Artists require a special quality of humility. Not the kind that denies their gift but that which is often surprised when the ideas, images, words and melodies first come to mind. Because, in the end, they do not create out of nothing. The best are those who know how much of their work is listening and then following the thread to see where it leads. When asked where his inspiration comes from Andrew replied, “The biggest thing is this: by the discipline of paying attention.”
But there is something else.
I read this in an interview by Sarah Geil with Andrew in the studio while he was recording his new album – The Burning Edge of Dawn: “The most prominent initial detail was not the darkness of the recording booth, but the tone of encouragement permeating the room. It’s a grueling process, singing the same thing over and over, listening to yourself and your words, and his producer Gabe supplied just the right amount of encouragement. Where Gabe offered praise, Andrew responded with trust. When Gabe said, “That’s the one for me, unless…” it was natural for Andrew to say, “No, I trust you, man” and really mean it.”
As I read that and thought about Andrew’s relationship with The Gathering I realized that is why we invited him to be with us again this year. Not only did we like Andrew but we trusted him. We trusted him not to manipulate with emotions or demand star billing or think of us as an audience to be entertained. This was clear when a group of Gathering friends visiting Nashville were hosted by him and his family in their home earlier this year. We had seen excellent ministries and the work they were doing and thought our visit with Andrew to hear about the Rabbit Room would be similar. Instead, Andrew and his wife, Janie, invited us to have lunch with them and a few of their friends. What an interesting and eclectic array of friends! It was clear the focus of the visit was not to be Andrew but the opportunity to sit and spend time with people Andrew had encouraged and those who had done the same for him. It was less like a visit and more like sitting down with extended family.
When the poet Mary Oliver was diagnosed with cancer she wrote this passage in a poem, “The Fourth Sign of The Zodiac”:
I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.
So why not get started immediately.
I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.
And to write music or poems about.
Andrew’s art is not light and breezy. It is thoughtful, reflective and joyful. He understands there is so much to admire as well as weep over. As I said a few minutes ago my sense is this is a time of change for many of us and that is true for Andrew as well. There could not be a better time for him to be with us. Please welcome our trusted friend, Andrew Peterson, back to The Gathering.