A Haven for all seekers
Andy Wilson's songwriting speaks to those who feel there is something missing in life or are already on a journey of truth seeking. Clearly influenced by his strong meditation and yoga practice, but also what he sees happening to the world and humanity in these tumultuous times, his songs are earnest, heartfelt and authentic, Andy's writing always has a vein of hope running through, even if the subject matter is sometimes dark; from the climate crisis to the chattering demons of our own minds which cause most of the damage we do to each other and the planet.
Listeners have noted an element of Nick Drake running through Andy's songs and he is certainly an inspiration, although others are wide and varied, from decades of immersion in the food of life that is music; from Paul Weller, The Clash, Ian Dury, Cat Stevens, Dexy's and ELO to Natalie Merchant, Patty Griffin, The National, Karine Polwart and many more. All have seeped in to his own music in some way.
Andy was raised in Rotherham, an industrial town in the North of England. With the blending of two families, he became one of 5 children. Coal mining and steel manufacturing were the main employers, although that was starting to fracture by the time he left comprehensive school in 1980. From watching Top Of The Pops at an early age he was a avid listener and had played violin briefly at school, but never imagined becoming a musician and writer, lacking the environment and teachers to foster that talent in school.
A late bloomer, Andy only picked up a guitar in 1999, with hindsight turning to music for solace as his 17 year marriage was starting to fall apart. These difficult times provided fertile ground for his early writing.
Andy got an office job in a bank on leaving school at 16 and for the next 24 years made it his career, climbing the greasy corporate pole and moving around the country with his family, eventually settling in a Hertfordshire commuter town.
“I was in senior positions by the end of the 90's, feeling more uncomfortable as the pressure grew. It all became deal and performance based and the customer didn't seem to come first anymore, they were a means to an end. When I first started there was a real connection to helping people. It was definitely an education in many ways although I always felt something was missing.”
This yearning was ignited by a corporate mindfulness workshop - he realised it was not only a change of career he was seeking, but a more authentic way of living and relating to himself and the world.
It was a brave decision to leave the financial safety of that life and jump into the unknown, working for himself. His meditation practice solidified and Andy was attending 10 day silent retreats regularly. Meanwhile the material stuff and its associated tensions began to fall away.
“I decided to sell my home and buy a narrowboat, which introduced me to a simpler existence and a community of like-minded people. I also went travelling alone for the first time, partly to deepen my meditation practice and to explore how yoga could support some stress related back pain. Dedicating to a spiritual path has led to such profound and positive changes that it's now at the centre of my life, rather than on the periphery.”
The stories of the people Andy met while travelling have helped to shape the direction and substance of the writing. In Myanmar and Nepal he found the kindest, happiest people, even though they had a subsistence living. Taking the leap into yoga teacher training last year he was inspired by the maturity and awake-ness of the young people he met on the course. They were forging a conscious and heart-led way of living that he had taken many years to find. This inspired the upbeat song “Young People” on the latest album.
Andy has experienced first hand the power of music to heal and uplift people from the mundane and difficult. “Songs like “When it don't come easy” by Patty Griffin hit me in the heart during the pain of my marriage break up and this well of trapped emotion just burst out of me - I cried uncontrollably for ages, in a cathartic way though.” Drawing upon his own learnings and experiences, even when that feels raw, Andy hopes others will find solace and hope in his writing.
Music was also a big part of Andy's father's life and probably where he got his music genes from. He has a great baritone voice and was in amateur dramatics in his teens and twenties. “We have spent many long evenings listening to Dad's vinyl collection of old greats like Frank Sinatra, Nillson, Buffet St Marie, Charlie Rich and Bing Crosby. The tradition has continued with my son Oli and we now swap our favourite music, which keeps me fresh with new artists emerging”.
A common theme as expressed by his songs "On the inside" and "Meditate" is to keep doing our own inner work and trusting that things will eventually work out as they should. Letting go of past hurts allows fractured relationships to come full circle into more positive ones. “My ex and I kept a connection through our children and with the passage of time we have grown into a new friendship. I guess I've learned that if you try not to be too reactive, things that feel really painful at the time will usually work out for the best for everyone.”
Andy is incredibly proud of his 3 children and the paths they have chosen for themselves. “Our relationships have grown and evolved over time and I'm so happy to have my daughter Jess singing on two of the albums.”
Trading water for land again, Andy moved to Cornwall three years ago, settling on The Lizard Peninsula. Being closer to nature is profoundly healing and has been a big inspiration for the music. “Walking through the expansive, wild landscapes of Penwith, words would just 'download'. My partner and I swim in the sea all year round, seeking out hidden little beaches to skinny dip. The song 'Boat Cove' is dedicated to the thrill and rejuvenation of the cold water!”
Andy always has a notebook of words and phrases he's collected; either on his travels or just as they come to him, usually when his mind's very clear and open. He also sits down for formal writing sessions as he finds the discipline of writing regularly not only improves his craft but means he has more material to work with. Guitar riffs emerge spontaneously and eventually develop into the melodies. Then there are those brilliant moments when some phrase or lyrics lines up with a particular riff he's been sitting on. “Some songs come very quickly, “Boat Cove” was very spontaneous but others take much longer. My record is “In a Shell” which I originally wrote about 15 years ago but for some reason I didn't want to record or perform as it felt too raw for me, even though I felt it had the potential to be a good song. Then I realised the second verse wasn't saying what I wanted it to and so I rewrote it and then realised the song needed that passage of time to finish itself and make sense.”
By being open and vulnerable Andy hopes to give people the most authentic connection with the music. “It is always worth sharing from the heart to build more understanding, love and compassion in these extraordinary times we are living through. As the song “Before we go” suggests, even though we are on the brink of ecological disaster, “we can still plant a good seed and then another and another, however small it doesn't matter”. That's what I'm trying to do in my own way with my songwriting; speaking what I see and spreading the message that hope always exists.”