Andy Bothwell, aka Astronautalis, is a hip hop artist of a rare variety. His lyrics often contain involved stories and histories–he has called his style “historical fiction hip hop”–and he blends styles like indie rock, shoegaze and electro into his music. He’s also known for his phenomenal freestyle skills.
Originally hailing from Jacksonville, FL, Bothwell now calls Seattle his home. And he can often be found performing in the Dallas area, where some of his roots and close friends still exist. Bothwell began performing solo, with only a laptop at his side, and he continued to tour that way for seven years. But his recent tour includes rapper Sims and a backing band, and he is extremely happy with the new direction.
For this session, Bothwell speaks about his old tour days compared with the new tour as well as his place in the ever-changing music business. He and his band play “The Wondersmith and his Sons” and “The Case for William Smith”, from 2008’s Pomegranate, and his new single “Midday Moon”, from a yet-to-be-titled album that will be produced by Pomegranate producer John Congleton.
– Jesseca Bagherpour
ONE: How does it feel having a live band instead of doing the solo show?
Andy Bothwell: It’s the greatest feeling in the world. It’s the greatest. If I had to do another tour with the laptop, I would have drilled a hole in my head. I couldn’t do it anymore. It just really felt like I had – and I was really pleased with the way those shows went – but I felt like I had reached the creative ‘glass ceiling’ that I could travel to with that, you know, and it kind of assembled as a group of musicians from kind of funny places and it’s been amazing! By the second practice I was already just so floored with how this was so much better than I even thought this was going to be – and its continued to get better, too. It’s a game changer.
Michael: Do you ever see yourself doing a solo show again?
Andy: I mean, I’ll definitely have to do the solo show again. I’m doing a couple of one-off shows during the summer, and it’s still not quite financially feasible to bring the band to Europe – yet. My goal is, by next year, to pretty much be done with doing the solo show. So, I’ll be doing a couple odds and ends shows by myself, but for the most part, once I can afford to never do it again, I will never do it again.
A: Yeah! Yeah, I’m done – so done! I’ve done two thousand shows by myself and I’m ready to have some friends on stage!
M: Two thousand?!
A: Yeah! Seven years! That’s a lot of shows man. That’s a lot of shows.
TWO: Does one show that you’ve played stand out as being your favorite?
Andy Bothwell: There’s a couple, I think, and for different reasons. The show I played with Tegan and Sara in Berlin was probably one of the coolest things that had ever happened to me. There were like 2,000 people and they called for an encore, and that was just the most surreal experience: to have 2000 people chanting ‘encore,’ that was just like a ‘kill me now’ kind of moment. But at the same time, you know, I’ve had some pretty amazing shows in people’s living rooms and backyards and stuff. I think there was a Rubber Gloves show…the Rubber Gloves shows all blur into a kind of fog of general incredible love and excitement and high fives and whiskey. I think it was the one that I played on my birthday. There are some pictures of me being carried around on Shep’s shoulders, which was a real nice moment of confirmation for me – to be like ‘This is it. This is the home.’
THREE: How do you feel about the current state of the music business, selling records, etc? What’s your place in that? And what’s next?
Andy Bothwell: I think that I’m doing great at it. I didn’t ever come into this with an expectation of selling records, you know? I wasn’t part of the old guard and I kind of got in as things were falling apart and while things were still kind of…you could still sell records in stores. Nobody knew who I was, so I wasn’t used to selling records, and when it came to the point where nobody was selling records, it was like ‘oh cool this is what I’ve been doing for years! So, we’re in the T-shirt business with music attachments, yeah, great! Cool! I can do that!’ It doesn’t really bother me, you know? I feel like I stand by the quality of the records that I make and I stand by the quality of the shows that I put on. I feel like people want to buy my records because they want to support me, and they’ll download my record, they’ll listen to it, they’ll like it and then they’ll buy it. Those are the fans I want – I don’t want fans to buy my records because they got tricked into it, and if that means that I sell less records, that’s a bummer. It means I’ll just have to find another way to pay my rent on time and so far so good. Two years now I haven’t had another job, and that’s pretty fantastic.