RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW AMERICAN ARTIST ANDREW AKINS
Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
Music was kind of a natural progression for me. When I was a kid, I took some lessons for piano and guitar, but it was super brief. From then on, I taught myself by ear to be able to hear music and replicate it on piano, and then later guitar. I never really decided I wanted to start writing songs, it just kind of happened. At this point, writing is something I feel like I can’t live without. It’s my outlet. It’s the way I understand things and get eyes on them. When I started performing and releasing material and it was well-received, I figured maybe this could be something I can do.
Introduce us to you and your musical history.
I’m Andrew Akins. I was born in Nashville but raised in Amarillo, TX. (Everyone says that’s why I’m a musician. The jury’s still out on that one.) I grew up hearing my father play piano by ear and he passed those skills down to me. I started writing songs in high school, influenced primarily by artists like David Ramirez and Gregory Alan Isakov, and it led to me cutting a demo album as a high school senior which was my first recorded material.
It was very well-received locally, and I enjoyed the process, so I kept writing. I wanted to write songs that said things nobody else would say. By 2015 I had performed plenty of local venues and was ready to record again, this time an EP called Wilderness. It earned me some stage time with Ryan Culwell, Natalie Schlabs, Charles Johnson, and Silent Planet. Once it released in 2016, however, I already had more material ready to be recorded, so I started the groundwork on my first full-length, Let the Thief Make Honest Work with His Hands, an album that explores my upbringing and what it means to be a son. It took me two years to complete, and I did all the production work myself, which was definitely a learning experience.
After it dropped in early 2019, I recorded an EP in the spare room of my house, dubbed The Corner Room EP. In those few years since my career has kind of slowed down. Covid obviously played a factor in that, but there were also some difficult living situations I was mired in, and I didn’t have the space to write or record or really let my songs mature. Once Covid hit, I rattled off around thirty songs, ten of which are featured on my forthcoming LP, Parables. It wasn’t until I got married and bought a house in late 2021 that I was able to outfit my home studio and begin the work on that album.
What’s one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
[Laughs] Well, I don’t know if there’s a question I’m really that sick of, but most people ask me how I got here or how I decided I wanted to do music. And I really don’t know how to answer that question! It really just happened naturally. I do music because I can’t live without it. Even if my songs go nowhere, I love writing and creating and recording with the goal of beauty. That process alone is worth it to me.
We set up RGM USA and many other countries in the world to share music with America and the UK, good idea?
Of course. There’s so much music nowadays. Everyone and their mom can make music off their iPhone. And some of it’s really good, truly! But that being said, it can be hard for any artist to cut through the rest. Any little bit helps.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
Absolutely not. [Laughs] One of my favorite things is sitting on my back porch with some whiskey and maybe a hand-rolled cigarette with some friends. Conspiracy theories come up every so often. I don’t subscribe to any of them, but it’s always interesting to hear people’s viewpoints and why they believe those things. Personally, I think the world is a lot less secretive than people might contend. And even then, what is there to be afraid of?
Did you buy anything you don’t need in the pandemic?
The only thing I can think of is I bought an old video game on my PS3, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2. I wanted to get some nostalgia because I loved those games growing up. It lasted about a week.
What useless party trick do you have?
If you hum/play a note, I can tell you what note that is.
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
August 2018. I played a house show here in Amarillo at a friend’s house. They had an awesome backyard with a natural stage area, so the setup alone was great. They also promoted it well and the turnout was incredible. Add in that I played full band and one of my best friends opened for me, and it was the perfect ingredients. I think that was the best show I’ve ever played, just in terms of sound and musicianship. The crowd also clamored for an encore – that was a first for me at the time – and we hadn’t planned one, so I got to impromptu play a song I had been writing to close the performance.
What was the worst experience on stage?
Ah, yes. A long time ago… 2014 maybe? I performed at a coffee shop in a neighboring town, about an hour south of here. The venue itself was fine, this little back room which had a nice coziness. But my performance was awful. I think six people showed up, and I forgot lyrics to my own songs. [Laughs] However, the people who did come to watch me tipped me pretty well, so it wasn’t all lost.
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about.
I’m a huge progressive metal fan. Like, huge. In fact, four of my top five favorite albums in 2020 were all progressive metal. I think it’s an incredible genre, and it’s always interesting to me. Let’s take the surprise even further – I’m in a progressive metal band. We are in relative infancy, but we’ve been working on a debut EP for the last couple of years. It’s almost finished, actually.
If you had to describe your band/music to an alien how would you describe it?
Good question. I guess I’d describe it as driving through the American southwest, passing rainstorms and mountains along the way. Of course, they probably have way bigger mountains and way bigger rainstorms.
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
My lyrics. I pride myself on writing songs that show and not tell. Anyone can tell a story or tell you what happens or how they feel verbatim. But I think the best writers out there show you. That means every line is packed with information that furthers the plot, that you have to dig deep to understand. My music is written to make people think.
Right now, what’s pissing you off the most?
Any sort of political extremism that degrades the humanity of people you disagree with. And that’s both sides. We should be willing to listen to each other, not immediately discredit another’s ideas or God-given worth just because their beliefs aren’t the same as ours.
What’s your favourite song to play live and why?
Dangerous Man. It’s the darkest song off of my first LP, and definitely, my favorite to perform, especially with a band, because we make it really spooky.
I hear you have a new song, what can you tell us about it?
Yeah! On September 27 I will be releasing a single, “I-25”. It’s the first single off my next LP, Parables, which will come out in January 2023. “I-25” is a real steady song and it makes you feel like you’re on a road trip. It hearkens to traditional country and Americana roots. The song is about the simultaneous excitement and dread you can feel in a budding romance. Excitement because, hey, you’re getting to know someone, and they like you and there’s mystique and wonder. But dread because you know you might ruin it.
Talk me through the thought process of the single/album/ep?
“I-25” started as me just noodling on my acoustic. I was playing around and eventually I came up with that lead line that the electric guitar plays. I liked how it sounded, so I started writing a verse, and it became this story of an exciting moment driving through Colorado. I don’t usually write songs that sound this country, but it felt like the right direction for this song.
What was the recording process like?
I recorded everything in my home studio, save for the drums. I actually demoed it like two years ago during Covid, but it sat for a while before I was actually able to studio record it. Once I graduated college, I had some free time and finally began chipping away at it. I recorded everything one-by-one and brought in musicians for the background vocals and drums/percussion. Once that was done, I mixed and mastered everything here at my home studio as well.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the single/album/ep?
The initial audio engineering and recording process. I used to be okay with not-so-great takes because “I’ll fix it in post [production].” But this is not a good way to approach recording. Of course, you don’t want to be obsessed with finding the perfect take, but you want to get pretty close to it. The biggest difference on this album from my past ones is I took so much more time mic-ing things correctly, performing them well, getting the tones spot on, things like that.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
Honestly, no. I’m very happy with it. What are your plans for the year ahead?
In November I will release my second single for the album, a song called “Satisfy”. I’ll spend the rest of the year playing around town and promoting my two singles, and then promoting the album. My plan is to try to start booking some short tours as well once the album drops.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Practically… just keep an eye out for my next single. “I-25” is a good song, but trust me, there are some aces up my sleeve for this album. You’re gonna want to hear the rest of it. You can follow me on Spotify to keep up. Now for the deep part… just write, y’all. Don’t be obsessed with writing the perfect hit or the perfect song. Let the music take you where it wants to go and be genuine.