When Andy Werth began playing trumpet in the middle school, he probably didn’t realize that this instrument would be the first of many that he would learn. As a sophomore in high school, Werth started teaching himself piano after hearing some ’50s songs on the radio. And then, as a senior, guitar almost literally fell into his lap.
“I actually picked up guitar because a friend of mine left his acoustic guitar over at my house when he went on vacation, and I began teaching myself,” Werth said.
Werth gradually began writing his own songs, and now, years later, this singer/songwriter and accomplished musician has two EPs under his belt, and a full-length album that has just recently been released. He says now that learning so many instruments helped him grow as a songwriter, especially with writing for his band members.
“You learn how to speak with a different voice, and it unlocks possibilities and new capabilities for writing for others, too,” Werth said.
The new album, called Burn the Maps and Bury the Compass, is a step in a new direction for Werth and his band, because the music is moving away from piano pop-rock into new and varied directions.
“It’s all over the place, which makes it kind of hard to label,” Werth said of the album’s sound.
Werth describes Burn the Maps and Bury the Compass as a grab-bag, but adds that its diversity makes it possible to keep the fans of the EPs happy while also “bringing new people on board.” But it didn’t come easy.
“It was like giving birth to a mountain,” Werth says. “It ended up being very fun, but definitely exhausting.”
With the album out, Werth and his band are now focusing on playing live shows around their hometown of Seattle. Onstage, the musicians consist of two guitarists (one of which also sings backup), a bassist, a drummer, two trumpet players, occasionally different string instruments or saxophone players, and Werth singing and playing piano. In other words, their set is not usually what a concert-goer expects.
“Playing at indie clubs, people see instruments on stage that they don’t normally see,” Werth said.
Because the group is from Seattle, Werth says that there is a lot of competition, but also adds that the wide variety of music coming out of the city is more of a blessing than a burden.
“On any given night [in Seattle] you can hear a DJ, or a jazz concert, or a rock set. The clubs are overflowing with great music from Monday through Sunday. I love to be influenced by lots and lots of different music, especially hearing it live and then incorporating it,” Werth said.
Werth’s personal music taste is also diverse, like his songwriting style and the city he lives in. He listens to jazz, indie, and classical, among other things. And while he’s not rehearsing, writing, editing, or working on lyrics, Werth spends his time reading, writing in journals, enjoying the outdoors, and delighting in all the vegan food Seattle has to offer.
In eight or nine months, Werth plans to head back to the studio to record another album. But, in the meantime, Andy Werth is offering a promotion for Burn the Maps and Bury the Compass: send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Andy Werth, and you’ll get a code that you can plug in on the homepage of the website that will enable you to download tracks from the new album.
Andy Werth and band hail from Seattle, Washington, but there’s not much evidence from their first full-length album, Burn the Maps and Bury the Compass, that it ever rains there. And while we all know this to be untrue, Andy Werth sure makes an impressive case for listeners to believe in Seattle’s perpetual sunshine. With bright accompanying horns (trumpet and sax), joyful piano arrangements, and a hint of electronic sounds mixed in, Burn the Maps and Bury the Compass is a perfect soundtrack for spring. There are clouds on the album cover, and there are some “cloudy” moments on the album, but there’s always sun in the forecast.
The album’s opener, “Stay Here with You,” begins on a calm note with Werth’s Ben-Foldsy piano part, but really shines during the incredibly catchy chorus. You’ll be singing along the first time you hear it. “Stay Here with You” also introduces the reoccurring theme of travel (especially by car) and direction, which would make this album really great for road trips. “Get in Your Car” has a pretty similar format to the opener, but has a different enough melody to make it another pop gem.
“15th Street” stands out for its fun lyrics and (again) its catchy chorus. By moving seamlessly from verse to hook to chorus, this song is very well-composed in an “art is hiding the art” sort of way. The energetic and dance-inducing bass (played by Steve McPherson) is also fun in “15th Street.” “Emily” has a lyric that really stands out for me – “you’ll find out there’s more to life than just being alive.” Also, listen for a neat bit in here with a low, walking piano line working in tandem with punctuating horns – it only comes once, so pay attention!
“Back Row” brings more upbeat rock to the album, and includes a downright funky horn section. Relentless, pounding energy from drummer Jeff Roeser drives the song. “Nothing to Fix” also adds another jolt of adrenaline to the second half of the album, with an insistent beat and angry lyrics.
Some of the weaker songs on Burn the Maps and Bury the Compass are the electronically-driven ones, but they are pretty short, and it is still interesting to hear it partnered with the classical piano. The best moments on this album are the choruses, which are generally the most full-sounding and satisfying parts. Another strong point is Werth’s voice, which is fun and youthful, but also developed enough to sound mature. He has a no-nonsense vocal style which hits all the notes (some of them soaring) without unnecessary embellishment. Burn the Maps and Bury the Compass will be available for purchase on April 7th, but you can check out the whole thing on Andy Werth’s website.
Smile-producing, honest-to-goodness pop romps that are fun for everyone.
I don’t feel ashamed in admitting that I am truly a sucker when it comes to pop music (Sucker…pop…get it?). I tend to favor melodies that sweetly stay stuck in my head. And if said pop also has a layer of complexity and different flavoring, I find it truly delicious. But bad puns aside, Andy Werth’s latest EP Seeing Stars has these truly delectable characteristics and is a pop treat enjoyable for all.
The EP opens with the possibly ironic “Goodnight,” which starts with a slower tempo but soon picks up the pace in the chorus. Here, with the entrance of a stronger drumbeat and jubilant brass, “Goodnight” becomes irresistible. The music itself is upbeat and buoyant, but is juxtaposed with lyrics about a lost love. This never feels odd though, and Andy Werth and his band pull off the contrast beautifully throughout Seeing Stars.
“Snowing in Buffalo” begins in a similar way to “Goodnight,” but then definitely proves to be a unique installment. The chorus in this one is snappy and attention-grabbing, and makes me want to dance happy circles in my apartment (my roommate was thankfully not home to witness that). I also love the harmonies, which make “Snowing in Buffalo” very full-sounding. The momentum continues to drive forward with “Tower,” which develops very well. The various verses, hooks, and choruses feel like movements instead of sections, and when the song ends, you are left with a sense of totality.
Things take an old-fashioned turn with “Miss Lonely,” which is youthful, but also delivers wonderful narrative. Some sections are repeated several times, but it never feels repetitious or old. There is always something new to listen to and enjoy. Seeing Stars ends with “It’s Alright,” a sincere lamentation concerning a tongue-tied individual. It’s about someone who tries not to get too sentimental by often saying “it’s alright with me.” This theme has got to be something that everyone can relate to. But again, this song never gets too down because of its fun melody. “It’s Alright” concludes with a gorgeous piano outro that is much more than “alright.”
Overall, Seeing Stars has the power to enchant, and in under twenty minutes to boot. Andy Werth really has something strong going on here, and I am excited to hear what a full-length album might be like someday. This EP is recommended for all fans of pop, storytelling, or smiling.
Andy Werth’s Back to the Sun is a short but sweet EP, showcasing three catchy and poppy songs in a Ben Folds meets Vegas show music style. It’s got a tremendous sing-a-long, feel-good quality.
The musicianship on this EP is really quite good. The vocals are very smooth, and a wide variety of instruments are used. Guitars, piano, drums, strings, horns- it’s got it all and it is all very well done. The EP is also really well produced and sounds very crisp and clear.
Of the three songs, “I Caught a Greyhound to New York” stands out as the best. It’s a fun, catchy little number about taking, as the title indicates, a Greyhound bus to New York to catch a change of scenery. What made this song stand out was a cool little syncopated part right in the middle which is very interesting and diverse.
All in all, this was a fun CD to listen to – as mentioned before, short and sweet but a great way to showcase Andy Werth and his accompanying musicians’ talents.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.