A conversation with Andrew Thelston

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In terms of musical ambassadors in the melodic melting pot of a scene that is western North Carolina, you’d be hard-pressed to find an artist as dedicated and inclusive as Andrew Thelston.

Born in Asheville and attending Brevard High School, Thelston bounced around in seemingly every corner of that area. College of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. Working at WTZQ radio in Hendersonville. And these days, I call Black Mountain home.

Throughout his exploration of these mountains and their people, Thelston remained something of a sponge, always soaking up the knowledge and wisdom of astute musicians, the sacred act of interpretation and ancient art of creation – either in collaboration, by the way, through a recording or in the presence of live music.

The culmination of these vast experiences and ongoing interactions remains the fire of intent within Thelston to stay steady and go its own way, which is currently The Andrew Thelston Band – a rock/soul ensemble of power and swagger.

The band is constantly evolving, whether it’s their own steady stream of original material or recent efforts, including elaborate tribute sets to the complex and captivating works of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac – a testament to the tenacity and talent at the core of Thelston, a rising musician.

Smoky Mountain News: What do you see when you watch and listen to all the local bands here west of Asheville? What makes this scene unique and what will ensure its survival in the future?

Andrew Theston: There are amazing bands and musicians performing all over WNC. I really think the brewing scene has directly had a positive impact on that, creating a desire and a market for musicians to perform and grow. 10 years ago it was much harder to hustle for gigs due to the lack of venues that paid for real professional musicians.

Every night at one of the breweries, distilleries, or wineries, a patron can enjoy everything from an acoustic solo act, a jazz combo, a full nine-piece funk band, or a power rock-n-roll trio.

SMN: In an uncertain era of the music industry, what motivates you to push forward and overcome the difficult challenges of being a musical group that records and performs in the digital age?

AT: Personally, I love the process of writing a piece of music that never was. This act alone brings me so much joy and excitement. I try to compose and write every day, whether it’s a guitar riff, a lead line, a vocal melody, lyrics or an interesting drum beat.

It’s like alchemy when I’m in a recording studio. Get the ingredient levels just to serve the song and record. I hate to use the term “magic”, but it really is pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

I take great pride in my original recordings and always strive to improve in the studio. Many musicians can freeze in the sober and sterile environment of a studio, but, after years of hard work, I feel very good there.

SMN: How do you see your role as a singer-songwriter, in terms of what you want to say and how you want to say it? And what is the role of the songwriter in the 21st century, this age of immense noise and constant distraction?

AT: I feel that my role as a songwriter is to be myself. It’s a tough time to release original music in a world obsessed with musical nostalgia, but I find it rewarding to have music I’m proud of in the world.

These songs and recordings will outlive me and I want them to be right. Not perfect, but fair and that means staying true to my vision of authenticity.

All my songs are about real situations or thoughts that I have seen, experienced or had. Writing songs is the most therapeutic way for me to get through these life lessons.

I struggle with social media because it can have a very negative mental effect, while allowing me to make new connections that otherwise would never happen. All I want is to create and perform the best music possible – to constantly improve myself as a musician and as a person.

SMN: Why the guitar? How does this instrument allow you to express yourself and communicate with others?

AT: I love what this instrument can do. An electric guitar can create the loudest, most devilish noise known to man, while being able to create the most tender, angelic, soulful whispers with the subtle movement of a finger – the world and life have more meaning behind six strings.

Want to go?

Beloved regional rock/soul band The Andrew Thelston Band will continue their Saturday residency during the month of February at The Gem Tasting Room on the ground floor of Boojum Brewing in Waynesville.

With an array of special guests and musical themes, the showcase will feature a Beatles ensemble with bass prodigy Walker Astin (February 19) and a Fleetwood Mac ensemble with vocalist/keyboardist Carrie Morrison (February 26). Shows start at 9 p.m. Free and open to the public.

Along with numerous singles and EP albums on all streaming services, Thelston’s latest single, “Time”, will be released this week. To learn more about Thelston and his music, click andrewthelston.com.

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