John Andrews packed his leavin' truck and is headed up the country in his van on a solo tour playing intimate house shows before the wayfaring songwriter embarks on some other new roads.
When we last spoke, you were about to release Bad Posture, your second release with the Yawns. Since then, you’ve gone on a tour supporting (and playing with) Woods and made an appearance with Quilt as the backing band for a long awaited live performance from cult folk songwriter, F.J. McMahon. How was the tour with the Yawns and Woods? How did the McMahon show come to fruition? How did the time promoting Bad Posture affect your songwriting and creative mindset?
Man, it’s been a crazy few months. Bad Posture came out I thought I had an idea of how the year would pan out but it really took a left turn out of nowhere. Things were looking good and we were lucky to do some fun little tours with the Kevin Morby band, Mild High Club, Woods and Hand Habits. I really wanted to continue touring and doing it full time but the band went through some serious inner turmoil. It was classic Fleetwood Mac kinda stuff without getting too personal. I knew our tour in July would be our last tour before it even started and that being said it was one of the strangest 2 weeks of my life. Of all of our lives really. Our last show together was at the Bowery Ballroom. We finished out set with a Canned Heat cover of “Going up the Country.” That was the last song The Yawns played together. Anyways, The F.J. show was fun. F.J. is a sweetheart & it was a real interesting time re-learning these songs he wrote almost 50 years ago. He bought us all flasks for our own “golden juice.” Love that guy.
You recently moved out of the old farm house featured on the cover art for Bad Posture. From the brief videos and pictures you shared, it seemed like that house was more than just a residence for you. What did the house represent and what will you miss most about the home and living in that setting?
The Yawns all lived together in that house. It was this rural hippie’s commune dream that you read about in books or see in old films. The house was built in the 1700s, was an orphanage in the 1800’s and had a lot of character. We used to just sit in the front yard all day, play music in the barn together, and drink beer around the fire. There was always something going on. I had never spent so much time with people I lived with before. We truly were a big family & I’ll always look back on those days fondly.
In mid summer we opened our property to the public and had a mini Woodsist fest called “Boogie in the Barn”. Over 200 people traveled and camped in our woods. It was sort of like our “Last Waltz” and it truly was one of the best days of my life. Towards the end of living in the house I was mostly there by myself. Things started to feel creepy. My very last night living there I opened myself up to any spirits in the house and just thanked them for letting me live there the past few years. I went to sleep without any blankets on because it was hot out. I woke up around 5 in the morning and i was completely tucked in my bed with both my blankets. I guess there's a chance I could have done it in my sleep, but I also like to imagine it was Emma Critchett; the lady who ran the orphanage in the 1800s. True story.
What’s the current status of the Yawns? What are you guys doing creatively as a group or individually?
We are all sort of doing our own things. Joey is a carpenter now. Rachel says she’s getting a booth at an antique store. Luke trims medical marijuana. I’m all still friends with them. I’m not sure where i’m going to end up eventually. I’m thinking either Virginia or Hudson Valley. Who knows maybe i’ll even sell my soul and move to Los Angeles. Doubt it though. For now I’m driving across the country & keeping my things at my childhood home in Yardville, NJ. Thats just a cool way to say i live with my mom when i get back.
Right now you’re driving across the country by yourself and living in your van. How is this experience impacting your songwriting? What are the most enjoyable moments of the day as a van dweller? What have been the more difficult aspects?
My van is set up pretty sick. Got a bed in there and lots of storage. I’m bringing a little propane stove top to cook for myself when I’m camping. I’m planning on spending some days at Arches National Park in Utah with my guitar and notebook and finishing the writing process for this next record. I’m looking forward to this tour but also a little nervous. Driving across the country alone is a huge task. I am determined though. Gonna be a long journey. Wish me luck.
Although the Yawns are going their separate ways, you’re in no shortage of projects as you’re becoming a more regular member of Jagjaguwar newcomers, Cut Worms and also joining Kevin Morby’s band this Spring. How did you meet Max from Cut Worms? For you, what’s most captivating about his work?
Cut Worms played with the Yawns a few years ago in New York. It was his first show ever in New York & we just kept in touch and continued to play shows together. It’s been great playing with him because i have this tendency in my piano playing to accidentally get a little honky tonk or rag timey. In Woods, I usually have to tone that down because it doesn’t make sense with the music, but in Cut Worms i get to just go for it. Max’s music is timeless.
How did your involvement with Kevin Morby begin? Have you worked with him before? What instrument will you be playing? What’s it like preparing for a tour with Kevin?
When I first started playing in Woods, Morby was still in the band. I think at that point between Woods & The Babies he was on tour for like 2 years straight and was pretty burnt out. He asked me to play the singing saw on his record Singing Saw a few years ago. I’ll be playing piano with him. We start rehearsing in a few months. I haven’t spent that much time hanging with him so i’m excited to do some cool tours. They seem like a really fun bunch. I’ll also be playing in Hand Habits opening for him every night. Double duty once again.
You’re on a solo tour playing some very intimate house shows through October. How do you adapt your performance for such a smaller space than you typically play? How did you line up these spaces? Is there more or less stress and pressure for such a DIY and unique tour?
I booked 18 shows for myself across the country. Mostly house shows. Going back to my roots of DIY shows. I think it will be refreshing after years of having to work through booking agents and what not. My new record is all sold out & no longer in print so I burnt a bunch of CD-Rs to sell. I’m also selling cell drawings from my animations. I play the songs a bit differently solo. It’s mellow and quiet. I’m trying out a bunch of new material also. My music was made in my home so it makes sense for me to perform the songs intimately in other people’s homes. That and also no booking agents will work with me. I’m going to take it day by day and try not to get stressed out. It’s going to be challenging at times I’m sure but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Life gave me lemons and I’m making lemonade.