On Fire for the Blues

His father introduced him to the guitar when he was a little boy. By the time he was 8 years old, Jake Andrews had already shared the stage with Buddy Guy, sparking a domino effect of live performances and schmoozing with such legends as Albert Collins, Otis Rush and even the country-swing band Asleep at the Wheel. Andrews, the 21-year-old singer/guitarist from Austin, Texas, has a passion for playing live music and knows how to get an audience revved up. He’s played the San Francisco Blues Festival and at B.B. King’s clubs in Memphis and Los Angeles. He says playing live feels natural to him, which can be heard on his latest self-titled album. Recently, Andrews took some time to talk about songwriting and his new album.

InterviewJakeAndrews CD2
Editor’s note: Andrews' most recent record, titled In the Shadows, came out in 2017. This new work is more rock and features Andrews’ keen playing skills.

Adrienne Escalante: Your bio says that you have been playing the guitar since you were 5 years old. Are there any guitar techniques or styles that you still struggle with or that you still work on or have you mastered everything?
Jake Andrews: (laughs) No, no, no, not at all. I don’t really think in those terms, I guess. You know I just keep on moving on naturally from where I’m at. I don’t really think of, you know, what the next thing I need to master is. Or anything like that. I just go naturally with what I've always done, and it’s a natural evolvement from that, so I don’t ever think of ‘all right what’s the next thing I need to get under my belt?’

Could you tell us how you begin to write a song, such as “The Bitter End,” What is the experience like for you?
Well, I don’t ever consciously sit down and say “it’s time to write a song.” That’s another thing, I just let it go naturally. If I feel at the moment, if I feel inspired with an idea, it could be anything, a title that I want to make a song from or I have a melody going in my head. Or, I have some lyrics already out or I have some guitar parts that I’ve worked out and I want to write a song off that. It could be anything. So again, I don’t’ try to consciously work it out like that, I just let it happen naturally.

Do your lyrics convey personal feelings and emotions, in other words, from personal experience?
Well yeah, absolutely. That’s all it can come from. I’ve never thought about songwriting as writing songs about other people’s experiences. Even if you are writing about someone else it still is expressed from your own personal experience of life. At least that is how it is for me, it has to have some personal touch to it.

Is it difficult for you to have those feelings out on your albums for people to hear?
No, I feel when I am writing something, it’s absolutely a personal story or a personal experience. It’s almost like you’re writing it so that only you could really understand exactly what it’s about. The emotion, the essence of it is certainly going to come across, if you put it into the song. The feeling’s going to come across to whoever is listening to it or what not, but still it is always something that you can understand. I don’t ever feel that it exposes so much that you would feel uneasy about sharing it.

What did you want to achieve with this new album? What do you want people to come away with after listening to it?
We went in with a really laid-back attitude about doing this record and we cut it here in town in about five days. We did most of all the tracking and everything. Whereas, the first album I had done, it was a pretty big project and was spread out over a number of months. It was all done in California and was a big project, a lot of money was spent. So compared with that, this really felt natural and like I said, real laid back, and we just had fun with it. I think that really comes across on the actual recording. There’s certainly some glitches and stuff we left on there because we were doing it all live. And a lot of it has the feel like you are right there in the recording room because a lot of it we did right off the bat. We didn’t do overdubs on it.

I really like that approach to making a record. It’s fun sometimes to really get involved and do all kinds of embellishment, but I have spent all my life that I have done music, it’s just been playing live in clubs and bars. So really, that’s where I come from, anything that is as close to that as possible feels the most comfortable.

What other genres of music do you listen to and are perhaps influenced by?
Anything, you know. I feel lucky that I’ve had such a strong influence of all different kinds of music when I was a kid, mainly through first-hand experience of growing up around live music. It’s never really a matter of defining what kind of genre or whatnot I was listening to or being influenced by. I was just growing up around music and everybody has his or her own personal influences. Whether or not you’re defining what you’re listening to, you are going to be influenced by that. I just think a broad spectrum of listening to everything.

Since you have played live in many clubs and other venues, what did you learn from those experiences while performing with people such as Albert King and Buddy Guy? How has that helped you in your life now?
It certainly helps in the fact that I didn’t really have influence from any contemporary music growing up as far as listening to the radio. From day one, my father started me out playing music, learning from all of his own records. Everything from ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll records, moving into old style blues. That was where my influences came from. As far as listening to records when I was real little, I wasn’t really aware of what was going on outside of that. Of course, being at home learning all of these records, note for note, records of all those guys…Albert King and B.B King, Albert Collins and Buddy Guy - whoever it was. Being able to then go out there and meet those guys and play with them, play with them on stage and hang out, when I was a little kid, that was a vast difference then just sitting at home idolizing those guys.

That made a really big difference in my musical education.

Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years, do you even look ahead that far, musically?
Not musically, no I don’t. Anything can happen, I just let it all go at any time. I’m not really concerned where I’ll be in my music career, but I am certainly going to continue to do it and wherever it leads me.

Adrienne Escalante c. 2002