Andrew Peterson: Painting Stories with Strings

There is no single musical artist who has affected my life more than Andrew Peterson. I affectionately call him Andy Pete, but shh, don’t tell him I told you. He is a mastermind behind poetic wording, powerful sounds, and intricate melodies. His music is hard to box in. It is more folk than not, slightly bluegrass, but not really country. It has slight hints of pop and rock but really meshes all these together in an incredibly well-blended, thoughtful melding. He’s a poet-painter and uses music as his canvas.

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There is no single musical artist who has affected my life more than Andrew Peterson. I affectionately call him Andy Pete, but shh, don’t tell him I told you. He is a mastermind behind poetic wording, powerful sounds, and intricate melodies. His music is hard to box in. It is more folk than not, slightly bluegrass, but not really country. It has slight hints of pop and rock but really meshes all these together in an incredibly well-blended, thoughtful melding. He’s a poet-painter and uses music as his canvas.

His music sounds like a crisp, summer morning. There is a deep stillness that seems to echo the darkness at night right before the sun begins breaking through the trees and drying up the damp remainders of nighttime. The light scatters over leaves and showers everything with a bright luminescence. The entire valley comes to life. It begins humming in the depths, and it starts spilling over–slowly, deeply, powerfully. Then the spilling is rolling, and the rolling is building, and more and more, the movement is growing. It envelopes you, and you breathe deeper than ever before. You jump up and run into the field, letting your hands brush the tall stalks of grass as you burst through. The sun is now high above, and your soul is teeming with life and light and love.

Peterson is the second son of a preacher man. He knew about the Lord when he was young and began walking with him around nine years of age. It wasn’t until he was 18 and heard Rich Mullin’s music that he realized he didn’t know the Jesus he had heard about his entire life. He was struck by the depth and intimacy of Rich’s music, and it changed him.

Peterson began touring in 1996 with his wife Jamie and guitarist Gabe Scott. At the time, he had no recording contract and had not yet released a full-length album. Derek Webb, from Caedmon’s Call, happened upon his website and was so impressed with his music and lyrics that he invited Peterson to come open for them at their next show. The band loved him, and he was invited to join them on their 1998 tour.

This was the leverage he needed to start his music career. He signed with Watershed/Essential Records in 1999 and released his first full-length album, Carried Along, in 2000. CCM Magazine listed the record as one of the Top 10 albums of 2000.

Peterson has released over thirteen albums along with several collections over the years, shifting to Centricity Music in 2008. These records include: Light for the Lost Boy, Counting Stars, The Far Country, and Behold the Lamb of God. He has also written and illustrated four books, all within the Wingfeather Saga series for children and young adults.

Not only is Peterson an accomplished musician and writer, but he has created an online storytelling community called The Rabbit Room. The idea of The Rabbit Room came from a trip he took to Oxford. In an interview on ligonier.org, he recounts his first visit to the actual rabbit room in the back of an old pub in Oxford:

Like anyone who grew up reading about Aslan or Frodo, I felt like a schoolboy getting off the train in the heart of Oxford, where those stories were born. I visited Tolkien’s house; the Kilns, where Lewis and his brother lived; and finally, we stopped at the Eagle and Child, the famous pub where the Inklings sometimes gathered. That place is the Mecca for nerd pilgrims. The back room of the pub, where Lewis and Tolkien and their friends gathered, looks exactly like you would want it to. There’s a little fireplace, wood paneling on the walls, old Englishmen nursing pints of ale, and the ghosts of hobbits and fauns and dragons floating in the air. For a small-town American boy like me, the place was pulsing with magic.

He came back absolutely on fire about starting The Rabbit Room. The Rabbit Room was born and has now blossomed into an online community with a yearly conference named Hutchmoot. They function out of a beautiful office in a 150-year-old farmhouse wittily named North Wind Manor.

Peterson is one of those people who can hear the whispers in the wind or feel the pulsing of the earth. He is in tune with the deeper things in life, and his music is full of the sounds and words that ring true to those places. His songs pull your heart-strings and help you remember what life is all about. He digs into themes of love and loss, growing up and learning to give of yourself, marriage, parenting, and Bible stories.

One of his most beloved albums is Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. This album begins with a song of invitation: “Gather round, ye children, come / Listen to the old, old story / Of the power of death undone / By an infant born of glory.” Then he takes you through the beginning of the Old Testament in song. You hear the Israelite story of the Passover and foreshadowing of Jesus, the wandering in the wilderness, and the plea for deliverance. He paints a beautiful portrait through his songs of the heart of the world that begged for their Messiah. He transitions into the lineage of Jesus with a song titled It Came to Pass, which is a tender retelling of the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Then comes Labor of Love which takes you into the actual moments of the birth of Christ. The somber tones give way to light and airy melodies by the hammer dulcimer, violin, and guitar in The Holly and the Ivy. Then he sings of the shepherds gathering to see their King and finishes with a delicate awareness of our sin and Christ’s sacrifice. The final song The Theme of My Song is an interesting and pleasing blend of all the previous songs. This one song meshes together the sounds and words from the entire album, leaving you with a strong joy of the anticipation and climax of what Christ has done. It is breathtakingly powerful and one of the most incredible retellings of the Christmas Story. The end of the album is a second invitation, “So rejoice, ye children, sing / And remember now his mercy / And sing out with joy / For the brave little boy is our savior / Son of God / Son of man.” Take a minute to listen below.

There are few musicians that can stand the test of time like Andrew Peterson. His career is full of honest music with astounding words, not only in his songs but in his fiction. Without hesitation, I rush to the nearest store to purchase his albums as soon as they are out. I know you’ll find his music just as breathtaking as I do. Visit www.andrew-peterson.com to explore his music for yourself.

 

 

Featured Image by Ben White

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About the Author

Dawn King is a Carolina native with a Neverland heart. She's an Enneagram 4 that believes beauty can be found even in the darkest of places, light is always bright enough to outshine darkness, and love is stronger than any madness or evil. She values kindness and honesty more than most anything else. She will always believe that to change the world you must first change yourself.