Grateful for a musical lifestyle

“It’s humbling that people are so supportive of my work. I am living in the kick starter (because) I have a one-to-one relationship with the people who invest in my music, whether it’s in heart, in musical accompaniment, in monetary donations, or all three. I am grateful. Thanksgiving week is a great time to talk about it. I am grateful today.” — Andrew McKnight, acoustic musician, song-writer, performer CUTLINE ANDREW MCKNIGHT relaxes with his guitar after a house concert at the Noble House Inn, a bed and breakfast establishment in Bridgton, on Nov. 13. McKnight’s performance schedule is so busy that he likely won’t be back at the Noble House Inn until spring 2016. However, he plans to provide fans and new-comers with a concert via a Vidcast at 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 16. (De Busk Photo)

ANDREW MCKNIGHT relaxes with his guitar after a house concert at the Noble House Inn, a bed and breakfast establishment in Bridgton, on Nov. 13. McKnight’s performance schedule is so busy that he likely won’t be back at the Noble House Inn until spring 2016. However, he plans to provide fans and new-comers with a concert via a Vidcast at 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 16. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer
Less than two weeks after performing at the Noble House Inn in Bridgton, musician Andrew McKnight was ready to knock on wood.
McKnight had just arrived at the workshop of a local luthier (guitar-maker) in Virginia, where he lives.
“What started out as one custom-made instrument ended up being six guitars, all made from local wood. I am going to choose the pick of the litter,” he said.
The species of trees incorporated into the guitar include West Virginia red spruce on the top of the instrument and hardwoods like white oak and sycamore for the side and back of the guitar. There’s also black walnut and maple in the mix, he said. A filmmaker will be on hand to document the handmade guitar handled by a musician who writes his own music.
“I love wood in general. The instrument is made out of a tree that is no longer living, but it comes to life,” he said.
“I always enjoy the first time during a performance when I can hear the wood of my guitar,” he said.
McKnight weighed in on how 2014 has been for him musically. He recalled some awesome music festivals over the summer. He looked forward to connecting with a new guitar, and to the filming of his upcoming concert at the Franklin Park Arts Center in Virginia on Saturday.
“It’s amazing to think that people are still coming and supporting me 20 years after I started doing it,” he said.
“That I get to do what I do because of music. It’s such an unconventional career path,” he said.
“It’s humbling that people are so supportive of my work. I am living in the kick starter (because) I have a one-to-one relationship with the people who invest in my music, whether it’s in heart, in musical accompaniment, in monetary donations, or all three. I am grateful. Thanksgiving week is a great time to talk about it. I am grateful today,” McKnight said.
He also said he was thankful that when touring and performing, he did not spend long periods of time on the road. He is still able to have a family life with his wife and seven-year-old daughter — both of whom joined him on the recent “road trip” to Bridgton.
“Where I live — I am within a day’s drive of about 50 percent of nation’s population. I go for five days or a week, come home, and go in another direction a week later,” he said.
“In the winter, I tend to go to places like Texas and Florida. In the winter, I head to northern places. I am like a bird,” he said.
While performing two sets at the Noble House Inn, he explained to the people sitting a few feet from him the advantages of a house concert.
There is a greater intimacy with the audience.
“It’s like bringing a mini Carnegie Hall into someone’s house. The intimacy makes it more special to the audience — they are really part of the performance,” he said.
“Every show is its own organism,” he said.
“You could do the same show for the same audience two nights in a row, and it would be different. How people react to the performance and the sounds and the mood of the day” would alter the outcome, he said.
The concerts at a performing arts center definitely have a better sound system, he said.
“Everyone dreams of being on the stage. But, the light is in your face and you cannot connect as personally with the audience,” he said.
For the Bridgton audience, McKnight performed a mix of songs about the landscape, wrongdoings to the environments such as mining companies blowing off mountaintops in West Virginia and the U.S. Corps of Engineer designing a concrete culvert to divert a river from its natural path through New Orleans.
Other sources of songwriting inspiration are people in his life like his grandmother, who brought him along during her volunteer work at the hospital from which she had retired.
The song, “Good Things Matter” was written in 2003 after visiting his grandmother in a nursing home during her 100th birthday. The song appears on the compact disc (CD) Beyond Borders, which was released in 2005.
“Her memory had gone. I had to reconnect with who she had been all of her life after seeing her as a shell of who she was. It was kind of hard. There is no schooling to prepare you for the ‘aging’ of a loved one,” he said.
“She gave so much of herself. She just did stuff, and people joined in and helped out. She got recognized, but that is not why she did it,” he said.
“The message that it took me 30 years to get is what inspired the song,” he said.
His wife’s side of the family, her mother who was raised in Cuba and left when Fidel Castro took power, was the impetus for the song “These Shoes.” Her perseverance to become an American makes for moving music, including a rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance. That song can be found on the CD, Something Worth Standing For.
McKnight explained why it is natural to write about the environment around him.
“I’ve always been really connected to the outdoors, fascinated by landscapes and animals as well as the people and history. We are all connected and live through the landscape together,” he said.
“I like to hold the story up to a different light,” he said.
As I was child, McKnight grew up in the White Mountains, where he enjoyed rock climbing and hiking during the summer months.
“My own personal connection to the landscape inspires me as human being, and also as a songwriter,” he said.

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