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This Time I Can Stay – reflections on the music of a friend

I want to take a little time today to tell you about a guy I know named Andy. (He’s got a weird Dutch last name, so for the purposes of this post I’ll just call him Andy.) Last week Andy announced a fairly major transition in his life (for which I’m very happy for him) and it caused me to reflect on how he’s impacted my life over the last decade. So, forgive a friend a little nostalgia.

If I trace the story I actually end up a little further back than my getting to know Andy. I go back to the early 2000s when I became a fan of a Christian folk rock band called Caedmon’s Call. (My brother had tried to get me turned on to them in the late 90s but, as usual, it took me 5 years to catch up with his musical tastes.) I dug into Caedmons’ music, and got fanboy enough to start participating regularly in an online fan forum. Yeah, I was hooked.

Then came a fateful day in 2001 when Derek Webb, one of the founding members of Caedmon’s Call, announced that he was leaving the group. His replacement? This guy called Andy. Off to the fan forum I went to find out about this Andy guy. Apparently he’d fronted a band called The Normals back in the late 90s – again I was out of the loop. But he had an acoustic record out, so I got it and really dug it. Heck, he even posted in the fan forum every now and again. Very cool.

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Fast-forward to fall 2005. I went to see Andrew Peterson play an outdoor show and was crazy excited the night before when I found out that Andy was coming along with him. I blogged about it and even posted a few (pretty scary) pictures. I was on cloud nine.

With summer 2006 came the release of Andy’s record The Morning. With this record I felt like Andy was writing with the voice I wish I could find. Every song hit home with me. I made my first road trip to Nashville to see Andy play a release show for the record.

I followed Andy’s career very closely after that. I drove all over the Midwest to hear him play shows. I set up a fan website. I sponsored a coffeehouse show here in Cedar Rapids. I bummed my way on to a house show road trip he took and rode along with him between a few shows. I hit him up to do lunch when I was in Nashville and hung out at a studio for a couple hours while he recorded vocals. I probably blurred the line between fan and crazy stalker a few times, but in the end I’m pretty sure I can still call Andy my friend.

In the fall of 2011 Andy had another wild idea – a concept album about an astronaut on a long solo trip through space. To make Leonard the Lonely Astronaut really complete, Andy wanted to build a rocket ship set in which to record. I spent another weekend in Nashville with a bunch of friends helping build. The great thing about that weekend is that while it was basically all about (and for) Andy, it helped cement relationships between a bunch of his fans that showed up – guys and gals that continue to be a rich online community even three years later.

Andy’s had a tough few years since the Leonard record came out. A water line broke in his house while he and his family were on a month-long trip and he spent most of the next few months rebuilding. Work was harder to come by. He had the opportunity to tour as a part of Steven Curtis Chapman’s band this past fall which was great for paying the bills but kinda tough on family life. (Andy and his wife have three daughters just a little younger than my own three.)

Two weeks ago Andy had a big announcement. Today (April 30) is his first day as an Artist and Repertoire guy at Capitol Records. It’s a far cry from his indie days – he’ll be working a regular job in a regular office with a salary and benefits and the whole deal. This will keep him from touring much any more, but will have the advantage of a steady income and the opportunity to be home with his family every night.

I couldn’t be happier for Andy in this new phase of his life. Last night he played an online hour-long “concert” from his living room, streaming to fans across the world. (Hey, I know folks from Canada and Brazil who were logged in, so that counts as “the world”, right?) He seemed happier and more relaxed than I’ve seen him in a long while. His daughters flitted in and out of the picture as he sang, at times singing harmony parts to songs they’ve undoubtedly heard a hundred times. It was a beautiful thing.

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He finished off the night with a song from his early days with The Normals, called “I’ll Be Home Soon”:

Life it just goes on when the traveler’s gone
And that’s the hardest part, for time has no respect
For a lonely man with a longing heart
‘Cause once you’re where you’ve wanted, everything’s so fast

But I’ll be home soon
I’ll be home soon

And if you have a place where you belong
You’re a lucky one, for time was meant to waste
A laugh with good old friends or walking hand in hand
I can’t believe I’ll be there and this time I can stay

But I’ll be home soon
I’ll be home soon

I’m a richer man for the music and community that Andy has helped bring into my life over the past decade, but I’m so glad that he now has the opportunity to set some of it aside and just be a husband and a dad. His wife and three daughters will be glad that “I’ll be home soon” is a message they’ll be able to hear every evening around 5:00. We’ll hear more music from him before he’s done. And hey, it’s only a 10-hour drive to Nashville. Next time he plays a local show, I’ll be there.

Thanks, Andy, and blessings on you and your tribe as you start this next phase of your life.

2 Comments

  1. Good to know there are other Andy O fans that feel this way. I haven’t been lucky enough to build spaceships or be in Nashville, but I share your appreciation for and have also been profoundly impacted by what he’s created. Thanks for the post!

  2. The fact that he was writing amazing songs even back in the Normals days… well, it speaks of how gifted he is — and that he’s used it well.

    I think I have that same photo from last night. What an amazing thing to watch. Thank you for putting this together.

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