Andrew Belle is not like most musicians. He's always been a gifted writer, but his passion for music didn't really hit until his college years. Since realizing this passion, Andrew has been taking the music world by a storm, and is about to embark on a nationwide tour
in support of his sophomore effort Black Bear
. His voice sounds like Chris Martin, but with a rustic American charm.
We talked to Andrew about his humble musical beginnings, his passion for cooking, and his recommendation for the best place to grab a bite in the Windy City. We'd tell you more, but he does it best himself.
When did you first start playing music and when did you start to realize that it would be a viable career option?
I didn't really grow up playing music. That was more of something that my younger sisters were into and I remember being really glad that I didn't have to practice piano or go to recitals when we were young. I took up guitar after hearing 'Mr. Jones' on the radio and immediately asking my dad to teach me how to play the handful chords that make up that song. I played background parts in bands throughout High-school and College, until I saw a band called 'Brand New' play live in 2003. All of a sudden, I wanted to write songs like Jesse Lacey. I realized that my talent had never lied in musicianship or playing my instrument very well - but rather that I was just a good writer. From there I had to teach myself how to sing these songs I was writing and by the end of college in 2006, I had improved enough to decide that I would move to Chicago and pursue music; rather than the business degree I had received.
Tell us a little bit about the pre-production that went into Black Bear. How would you compare it to the process of writing and recording your first LP?
Everything that I have released thus far was written on either a simple keyboard piano or my acoustic guitar. But to be honest, I had grown a little tired of the simplicity of that technique, so I bought a real keyboard and some recording software and just started playing around. I had never written songs that way before; where I was just playing around until I found something that sounded cool and then kept building on that until I had a finished song. In the past, my "demos" were just one-take recordings of me fumbling through the song on my guitar - but these took much longer and were much more elaborate, because so much of my inspiration was being drawn from these new, fresh sounds that I was discovering.
What's your favorite song on the album?
"Sister". It's dramatic. It's meaningful and very personal - and yet, there's a really fun, upbeat element to it that just feels good. The programmed bass line that comes in after the first chorus is probably my favorite moment on any song I've recorded to date.
What's your favorite song to play live?
"Pieces" [below]. It's pretty aggressive - and I don't actually play an instrument on this song. I just get to sing, which is something I've never done before. I get to use my hands a little bit and focus on delivering the best vocal performance I can.
How would you describe one of your shows to someone who had never heard your music?
Loud, moody, and energetic.
If you could write and record an album with any musician in history, who would it be and why?
Thom Yorke. I discovered Kid A
only three years ago - his approach to music makes me really excited.
We hear you're as excellent in the kitchen as you are on stage, what's your favorite thing to cook?
I've gotten pretty good at making Jamie Oliver's 'Poached Chicken and Vegetable Soup'. It calls for leeks, snow peas, carrots, celery, parsley, potatoes; It's so simple and unbelievably comforting right around October or November.
How would you compare the processes of making food and making music?
Well for anyone who is an artist with food - I am sure they are quite similar. The thought, the layers of detail; the hours spent fine tuning a recipe until it's exactly what you set out for. However, for me - someone who is merely an enthusiast - it's pretty much the opposite of my approach to writing. I am usually glued to whatever cookbook or laptop provided me the recipe and I follow the instructions to a T. I want to know how it supposed to taste; the way it was intended to be made by the author. With music, there really isn't a rule book or a guideline. I usually just play around until something feels right and then I chase it until it's finished.
What's your favorite place to eat in Chicago?
Belly Shack. It's a small Korean/Puerto Rican fusion restaurant in Humboldt Park. The Chorizo Brussel Sprouts are unreal.
And finally, we were incredibly impressed with the live video for "Pieces" from the Destiny Sessions in Nashville. What was it like recording that session, and why did you choose Nashville?
Thanks! I had been rehearsing the new album with my band in Nashville for weeks and we were about to leave for a two week tour. We had yet to play these songs for anyone but ourselves, and so we thought this would be a fun way to stretch our legs a little bit.
will be released on August 20th and if it's as impressive as he makes it sound, you'd be doing yourself a disservice not to check it out. Pre-order your copy here
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