One of the great perks of being a touring musician is the number of other artists you get to meet along the way. One such artist I had the pleasure of meeting on the road this year was Andrew Heringer (from Sacramento). We were both playing a show in Redding, CA, and I was immediately impressed by both Andrew and his band’s music and professionalism. The Andrew Heringer Band just recently released their latest album, “Under California Skies,” a beautiful record combining elements of folk, pop and rock. You can download the album for free here.
Andrew was gracious enough to talk with me about the new album, art, songwriting and what lies ahead for himself and the band. Dan Krikorian: Has music always been something you’ve dreamt of doing? Andrew Heringer: Pretty much. I had a moment that I will never forget when I was probably about 13 or so where I said to myself, “I think I’m gonna be playing music for a long time.” I feel lucky to have known from such an early age that I was passionate about something and could dedicate a lot of time in my teen years to practicing and soaking in as much as I could about music/performing. What was the process like of writing “Under California Skies”?
Andrew was gracious enough to talk with me about the new album, art, songwriting and what lies ahead for himself and the band.
Dan Krikorian: Has music always been something you’ve dreamt of doing?
Andrew Heringer: Pretty much. I had a moment that I will never forget when I was probably about 13 or so where I said to myself, “I think I’m gonna be playing music for a long time.” I feel lucky to have known from such an early age that I was passionate about something and could dedicate a lot of time in my teen years to practicing and soaking in as much as I could about music/performing.
What was the process like of writing “Under California Skies”?
Most of the material from “Under California Skies” is about 2 years old at this point. Musically, it was influenced a lot by folk/rock/americana type of artists that I was listening to a lot at the time - such as Ryan Adams, Wilco, Rocky Votolato, Bob Dylan and Counting Crows. Most of the lyrics deal with “change” in life with relationships, early adulthood and the concept of home and belonging somewhere. It’s definitely my most personal and honest record. Most of these songs were written by myself in my room, as stereotypical songwriter as that sounds. I am really happy that we spent so much time touring with these songs, which allowed us to flush out a lot of little problem spots in the lyrics/melodies/song form.
The title comes from the song “Brooklyn.” Most of the time my album titles come from lyrics because I like the album titles to mesh with the lyrical themes of the album. I struggled to find an album title for a really long time for this one that felt right. About 4 months into the recording process, I realized that the original lyrics to Brooklyn weren’t working for me. During the re-write the line “Under California Skies” came out and it just summed up everything that I felt about this record. During the last two+ years of writing this album, I have been touring around the West Coast, mostly California, a lot. It just hit home that all these songs originated “under California skies.”
I know it’s a tough question to answer, but what type of musician would you most consider yourself: folk, blues, pop?
I think something like folk-rock-pop would work for me.
Do you have a specific songwriting process? For you, what comes first: the words, or the music? Or is it a little bit of both?
Usually I start with music and melodies when writing songs - because at the heart of it those are the most important elements of a song in my opinion. Good lyrics are something that I strive for and appreciate in other songwriters but lots of bands have succeeded with terrible lyrics. It’s never the same process though - sometimes I have lyrics and a theme in mind when I sit down to write - sometimes lyrics take forever - sometimes lyrics come out right away. The song “Roads” on this album came from a poem/free-write that I had jotted down one day and music and melodies came later. I think however a song comes out is how it comes out. You just feel blessed to get a good one out when it does.
Haha yes I know how that goes. Well you did turn out some great songs on this album. I also noticed quite a bit mentioned about New York on the album, was that something you set out to write about or did it just sorta happen that way?
This is a real personal album for me and all the lyrics came from a place of real world inspiration for me. Let’s just say - I had a lot to think about in New York for a while… and if you listen to the lyrics of “Broadway” it won’t be hard to figure out what that was.
“Broadway” is one of my favorites on the album. As far as musical influences go, who would you site as your biggest?
For this record - Ryan Adams, Rocky Votolato, Wilco, Bob Dylan, Counting Crows. My musical tastes are always evolving and changing though. Lately I’ve been listening to Avert Brothers, Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, Phoenix and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
As a kid I was lucky to play a lot of different genres and have a lot of different musical/theatrical/performing experiences. I played violin in Youth Orchestras. Played guitar in jazz band in high school as well as took classical guitar lessons. I was a theater major in college so I’ve done a lot of musical theater performing. As well, you had to pry me away from the radio at times growing up in the mid-90s. So anything from Miles Davis to Christopher Parkening to Stephen Sondheim and Nirvana - I would site as a huge influence depending on what phase of my life you caught me.
I know each song on the album is special to you in its own way, but if you had to choose one or two that you felt really got down to the core of what you were trying to say, which would it be?
The last track “Fine” sums the album up well. It’s about dealing with change, knowing that you can’t control how life unfolds all the time and having optimism for the future.
You’ve been quite a busy man, as you also recently finished writing a musical as well. What was that process like and how was if different from writing “Under California Skies”?
The musical is called “Sleepaway Camp: The Musical” which is based off of a 1983 camp/slasher movie called “Sleepaway Camp.” I have been writing that with two of my friends over the last 6 years. It is very much a collaborative effort as we are all working on lyrics together most of the time. Because it’s a camp musical - the music has a fun folky/campfire inspired vibe - but still a lot of my style comes through. Totally different to the process of “California Skies” because of the group collaboration aspect.
That’s so great you’ve been able to do both. So what’s next for you and the band?
I’ve started collaborating with a new group of musicians in the Los Angeles area and I am looking forward to working more on that project in the next couple of months. It will be quite a departure from the Andrew Heringer Band sound and will focus on more of an indie-rock vibe.
Well thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, is there anything else you’d like to add?
During the recording of the album, we asked our fans for support and raised over $10,000 to cover costs of recording. Thanks to their donations, we released our album for free on our website to allow for a broader audience to hear our music. So please go download the album - and if it’s enjoyed spread the word to friends who might like it as well. Us independent artists don’t have much of a budget for advertising and word of mouth from fans of the music is the single best way to get the word out about our music. Help support indie artists!
Haha I second that. Thanks Andrew!