Andrew’s Start in Nashville
Nashville is a town that attracts a lot of guys with guitars. On any given afternoon you’ll see them on the sidewalks, in the clubs, wandering around music row. You can’t miss them at the downtown Greyhound station and at the airport baggage claim. You see them lugging their instruments into and out of dozens of hotel and motel parking lots, packing them into the back seats of cars with out-of-state plates and driving off somewhere in the service of a paper-thin dream.
And there’s always an attendant note of sadness because somehow, the picture always seems so transient, so unrooted. It’s almost as if Woody Guthrie were the patron saint of troubadours and cost of entry into the guild is that you first have to be willing to leave your wife and kids and light out for parts unknown in the name of some abstract notion of freedom, repeating in some form for the rest of your life the sad, weary mantra that Tom Waits first opined: It was a train that took me away from here, but a train can’t bring me home.
And maybe we’re so used to hearing that kind of story, that when we run across a guy like Centricity Records artist Andrew Peterson, a guy with a guitar, yes, but a guy-with-a-guitar who is so intentionally rooted in the stuff of life—in family, friendship, community, home and even the very plot of land he lives on—that he seems almost counter-culture. Okay, maybe Andrew Peterson is counter-culture. But it’s not his fault. It’s the culture that shifted.
Singer, Songwriter, Artist, Author
Over the last ten years Andrew Peterson has quietly carved out a niche for himself as one of the most thoughtful, poetic, and lyrical songwriters of his generation. More recently he’s established himself as the grassroots facilitator of an online literary and songwriting community (www.RabbitRoom.com) and an emerging fantasy novelist as well (The Wingfeather Saga). But it’s still ultimately that sense of rootedness that listeners, readers and fans seem to respond to most deeply—because Andrew’s songs (and books) remind us again and again of simple, solid things like love and friendship and hope and redemption and beauty and how our stories were meant to be shared, and how the darkness will not always hold sway, and how we, being human, need to hear those things over and over again, because otherwise we become disconnected from the very stories we’re living in. All of which brings us, in a roundabout way, to our real starting point, because somehow, Andrew Peterson’s new, twelve-song project, Counting Stars (produced by Ben Shive, with Andy Gullahorn) manages to do all that without ever leaving home.
“So often we think of the grand adventure being out there somewhere waiting for us,” Peterson says, “like you have to leave home to find it. One of my favorite songs on the new record, ‘World Traveler’, was written about my slow realization that a life is just as much an adventure if you’re a family man as it is if you’re a pirate on the high seas. Every human you meet is a great mystery, and that includes your wife and children. The tears and the laughter and stories and the small daily wonders we share in our little house in the hills have so much more significance to me nowadays than any of my travels around the country.”
Framed in a largely acoustic context and underpinned by a sense of gentle but ancient and unyielding strength, Counting Stars aches and glows, finding infinite wonder in the stuff of hearth and home, family and friendship, struggle and storm. Perhaps it’s because the writing approach this time around involved a conscious departure from the string of concept albums Peterson has released in recent years. Opting for a more introspective, confessional approach seems to have opened a greater sense of vulnerability in the writing process.
“This album grew into something I couldn’t foresee
didn’t intend,” Andrew admits. “Instead of starting
a concept and following it like a map, I just wrote
whatever found its way out of my heart and head.
that means is that Counting Stars has songs that are
personal I’m a little embarrassed to include them.
Creating this way is a lot like waking in a strange,
room and having to feel around for the light switch.
You get a few bumps and bruises and you learn a few
things about the room along the way, but you don’t
really know where you are until you find the switch
and flip on the light. I walked into the creative
with a sense of expectation, wondering what God was going to teach me, and because of that, I think these songs really reveal something to me as well as to the listener.”
Enlisting the collaborative chemistry of long-time friends and fellow songwriters Andy Gullahorn and Ben Shive, (collectively known as “the Captains Courageous”), Peterson holed up for eight days in the barren hills of western Washington State to record the new project. The sparse beauty of the windswept landscape seems to be reflected in the minimal instrumentation and rounded peaks and valleys of the music, while the lyrical elements are all but inseparable from the friendships that birthed them.
“What Christ calls his followers to isn’t just friendship with each other, but kinship,” Andrew says. “That means we’re bound by more than similar interests, or even chemistry, but by a common covenant with a common Father. When life gets messy, and it will, there’s something stronger than friendship to bind us together. I’ve shared so much of my musical life with Andy and Ben. They help me remember to pay attention to things that matter. At some point in all our careers we made a choice to lean into what lasts, to write songs for something richer than record sales. Maybe God used someone’s song to draw us to himself, or maybe we were given the gift of seeing one of our own songs do that for someone else, and that revelation changed everything.”