we actually just see the world and say what can I do to help my brother and my sister. We’re all in the same boat man, trying to find a place called home. We can’t do it by dividing. Saying well he thinks this way, and he thinks that way. So I feel like I’m an advocate hoping to bring those two sides together. I’ve never even thought about that bro’. You’re the first person to bring that up. I need to figure that out. That’s a good space. I don’t think I’ve ever defined that in clarity in my own heart. What is it I do? Most of the time I think I do it to experience it myself. I go to my own happy place. I think that’s kinda the power and the draw of some of what we do. ‘Cause maybe we’re not good enough to really entertain. But man we feel it. All of us feel it. When we were singing Sons of Adam. I know right where I was man. When all of that was going on. After seeing that TV evangelist the thing that disturbed me most was that I realized that I was just as judgmental toward the religious. I just thought they were all full of…crap. And I thought how am I any better. Seeing Matt (Podschweit) play the piano. That song was a huge deal for him. A personal experience in life that had nearly broke him. So we have this camaraderie. At one of the deepest parts of his life. It hurt, and that song just reminds him it’s gonna be okay. That’s what a pal is. When you can enter into what’s happening. There is a time and place for fun and doing stuff. But when we experience it ourselves, that’s where it’s at.
Billy Rose: I haven’t heard the entire new album yet. Just what you performed tonight. But when I heard the first CD, Gertrude’s Barn I really liked it. One of my favorite tracks was Muddy Mississippi. Every time I play it I get a positive response. When people asked where they could get it, I said I think if you go to the web site you can get it there.
Andrew Landers: Oh bro’ I really appreciated what you do. It’s cool. We actually just put the new web site up. It’s gonna have all that stuff. It’s gonna be easy access for everything. They can order it from CD Baby and I-Tunes. You know what Muddy Mississippi is one of my favorites too. I was with my youngest boy. The first time I ever taught him to fish. We were sitting there with little bamboo poles on the banks of the Mississippi. I was so frustrated with him. I had just finished a busy day and I was like I really don’t want to do this, yet I did want to do it. I had so much to do at home. But my boy inspired the song. When we got home my wife said to me how was your day with Douglas. I was rushing by and said…it was fine. She asked my son “how was your day”. He said…this is powerful…’it was the best day of my life.’ It just kinda broke my heart and at the same time I realized…I do…I want to take a trip down the mighty Mississippi…and take it slow. Slow down with life. ‘Cause you can get so busy, you’re gonna miss out on the precious moments you got right here. That’s the power of the story. All of my songs are stories. I could tell ya all those interactions…and they’re not embellished they’re not made up clever lines…they’re true.
Billy Rose: Tell me about the new CD. What’s your favorite song on Beautiful Depravity?
Andrew Landers: Oh man. Probably…it’s a tossup between Lowercase Prophet and Not in My Backyard. Bittersweet that’s on there too. There are a lot of them. The one I wrote for my buddy who died. There is something about Not in My Backyard again it’s what I want to become. I used to think I wrote songs to tell something. But they just ambush me man. It’s more of a turnaround. Every time I sing Not in My Backyard I realize man I am one selfish jerk. ‘Cause I just pretty much just think about me and how is this gonna affect me. Instead of the person I walked by…and I darned well knew maybe he just needed a smile. Maybe they just needed somebody to say hey, how are you. That’s why I love those songs. Because those songs remind me of what I want to be. On Gertrude’s Barn one of my favorites is Broken Hallelujah. We’re all broken man. We’re all broken hallelujah’s just trying to find our way. We all need a new start. We all need a second, third fourth chance.
Billy Rose: I relate to your songs on a personal level. When you sit down to write a song…do you have one thing on your mind or are a thousand things running through your head?
Andrew Landers: Um, you know that’s evolved, over time. I think as I’ve matured and understand that I have to let the music come to me. I used to try to force it. I would think, that’s a great thought, and I would push it. Now I would say there is a central theme. Take the Lowercase Prophet. The thought that started the whole song was that first line. Lying here staring up at the ceiling, trying to unravel my latest mistake. I thought I knew exactly what I was doing. Knew what it was, it was not good stuff. How can I make a difference when I’m such a mess? Lowercase Prophet it’s the metaphor, so once I get that thought everything else just builds around it. Then I think that I have to write a song that speaks to the fact that we are all messed up. But if you wait to get it all together before you can be effective in doing good things in this life…it will never happen. So that concept has to evolve around the whole song. I try to build to the end of the story. A lot of writers speak and can relate to the pain. They identify with people that way. But they don’t give any hope. I feel it’s important to relate to the pain and humanity and the struggles, the funny and everything else. Like when I sing Blow ‘em Away, everybody can relate to road rage (laughs). Then to bring the story to a place the challenges the way they are thinking. Like on Muddy Mississippi, today’s the day to decide to go through what you’re going through.
Billy Rose: What do like to do better, performing or the recording process?
Andrew Landers: I want to play. I want to be with people. I feel most at home just being with the humanity around me. Sharing my stories. In fact if I could let somebody else do the studio stuff I would. For me I’m too far the other way. It almost feels contrived and pretentious. When I get into the studio, I’m supposed to make it all sound right. I’m very adamant when we record…I want this to sound for real. It still never captures what we do live. I don’t like to listen to my recordings. It feels weird. It feels like I sold out. That people are being cheated from a better experience. The difference between live and recorded. I know that’s not true deep down. But part of that is because I experience so much. I want to play live not because I want to be up in front of people…but because I go to a better place…I have a better perspective after experiencing it. It’s almost like being on a long journey and finally getting a drink of water…it’s like alright it’s gonna be okay, let’s take another step.
Billy Rose: I just interviewed Chris Beard about a week ago. He said at times he is barley aware that the audience is there. Is it like that with you? You seem to be so in tune with the audience.
Andrew Landers: Yeah I fall in and out of those places. Especially on some of the slower songs that are very reflective. I think unlike a lot of artists I talk a lot. I’m not ever saying the same things over and over. I’m trying to gage too…what do people need to hear…what do I need to hear. So I fall in and out of those places. I’m not at all lost up there. In fact I’m trying to be real intuitive to what is going on out there.
Billy Rose: Do you change the feel or the flow of the show?
Andrew Landers: All of the time. If you came tomorrow the song s would all have a different feel. We do so many jams and breakaways. It’s a feel thing. Tonight was a little different because we were doing that live feed. But most of the time there is no set list. We just go with what feels right. I’m not a real programmatic guy. There are like 60 to 80 songs that might pop up. And the guys know that. That’s what is cool about it. I feel most at home when it’s just me with my guitar. For the most part a folksy singer songwriter doesn’t work with a band very well. That’s why it’s very unique to have these guys…and they don’t play a lot…they play very simply but tastefully.
Billy Rose: Tell me about the internet feed.
Andrew Landers: Yeah, we just did that tonight. Live via the internet. We had people in Hawaii, Russia and China watching. It was kinda cool.
Billy Rose: Is this the first time you ever did that?
Andrew Landers: Yeah! We were just kinda screwing around and we decided to do it.
Billy Rose: One thing you mentioned on stage tonight was the Water Fund. Tell us a little more about that program.
Andrew Landers: What’s cool there is my wife is gonna be on Lifetime. She and a bunch of normal moms decided…when they heard that almost five thousand kids die every single day around to world because of unclean water. They just got together and said that’s not okay with us. But what can a bunch of Midwest moms …what can we do? So she started working with an up and coming…now they’re the largest in the world…organization called Charity Water. 100% of what is donated to this group goes to the wells themselves. Nobody’s getting paid. That all come from charitable organizations that pay their staff. All of the money that people send to Charity Water goes into the wells. When they drill a well…which costs five thousand dollars…to give an entire tribe a lifetime of clean water…we know how Africa and America can be corrupt, there’s no middle man…the Charity Water people will go to Africa and be there six months…they will not only drill the well, but they will teach them hygiene, they will teach them how to put their plates up, teach them how to wash their hands. They spend six months helping these people change their culture. Clean water doesn’t mean much if you don’t know how to take care of the rest. Charity Water really does a good job trying to help people succeed. 97% of the wells that they have put in have changed almost 100 % of the death rate in those communities. My wife and her friends have raised… in the last year through viral campaigns and the internet and other things…over twenty wells. They are shooting for the whole country of Liberia.
Billy Rose: How can people get in touch with Charity Water?
Andrew Landers: The best way is to hop on my wife’s blog, Jodyrlanders.com