Who's got time to read? Cuz I can already tell this is gonna be a long one. But the person I'm about to talk about is w/o a doubt on my top 5 list of most influential people in my life and someone I've been a super-fan of for a really long time. So this is the opposite of 'ain't nobody got time for that'. Imma take my time w/ Andrew Peterson, and there's no TLDR version :)
Ever hear that saying "We should never meet our heroes"? If you haven't, and you're wondering why that saying exists, it's probably because many people who actually GET to meet their heroes end up being disappointed - and it could be for one of many reasons. Your hero can be a jerk, completely boring, fake, etc. Andrew Peterson, however, might just be that ONE hero I met that not only exceeded my expectations during our first encounter, but remained one of my favorite people on earth - till this day. What qualifies me to say that? I actually ended up spending a decent amount of time with him. As I begin to collect my thoughts for this entry, and I think about how kind he has been to me over the years, I have to admit I am welling up a little bit! Good thing I'm sitting in the corner of a cafe, facing away from everyone :)
For those who are new to Andrew Peterson, I honestly can't find the best entry point for you to discover his wealth of amazing works. Just too much stuff! (but here's a quick list if you've got some time) He's mostly known for his singer/songwriter career, but more recently (well, not THAT recently) he's become an author and also started THE RABBIT ROOM - which is a "website and community that fosters spiritual formation and Christ-centered community through story, art, and music. They host a yearly conference, publish books, and put on concerts".
But I'm not here to talk so much about his works today. I'm here to talk about Andrew, the person. And I hope after reading about him, you'll check out his work too!
FAN BOY STRIKES AGAIN
I met Andrew in Cambridge (might have been Harvard) when he was opening up for Caedmon's Call. As it often happens at many concerts I've attended, the opener was my favorite! I was a college student, who had just written his first small batch of original songs - and then after listening to Andrew Peterson I just wanted to quit. (Thankfully I didn't :)) Artists, you can relate! I mean, this guy can WRITE, and he's only gotten better over time. Part of it is because he's such an amazing story teller. Just recently, I found myself listening to a podcast he was being interviewed in, where he talked about beekeeping, and there I was in the car with a single tear rolling down my face, listening to him talk about bees and honey! It's all within the first ten minutes of the episode, so give it a listen. You'll know what I mean. But that's just the type of person and artist that Andrew Peterson is. So after getting my first taste of his storytelling/music at this concert back in 1998, I saw him hanging out near the front stage after the show. Of course I fan-boy approached him and asked for a photo together, etc. Fast forward to a few years later, I'm sitting with him in his home in Nashville, and we're listening to my sophomore album together (its entirety), offering encouragement and super helpful constructive criticism (not to mention he did this for me w/ my first album and even made a guest appearance on it!). Who does that?! But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me go back to the earlier days - back to the 90s!
CAME FOR THE MUSIC, STAYED FOR THE HOSPITALITY
The 2nd time I went to see him play his own show in Boston, I got there early and I often do this because I'm afraid I won't get good seats at a general admissions concert. Turns out I got there TOO early, and I ended up seeing Andrew at the venue, walking around and getting ready. He tells me he's gonna go eat dinner that the venue prepared for him, and says that it looks like there's only enough food for him and his band, otherwise he'd invite me to eat with them. Already, that is way more than kind & thoughtful - and I expect nothing more from him. But then he says "Wait a minute!". Runs off, comes back in a few minutes w/ a piece of paper with a list of restaurants he found that were nearby and says he hopes that'll help. Again, who does that?!
THE AFTER SHOW
The 3rd time I saw him, I emailed him in advance and mustered up the courage to ask if he'd be willing to hear some songs I'd written. He says he'd be happy to. So, I bring my guitar to his concert, and wait till the show is over, and I go back stage and play him and his band member Gabe Scott (another amazing guy I can talk about at length) a few songs! I'll be honest. I KNOW they were bad songs. Definitely to my standards now, but I'm gonna say pretty amateur at best even for back then in 1999. But he was generous with his time, listened to them, offered some positive comments, and then Gabe showed me how to play some cool guitar lines. It was a dream come true.
As I began my own journey in music, I saw how people like Andrew Peterson and Bebo Norman benefited by being given a chance to tour with bigger bands like Caedmon's - so I mustered up the courage yet again to see if Andrew would be willing to let me open for him at one of his shows. To my surprise and delight, he said yes! In hindsight, this was a pretty huge deal (and it was already kind of a big deal back then to begin with). The difference between me opening for Andrew and Andrew opening for Caedmon's is that he got asked by Caedmon's, and in my case, I was the one who asked. So really, Andrew didn't have to oblige AT ALL. He was just being nice, because being brutally honest - I don't even know if I would have let me open up for me! I had no experience performing (except for a handful of shows), and my music and writing were truly mediocre at best. I'm not trying to be self-deprecating, just self-aware. I was very much at the stage where my "taste" was light years beyond my abilities. But he gave me a chance, time and time again. And in my entire music career in music, I have several things that I'm super proud of having been a part of but only a few things I secretly want to brag about haha - and one of them is that I got to open for Andrew during his first tour (with Silers Bald) of his very first iteration of what would eventually become the epic and legendary "Behold The Lamb of God" Christmas Concert (with all original material written be Andrew). Yes, I was somehow an opener of an opener for that!
I don't mean to make this blog entry about me, but I'm trying to highlight how much of an impact he's made on me, just ONE person - so much so that I still remember many instances of his kindness, almost 20 YEARS after we first met.
Believe it or not, there are many more moments like these, both big and small, in which Andrew has impacted my life, but I can't get into them w/o writing a novel!
There are a few huge lessons I learned during time spent with Andrew:
How To Treat A Super-Fan
I was SUCH a fanboy, but he really took the time to treat me as an individual and cared more about helping me out beyond seeing what he can get out of me as a fan. This is incredibly rare and difficult to sustain - especially as your fan base increases. But for someone like me who had a niche following and music career, Andrew's example and model were what shaped the way I treated my small friends & supporters, and I wouldn't have done it any other way.
Not Taking Yourself Too Seriously
Although I probably had tons of nervous energy around him because I was too excited, he kept cool. He was himself. He's like the Tom Hanks of the Indie Christian Music world. You hear him talk, you see him on stage, or see videos on youtube - and you get the sense that that's how he is in real life. And he is! He's vulnerable, authentic, and approachable - and I don't get the sense that he's changed AT ALL even after all his success.
Rolling With The Punches
Related to not taking yourself too seriously - if you've ever seen him perform, you almost want something to go wrong (haha! Sorry Andrew!). WHY? Because he handles it with such grace and humor. I've been to shows where the artist messes up and it gets SUPER awkward. If Andrew forgets a lyric or plays a wrong chord, it's like a WIN for the audience because we'll get a touch of his humor and on-the-fly problem solving capabilities. This was paramount for me in developing my own stage presence over the years!
Again, there's so much more I can say - and there's a chance his name will pop up on this blog from time to time - but I'll wrap this up here for now.
Andrew, if you're out there reading this. Thank you not only for being an amazing artist, but for being humble and generous enough to invite others onto your platform of success. I might not be doing music anymore (or at least for the time being), but if there was ever a true friend-hero I've had the pleasure of getting to know in my life, it would be you. Can't wait for what's ahead in your journey!
PS - If you're a fellow AP fan out there, please share your favorite songs of his down below in the comments!