21st Century Troubadour by Andy White Is An ‘On The Road’ For Musicians

Book Review
Title: 21st Century Troubadour
Author: Andy White
Publisher: Lagan Press
Released: 2009
Pages: 320
ISBN-10: 1904652727
ISBN-13: 978-1904652724
Stars: 5.0

Freewheeling, mordant, rumbustious, 21st Century Troubadour is a travelogue into the imaginative heartlands of rock and roll.  It’s the journal of a slightly twisted love affair with life, art, music, the musical life and all the combinations thereof.

Its author Andy White, is a complex, Belfast-born, Cambridge educated man who travels the globe as a 21st century troubadour.  Hauling an acoustic guitar, a laptop and a 70lb. Bag – there are Rules of the Bag – with his life in it; this brilliant poet/musician spends half of each year away from his beloveds and their house on the hill in Melbourne.  He has worked with such music legends as Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, Sinead O’Connor and Tim Finn (though he doesn’t talk much about this in the book) and was once the director of the World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) festival in the UK.  White earns a living playing his exquisite, intelligent and heartfelt songs mostly in Europe, America and Australia but has given up trying to answer the question, “where’s my home?”  Andy’s a citizen of the world, comfortable in his skin, confident of his gift, and has seen and done more in his 49 years than most of us could ever imagine.  I confess that I fell a wee bit in love with him after reading this book.

His publisher at Lagan Press wanted a journal, an On The Road, and White delivered in spades.  21st Century Troubadour is most certainly On The Road for musicians and music fans, and even more accessible to this generation than Kerouac’s masterpiece.  It’s a collection of thoughtfully written snapshots of Andy’s life as a touring musician between the years 2000 and 2008; an engaging, funny and poignant chronicle that cries out for a sequel.  In the meantime, fans like me can stay in the loop by following his blog.

As a life long music fanatic who has read countless volumes of music biographies and autobiographies, I can honestly say that no book with a musician as its central character has ever moved me more than this.  It probably helps that I’m close in age to White, have met him, and can totally identify with all of his pop and cultural references, but regardless, I had so much fun reading the prose of 21st Century Troubadour that I re-read it and savored every moment of his myriad of adventures.

Andy has an earnest, spirited, yet realistic view of the world and the people he meets in it and seems to take something meaningful away from every encounter.  21st Century Troubadour began as a tour/diary blog through which he shared his concert experiences and it evolved into a descriptive account of the places he’s been to and the assortment of remarkable characters he’s met along the way.  As he affirms at the very beginning of the book, “there is no narrative on a 21st Century Troubadour’s tour.  There is no plot, and only a few recurring characters.  Nothing is certain except that nothing is certain.”

Reading this journal, you’ll discover just how unglamorous most of a touring musician’s life is as he chocks up millions of air miles, waits in airport departure lounges, maintains a steady diet of sandwiches and KitKat bars, sleeps in hotel rooms – if he’s lucky, as he’s slept in some pretty strange places – and prays that the gigs he’s booked via email haven’t been cancelled before he gets to his destination (places like Soweto, Berlin, Glasgow, Alaska & Tokyo to name just a few) and that they’ll be financially lucrative once he’s there.  “There are lists, poems, and advice on such topics as how to check in large amounts of bags on budget airlines without paying excess baggage fees, and what to do when you’re mistaken as one of U2.”  I understand he’s also been taken for a member of Sting’s band as well.  All is he wants to know is which member of the band is he supposed to be?  His list called ‘56 Reasons Why The German Concert Will Be Empty Tonight’ and section on ‘The Hugh Grant Pack’ are particularly funny!  At the back of the book there are also two interviews with Andy that offer even more insight into this fascinating character.

It can be a rough road sometimes but Andy wouldn’t have it any other way. His hilarious tales of a troubadour’s Hell and Nirvana will make you smile, laugh, and nod your head in acknowledgement of his pleasure and pain.  21st Century Troubadour is a must read for anyone who dreams of being a touring musician, is one, knows one, or simply loves music.

Who Is Andy White?

Andy White is a modern-day folk singer who has earned a global following for merging folk and pop music with his poet sensibility.  “One of the great Irish singer-songwriters who tours the world with his 12 string guitar in one hand and a book of poetry in the other, Andy has worked with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison and Neil and Tim Finn (Crowded House), been musical director at WOMAD UK, and won Ireland’s top songwriting awards.”

White has produced ten internationally celebrated albums – the latest being Songwriter released by Judy Collins’ Wildflower Records.  It was recorded in Vancouver, featuring Allison Russell (of Po’Girl) on vocals, Paul Rigby (Neko Case/Jakob Dylan) on electric guitar and pedal steel, and John Raham (Be Good Tanyas/Frazey Ford) on drums.  Songwriter travels to a new rootsier direction for the Belfast songsmith who has made Melbourne, Australia his home since 2002.

In addition to being a solo performer who travels the world a couple of times a year, Andy was the A of folk super trio ALT along with Tim Finn (T) and Liam O Maonlai (yes, L). The threesome toured the globe and released a studio album ALTITUDE and a live recording BOOTLEG. After Tim introduced Andy to Australia, he returned to write songs with Christine Anu, including Coz Im Free which became Cathy Freeman’s Olympic theme song.

Andy is also one half of Fearing & White, his partner being Canada’s Juno winning Stephen Fearing (also of Blackie & The Rodeo Kings) with whom he recorded their eponymous debut album that was released earlier this year.  This spring they played a series of dates across Canada.  Andy opened six shows for Judy Collins in Ontario in April, is touring Canada in July, and concludes with a Fearing & White performance at the Edmonton Folk Festival in August.

As MOJO magazine said about Andy, “From rage to sage, it’s not too late to discover one of our best kept secrets.”

Thank you for talking to Press +1, Andy!

There’s not much about your personal history available online so I’d like to ask you a few questions about the early years if you don’t mind.

What is the fondest memory you have of Belfast while you were growing up?

The streets of Belfast – you can leave them but they never leave you.  And, to be specific, the street where I grew up.  Walking up and down from Number 36 to the bus stop was such a part of my life – to school, band practice, to see shows, girlfriends, football matches.  This and coming home to Mum and my sisters.  Beautiful.

What artist(s) would you say is responsible for having inspired you to become a singer-songwriter?

My grandmother who played the piano (she came from Co. Cavan was born in 1898 and went to music school in London, raised the family by playing and teaching piano). Recorded artists? Bob Dylan, The Beatles, John Lennon solo, Paul Simon, Burl Ives, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soundtrack album.

Who is your favourite poet?

T.S. Eliot was the one who affected me most as a young man.  But favourites are Tom Waits, Jacques Prévert, Spike Milligan and Roger McGough.  Joni Mitchell, Allen Ginsberg and Bukowski not far behind.

What do you think is the single most significant reason why Ireland produces so many important artists?

Tradition and attitude to language, reverence and respect for the creative arts (not translatable into financial gain, but respect nonetheless).

How would you make a living if you weren’t a musician?

I’d be a writer.

How did you get involved with the WOMAD (World of Music, Arts & Dance) Festival?

Peter Gabriel came to a show I played in Bath, near where he lived at the time. I sent him an album called ‘Out There’ which he really liked and wrote me a letter about it. The songs were long narrative ones (like James Joyce’s Grave) and brave I think to put them out. He dug that.

Your music reflects your social awareness.  Is there an issue that you’ve recently written a song about that you’d like to discuss?

‘If You Want It’ is about climate change – it says “If you want it, come and get it, this is the last long evening on the planet”.  Living in Australia now, you see the effects of global warming every day.

Where is your favourite place to play in Canada?

Guelph, ON. Red Deer, AB. Winnipeg, MB. Duncan, BC. Saskatoon, SK.  I haven’t been to any other provinces yet.

What is it about Stephen Fearing that makes him a good collaborator?

We grew up on the same island 100 miles apart but in different worlds – Belfast and Dublin.  We have a lot in common and different skills.  We are real friends, not just collaborators – that’s the most important thing.

Who would you like to collaborate with that you’ve never worked with before?

Camille O’Sullivan.

What do you enjoy the most and the least about life on the road?

Travel. Travel.

You haven’t posted a new blog (http://21stcenturytroubadour.blogspot.com/) since April 18th so I’m wondering if there has been anything blog worthy that you’d like to share now?

Read my book ‘21st Century Troubadour’.  It’s 90,000 words of on the road fun!

What are your plans for the rest of this year?

After Edmonton Folk Fest I go to Australia until returning to Canada in October to play a Fearing & White tour in Ontario and the East Coast.  Then I take Stephen to the UK in October and Ireland in November.  The album’s just coming out there then.

Will you be recording another album any time soon?

Yes, at home, so it’ll take ages.

I just ordered your book, 21st Century Troubadour, from your online store but I want to know this now.  Why did Johnny Depp buy you a beer at Peter Gabriel’s place?

Yes. But why you’ll never know.

Andy White is playing Toronto at Taps & Tales on The Danforth on Saturday, July 30th and Kingston, ON at Tir Nan Og on Sunday, July 31st.

Keep up with Andy online at:

www.andywhite.com
www.facebook.com/andywhiteireland
www.youtube.com/andywhitevideo
twitter.com/andywhitetweet

Don’t Miss Irish Singer-Songwriter Andy White In Kingston This Friday Night!

Andy White, one of the great Irish singer-songwriters, tours the world with his 12 string guitar in one hand and a book of poetry in the other. He has worked with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison and Neil and Tim Finn, been musical director at WOMAD UK and won Ireland’s top songwriting awards.

Since his breakthrough single ‘Religious Persuasion’, Andy has produced ten internationally acclaimed albums, the latest of which, Songwriter (Wildflower Records) is widely acknowledged as one of his finest.

Songwriter has many Canadian connections. After working with Po’ Girl in the UK, Andy wrote a series of songs with lead singer Allison Russell including the first single off the album, the duet ‘If You Want It’.

Andy then called up old chum Stephen Fearing to co-write live favourite ‘Turn Up The Temperature’, an emotional highlight of the album Faithful Heart.

Stephen and Andy met at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1998 and have co-written a series of songs for Blackie and the Rodeo Kings including ‘If I Catch You Crying’.

Songwriter was recorded in Vancouver and features Allison Russell on vocals, Paul Rigby (Neko Case/Jakob Dylan) playing electric guitar and pedal steel, and John Raham (Be Good Tanyas/Frazey Ford) on drums. It’s a new rootsier direction for the Belfast songsmith.

As well as releasing albums, Andy is a published poet and writer. His latest book is 21st Century Troubadour (Lagan Press), an On The Road style narrative.

People are fascinated by the world of rock music, and 21st Century Troubadour was written in its hidden corners — backstage, hotel rooms and departure lounges. The reader is introduced to depressive promoters, crazed club owners and diva superstars. There are lists, poems, and advice on topics such as how to how to avoid excess baggage fees, which hand signals to employ when driving in Italy, and what to do when you’re mistaken as one of U2.

You’ll not only find out why Johnny Depp bought Andy a beer at Peter Gabriel’s place, but enter a whole different world of glamour in Andy’s life as a modern-day folk singer.

In concert he’ll be featuring songs from his back catalogue, including Irish classics ‘James Joyce’s Grave’ and ‘Street Scenes From My Heart’ as well as songs co-written with Stephen Fearing for Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and selections from Songwriter.”

“I love this man and his music. Rave on!” (Janice Long, BBC Radio 2).

www.andywhite.com

Andy White opens for the legendary Judy Collins at Sydenham Street United Church on Friday, April 22, 2011.

Venue: Sydenham Street United Church, 82 Sydenham Street, Kingston, ON K7L 3H4
Tickets: $35 plus HST
Available at the Grand Theatre Box Office
613-530-2050
www.kingstongrand.ca

and at:

Brian’s Record Option
381 Princess Street, Kingston, ON
613-542-2452

Find Andy White on his:

Official website
Blog
MySpace
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Twitter
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