“A great song is both a work of inspiration and of construction.”
The musical journey is just that, a journey. There’s no roadmap or “how-to” manual to show you the way; it’s just a matter of putting one step after another in search of that elusive musical Muse. And it’s a path that Shawnee, KS-based musician Andy DeWitt has trod for some time now in pursuit of his signature sound, trying his hand at everything from jazz to rock and those in between. But this vast array of musical experiences has culminated in the solo artist that he is today: passionate, persistent, and original.
DeWitt’s musical fire was lit like so many raised in the 60’s when he first saw The Beatles perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
“I used my mother’s pan lids for cymbals to imitate Ringo on drums. We were served from dented cookware for the rest of my childhood,” jokes DeWitt.
His high school years saw the artist take up the bass, playing in rock bands as early as the ninth grade which quickly morphed into opportunities to play in progressive rock outfits, jazz fusion bands, jazz bands, and then a foray into the world of the symphony orchestra where, at age 21, the artist became the principal bassist for the Omaha Symphony from 1981-1983. Yet, DeWitt still lacked fulfillment, never quite feeling at home musically.
The next twenty years or so saw DeWitt searching for that home, performing as a vocalist and bassist for a diverse array of genres, exploring rock, jazz fusion, and R&B, to name a few. And in 2009, the artist headed into the studio to record his first of a trio of original albums, Midway (2009), Cool-Rays (2010), and Made in Jamerica (2011.)
“These were large productions with horns, multiple background singers, and different guest artists on each track,” offers DeWitt. “It turned out to be impossible to market these without a band to take the material out to perform live. Frustrated, I pulled them off the market and went about building a solo show.”
It’s that material that comprises the whole of DeWitt’s latest offering, Sweet Freedom. With a foundation built on voice and guitar, something that the artist could perform live on gigs, DeWitt infused overdubs of bass, hand percussion, and melodica into the mix as well in order to keep things fresh. The result is a record that is wholly Andy DeWitt, capturing his definitive style as it draws from his many musical and life experiences and distills them into an invigorating listen.
With a soundscape that draws on elements of acoustic rock, folk rock, singer-songwriter, and even reggae, Sweet Freedom is truly a slice of DeWitt’s life. The reggae vibes heard on “Bend A Little Bit” and “Dollars” draw from the artist’s experiences traveling to Jamaica every year with his wife while a track like “Home Sweet Home” reaches even deeper as it tells the story of frustration as a young artist leaves the nest but struggles with the bittersweet warmth and security that home and family represents. It’s a hard truth to tackle but that’s DeWitt’s songwriting style as he seeks to explore the experience of life through song. Ultimately, DeWitt longs to bring joy but he acknowledges that, at times, we must first feel the pain fully before we can recover. But that pain does recede and, when countered by warm melodies and heartfelt lyrics, joy and healing wait on the other end.
And that’s the message of Andy DeWitt’s music, that peace, joy, and hope will see you through at the end. It’s a message that DeWitt has lived through his life, searching for his musical niche, but the release of Sweet Freedom signals the launch of an artist that has journeyed for some time in search of his voice but has found that the wait was ultimately worth it.