Wednesday, August 24, 2005
A conversation with . . .
Andrew Gregory is staying busy with music
Radford native Andrew Gregory has kept himself busy in the last year. He graduated from Swarthmore College outside Philadelphia and set to writing songs, recording an album and touring what he can of the East Coast. Now a resident of Charlottesville, the 23-year-old has a self-titled debut album and plays a respectable amount of listening rooms, bars, coffee houses and colleges. With a show coming up Saturday at the Cellar in Blacksburg, Gregory shares some thoughts on the hassles of self-promoting and the only reason a person would put himself or herself through it — the love of music.
When did you start playing?
Andrew Gregory: I guess it’s been about 31/2 years since I started playing, but it’s really only been in the last year that I’ve taken it real seriously. I graduated from college a year ago and before I graduated I decided that this is what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted end up in Charlottesville, since it’s halfway between Radford, where I’m from and where I knew I could get a lot of gigs, and Philadelphia, where I went to college and where I knew I could play a lot of shows, too. So over the last year I’ve been trying to build up a fan base, recording an album, sort of trying to get into the groove, doing what every musician didn’t get into music to do, which is doing all the promotional stuff, all the booking stuff that everybody realizes they have to do whether they like it or not.
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What got you into music?
AG: There were a couple of albums I was listening to, in part. And I’ve always been a musician. When I was younger, I played trumpet and piano and all sorts of instruments and played in a couple bands with my trumpet. And I just got out of it when I went to college. I knew I needed something to do, so I picked up the guitar and taught myself to play. And then I really lucked into this job right after I started playing. I got this job up in Charlottesville, where I was helping this guy teach song writing. He’s a professional musician who ended up producing my record, Tom Prasada-Rao. Right when I started playing I started writing and it was only three months after I started that I got this job. I found that there was no better way to learn about song writing than having to teach it.
What are you doing musically now?
AG: We finished the album up in late April or May, and I’ve just been doing as much as I can to promote it and get press and play as many shows as I can. This summer I’ve probably played 25 shows. And I had been working part time in a bakery. And on the one hand, working part time in a bakery is killer. If I have a show in Charlottesville I never have to ask off. The disadvantage is that I finish my show at 2, load all my gear, take it home, unload it all so it doesn’t get stolen and go to bed at 3:30, then get up at 6:30 to go work in a bakery. That’s all right if you’re doing it one day, but some weeks it was like four days and it was really wearing on me. So Friday was my last day there.
Where do you want to play at this point?
AG: My real goal is I’d like to play a lot of colleges. When I’ve gotten enough press to where I can start to book colleges, I think that’s the sort of thing that will start to snowball.
Is there a theme to your songs? I always ask if it’s chicks and booze.
AG: No matter what I say that’s probably true. I met this really great writer once who said something that really stuck with me. He said that the point of any good song is to prove just one thing. And he ended up talking about how in all the classes he took in college and all the music classes, the one class that ended up helping his writing the most was actually a logic class. It taught how to focus in on that one thing and prove that one thing. When I was younger I loved the 10- or 15-minute song on some Phish album or something. But more and more I’ve come to appreciate that Willie Nelson song or that Loretta Lynn song or that Tom Waits song that can say anything in three minutes or less and break your heart or make you feel great at the same time.
Andrew Gregory will perform at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at The Cellar Restaurant in downtown Blacksburg, and about 9 p.m. on Sunday at The Green Dolphin Grille in Roanoke. Hear sound clips from Gregory on The List.