Words: Ryan Getz
Everyone has those paradigm shifting albums that define a season. For me, one of those albums was Andrew Belle’s Black Bear. Recently I had the chance to speak with him by phone and I think Tuned Up will be able to give you some insight into the current state of the songwriter. Andrew told me in a recent phone interview that his new single “Dive Deep” is an ode to his wife on “romantic love” but also has “another meaning,” an invitation to dive into the layers of what Belle is up to.
“So you could say it’s a mission statement for what you do,” I volunteered.
“Yeah, that’s a good way to put it,” he agreed.
One of my biggest regrets since I’ve become a music blogger is skipping his live show when I had the chance to see him play. I remember hearing my friend Heather Evans gush over the chance to open for him at Rumba Cafe in the fall of 2013, shortly after his album released. I arrived at that same gosh-darn venue for a late night local show that night, oblivious as to what I had just missed. I did meet some folks on the street leaving the show that went on to become dear friends in the music community though, so that’s a silver lining.
When I decided to sit down and review Black Bear at the urging of a publicist, I recall listening to the music on the drive home from my first ever trip to Nashville, where I saw my brother in law play violin with Fever Fever at the Exit/In. The pensive nature of the songs, combined with the grooves and the reflections of my first visit to what is now one of my favorite cities, along with it being late autumn, resulted in a unique feeling that has stuck with me since then.
Imagine my chagrin at Belle’s hiatus since that discovery, which by the way he was very entitled to (more on that later).
Do not fear, folks. Everything has a purpose, and Belle is back with a fresh mindset and a fresher single called “Dive Deep”, which you can stream below:[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/278766699″/]
When we began our conversation we established some commonality – namely that we both spent parts of our lives living in Wheaton, IL. Different parts of our lives, but a coincidence nonetheless. Belle as a child attended Wheaton Christian Grammar School, which I walked past nearly every day (the parking lot nearest to my dorm was next door). He acknowledged that growing up in a community so entrenched in Christian culture definitely played a role in his lyrical inspiration, although his personal faith didn’t feel like his own until his 20s. Though Andrew Belle is far from being a CCM artist, questions of faith and allusions to his spiritual journey add a level of depth to his songs that will be explored further on his to be announced forthcoming record.
When asked why he took so long to re-emerge from the woodwork (with no hard feelings, of course), mentioned that the touring cycle for Black Bear was pretty long. More importantly though, Belle has been in the midst of several life transitions. In the past few years he has spent time in Nashville and Chicago, and just recently he relocated yet again to Los Angeles. A relocation which, by the way, heavily influenced the creative process behind his next record. In regard to his songwriting process, mentioned that he’s the type of guy to work on 10-12 songs until he’s satisfied, rather than penning 40+ and choosing his favorites. “I don’t want to write anything that doesn’t move me,” he emphasized. That excludes throw-away songs.
Also, he’ll be a father soon. So we’ll have to wait a bit longer (until early 2017, to be exact) for the new record. But, congrats to the soon to be dad! The impending birth of a child always trumps the release of music, I’m sure you’ll agree.
We had the chance to discuss some more lighthearted things about our shared love of music as well. Appropriate to our conversation, Belle spent last weekend hanging out at Eaux Claire Festival. I asked him what he thought of the new Bon Iver record and he said it felt like “the appropriate next step” to Bon Iver, Bon Iver. I asked him if he had to book his own festival who would be on it. He mentioned James Blake and Beach House, both of which played Eaux Claires. Add to the list “Future Islands, Washed Out, Bon Iver, Wild Cub, Sufjan Stevens, The National.” Good taste, I think!
I also asked him about artists he thought were under the radar that deserved more recognition. He pointed me to the Ten Out of Tenn songwriter collaboration, founded by his friend Trent Dabbs. Some standout musicians in that collective that came to his mind included Butterfly Boucher, Myzica, and Katie Herzig. He gave special accolades to David Bazan, whose new record was a “pleasant surprise” and “everything I hoped it would be.”
So, if this intrigued you at all, spread the word! Did you stream the single? What do you think? Word is his record will be even more layered and lush than Black Bear, so color me stoked.