Saturday, May 20, 2017

Chicago musician Andy Pratt releases debut album, will perform free show at the Hungry Brain


Chicago musician Andy Pratt's love for musicians like Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits are on full display on his debut album, "Horizon Disrupted."

In support of the new album, Pratt and his trio will perform a free show at 9 p.m. May 24 at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W Belmont Ave., Chicago.

I had the chance to talk to Pratt about the new album, which was engineered by well-known producer Steve Albini.

Q - Great talking to you. In sitting down to make "Horizon Disrupted," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

My most basic goal with "Horizon" was to document a collection of songs that I had been writing over the past five years. My next goal was to hear these songs arranged for a string quartet along with a standard guitar/vocals, bass, and drums trio.

Ultimately, I wanted to have all of the above properly recorded. Not only do I feel that I accomplished these goals, but I also could not be happier with how the album turned out.

Q - Is there a meaning behind the album's title?

Yes and no. I like to think that the meaning can be different and personal to each listener.

For one person, it could be about lost or unrequited love. For another, it could be about missed chances, stifled progress or just a pause.

And while this album was not conceived as a political vehicle, it could reflect the current climate that our country is in. "Horizon Disrupted" also relates to the title track which on the surface is about how disappointing it is that there is not a good sunset, or really any sunset across Lake Michigan in Chicago…but there is a reward…if you're a morning person. 

Q - How did you hook up with Steve Albini and what do you think he brought to the project?

In January of 2016 I emailed Electrical Audio, the studio that Steve built and owns, and told the studio manager about the project with strings that I was working on. He said that Steve was interested in engineering the record.

My ensemble and I went into the studio in July of the same year and spent four days there. Steve brought his very special thing to the project.

He has a way of capturing the best of the natural/organic aspects of a voice or instrument. He knows exactly what microphones to use, he's quick, and he doesn't like to waste time.

He records exclusively to analog tape…there wasn't a computer that was ever used during the session. There were two days of tracking followed immediately by two days of mixing.

Every performance was tracked simultaneously/live with the string quartet in the studio. The mixing process involved a lot of quick decision making.

And by the end of the four days, I had a mixed album. Steve helped create a warmth, atmosphere, and truth that I don't believe I could have found with many of his contemporaries. 

Q - It seems that Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits are strong influences in your music. How would you say they have influenced you?

With both of them, I really love how they tell stories through their music. They both are poets, respect melody, and utilize the spoken word.

To be honest, I've spent a little more time with Waits's music. I admire and am fascinated by the different stages his music went through from the '70s until now.

In terms of his vocals, I love that he isn't afraid to try different voices and effects. I also admire the theatrical angle that he adds to his shows.

I'm trying to add some more of that to my performances…not to copy his work, but to find my own way of doing things.

Q - Of course, there is another Andy Pratt who is best known for his song "Avenging Annie." Do you have to constantly explain to people that you are not "that" Andy Pratt? Or do you see it as another way to introduce people to your music?    

This is always kind of a funny topic. He actually befriended me on Myspace about 10 years ago or so. He was very kind in his introduction and recognized we were both musicians with the same name.

There has been a time or two where someone would show up to one of my shows thinking that the other Andy was going to be there. And venues/show listings have used his picture for promotion by accident before.

But usually most people know that we are separate artists. I do like to mention to people on the phone or via email that my message/call is not from the Boston Andy Pratt of '70s rock fame. So, it is a nice icebreaker.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?

Chicago has a fantastic music scene. The city is filled with great musicians and honest/cool people.

There are venues to play and musicians are treated well. The second part of this question is a bit more tricky.

My roots and training are in jazz. Most nights of the week I'll be playing and/or singing the songs of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, etc…American Songbook material.

While a lot of these artists and songs have influenced my own writing both lyrically and harmonically, the music I've documented on "Horizon" is a different thing. This music doesn't really fit at a club such as The Jazz Showcase or Andy's Jazz Club.

It really works better at other types of venues. So, I'm still figuring out exactly where I fit in the scene. I want to push my own music as far as it will go and keep moving forward, but it's also important to me to maintain my jazz background.