Singer, Storyteller, Observer of Life
John McAndrew is a storyteller. He draws pictures on water like an ancient calligrapher. The lyrics float up and into your musical psyche. Describe him as Paul Simon with a smidgen of Harry Chapin and a dollop of Jimmy Webb. His music is revealing. It lays bare the soul. It speaks to a time that was and to what might be.
If you call him a piano player–you’d be absolutely correct–in part. If you call him a singer that’d be right on target, too. John McAndrew is a piano player. He’s a singer. And, to complete the picture–throw in songwriter. It’s that unique combination that makes John’s music work for him. “I want to make sense of the things I feel. I try to tell stories, say important things and make them easy to understand. Lyrics are power.” says McAndrew.
One cut from John’s I’ll Play All Night Long album is a tune called This Little Town. It is best described as inspirational–hopeful. He sings of a special place. “Somewhere in this world there is a little town, where everybody’s really free and safe when the sun goes down. Where nobody takes from you, nobody knocks you down. Somewhere in this world there is this little town …” This Little Town is so timely in light of the Littleton, Colorado tragedy and other world events. Most recently, John performed the song for the NATO heads of state and their wives at the home of Vice President Al and Tipper Gore in Washington, D. C.
With his eyes on the past, John’s Back When We Rocked and Rolled is a song that would appeal to “boomers” — “… Some of us got lucky, lived to tell the tale. Some of us went crazy, ended up in jail. Some of us are buried, dead and gone. Everybody cries so hard when you die so young, cause …”
In McAndrew’s Give Me New Eyes, it could be the teen voice of Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, asking “… Where were you when I needed you? Oh, when black clouds come over me, they darken my skies. If it’s how I look at things, then give me new eyes.”
McAndrew was born in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. He is one of seven kids–four brothers and two sisters. The family moved around quite a bit. John attended high school in Pittsburgh where he thought his calling would be the “fine arts.” He loved to draw. But his father, Bill, played saxophone and clarinet with Stan Kenton, and, John wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Without taking a lesson—John taught himself the sax, flute, guitar, harmonica and the piano. Somewhere along the way he fell in love with words–lyrics–the things that breathe life into a song.
I’ll Play All Night Long is clearly a tribute to his father and to his brother Emil. Both family members died of cancer. Emil died shortly before the song was released. In the tune John promises… “I’ll play country, blues or rock and roll…I’ll never let you go and somehow I will keep alive your song….” John says that “song is the closest to my heart.” McAndrew is an observer of life–moved to sketch songs about things he feels. On a visit to the Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, John was moved to tell the story of an era: of four young girls who died in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, and of the hope for a future we can build together. Birmingham, which captures the essence of that era, has been adopted by the Civil Rights Institute and the Birmingham Visitors’ and Convention Bureau.
McAndrew describes himself as a “pop/blues” artist. He says when he’s at home in Nashville–not writing or composing–he listens to jazz. “I love Oscar Peterson, Gene Harris and Randy Newman.” John continues to tour and perform for concert audiences and National Events, and has completed a new album with producer Ken Polk of Warner Brother Films in Los Angeles. His new record is entitled “Good Enough.” John’s music is featured in the new film starring Jennifer Espisito, Olympia Dukakis, Charles Durning and Stacy Keach called ” Jesus, Mary and Joey.” His music is also in the new film called “Jake’s Corner” starring Richard Tyson and Dianne Ladd.
It can truly be said that it is the passion for telling a tale that is attracting the attention of adult contemporary listeners and blues/pop fans. John McAndrew has come along at a time when the world is searching for its intrinsic “center.” John is already there.