On Fame, Fans, and the Grammys

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“I could tell you my adventures—beginning from this morning,” said Alice a little timidly; “but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

 

When I was younger I was a huge fan of the band U2.  I read their biographies by Bill Flanagan & Eamon Dunphy detailing how they met in high school from a random bulletin board posting, when they joined up with manager Paul McGuiness, the individual stories of Paul Hewson (Bono), Edge, Adam, and Larry, and their struggles in Ireland with the IRA and beyond. I had books detailing the reasonings behind lyrics, random demo recordings of albums that never were released, countless collections of remixes and covers by other bands of their music, etc. As a fan, I wanted to know all I could about the band; I wanted to be a part of their journey; and I wanted them to be a part of my own personal journey.  I wanted them to be the soundtrack to the trials and tribulations of my teenage years.

Any band is two parts music, and one part, story and journey.  A part of the allure of becoming a fan for a specific band is the want to integrate them into your own life: the music you listen to can define you socially and give you a community to be a part of(hipster, grunge, metalhead, EDM, hiphop, orchestra geek, etc.); it can be a badge of sophistication (sharing a hip unknown band with your friends is a gratifying experience, and also of one-upmanship); and the music can excite, sadden, and emotionally heighten your life.

Aside from U2 and their journey as a band, I remember how excited I was when another favorite group of mine from the 80’s, Tears For Fears, finally had a reunion album and tour in the mid-2000’s, aptly titled, “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending.” The band had went through a pretty hostile break-up back in the 80s, and when the band members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith finally reunited, I felt like I was included in their storyline, and was so elated for the next week after I received the album, that in my head I was rejoicing along with them.

In my own personal journey as a musician, I felt like the month of January was the pinnacle to the fantastic trajectory of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. In late 2013 they were nominated for 7 Grammy nominations, and at the end of January we all performed at the Grammy Award Ceremony on national television.  For everyone involved in their journey, the band, the crew, family, and ultimately all the fans that had been a part of the story from the humble beginnings, it was like the perfect 80’s finale montage.

A couple of weeks before we took the stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles (the third time I had been there in the past two months), I had received an urgent email from Ryan Lewis. The email came to me right after I had performed on Jay Leno with Mary Lambert, and was sticking around a couple of extra days to spend time with friends and family in the area.  I remember distinctly feeling right after Leno, like Alice in Wonderland after she fell down the rabbit hole:  I was completely out of my element, and overwhelmed. When Ryan emailed me, saying that he needed help writing a string orchestra for the Grammys, and we would be doing it live with Madonna, and Queen Latifah…. well he could have easily been the Cheshire Cat at that moment, telling me I was about to meet the Queen of Hearts. I was about to step three more chapters into this fantasy.

After writing new material for the outro of Same Love with Ryan, and Owour Arunga, after I got back to Seattle, we tracked strings, choir and additional vocals at Studio X. This all happened while Ryan was going back and forth with Madonna and her management regarding how they wanted her entrance to be in the song.  The decision seemed to be more complicated than I thought it should have been.

A couple of days later we rehearsed for two days straight at the SIR rehearsal studios in Los Angeles. We were given one of the largest rehearsal studio rooms, and we then meticulously figured out entrances, arrangement of parts, and finalized music along with two full choirs, Trombone Shorty and his crew, me and Rebecca, Owour, Budo, Greg, Ben, Mary Lambert, and Ryan. It wasn’t until another 5 hours later that Madonna first showed up with her entourage in tow.  The Queen of Hearts had just walked into my little world.

Honestly I wasn’t sure what to think when I first met Madonna. As a steady household name I had grown up with since the early 80’s, her music and performances had definitely made its impact on me throughout my childhood.  I was familiar with her journey and her discography of brilliant writing, and to see her before me in person was an odd disconnect.  After years and years of living in a world of intense celebritydom, (lack of privacy, the overwhelming deluge of constant attention, immense ego gratification and adoration, etc.), I could see immediately how it had taken its toll on the megastar.  She was polite, and soft spoken, but she also didn’t seem quite comfortable in her own skin, and being surrounded by a small army of musicians didn’t help. Overtime she relaxed, but relied on the advice of her music director a lot to help guide the rehearsals from there on out.

After the first day of rehearsing, I also had an opportunity to meet Madonna’s manager, Guy Oseary, who in the end of 2013 actually became the new manager for U2.  In the world of music, even on the megastar level, it seems like things get smaller and smaller when you uncover all of the little connections. My teenage self was having a mild meltdown.

Before we knew it, the day of the 56th Annual Grammy Awards was upon us.  The day started with intense security checkpoints, and being rushed around backstage at the Staples center. We were shown where we would be standing, staging for the cameras, and ran through rehearsing the performance one more time; however, this final time included all the couples that were going to be wed, and also included Queen Latifah’s entrance and officiating of the wedding ceremony.  All of it was meticulous, but felt slightly akin to controlled chaos. There was a lot of moving pieces, and not enough time to get it exact.  There was even a small drama that occurred when the stage crew couldn’t get the timing right for opening up the giant gateway on stage for Madonna’s entrance. For some reason, it all started seeming a little funny and ridiculous to me at that point.

Once the awards finally started, I sat backstage in the green room they had set aside for  ‘Macklemore’s band’, and we were sharing it along with the horn players for Ringo Starr.  The entire 3 1/2 hours of the Grammys, seemed to crawl by slowly, until it was time for our televised performance, and that seemed to scream by at light speed. We were shuttled behind the main stage 45 minutes before our performance, and waited while they prepped our set.  While we waited, I watched them shuttle other artists on and off the stage (Imagine Dragons, Metallica, Pink, and more…), and from our perspective it seemed like a crazy three ring circus.  The celebrities, rewards, sets, props, lighting, crew, and performances kept on rolling out, and out. Once we stepped out into the vacuum of the stage, they had us setup behind a giant curtained wall, which would reveal us to the audience right after the commercial break. The commercial break ended, and the wall was lifted.

The entire performance was a blur. I remember looking out into the audience and seeing Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Keith Urban all staring right back at me. The surrealism of the entire experience was overwhelming. Just coming to the realization that the entire room I was performing for was full of the biggest names in the industry, and they weren’t just abstract names and ghosts you read about, or watched on TV and online – that they were actually there in person, watching me perform – seemed too much for me to handle. Before I realized it though, the entire performance was over, people were clapping, and we were quickly shuttled off stage back into the dark depths of the Staples center. And that was that.

When the moment Macklemore & Ryan Lewis received four Grammy awards, I felt that it was a victory for everyone involved, that had ever been a part of their peculiar rise to fame. In a strange way too, it seemed to be a validation to the fans as well, for their overwhelming faith and commitment to the group all this time.  As an independent artist, but more importantly, the result of DIY practices and intense grassroots campaigning, M&RL rely heavily on the support of their fans to make it all work.  Without the assistance of a label (even though they had a major distribution deal), the entire engine of their music needed that support from the fans.

At the Grammy after party that the team threw for us, it wasn’t extravagant, pompous, or crazy.  It was humble, exciting, and comforting.  It was an environment of relief, and gratitude. After the whirlwind performance at the Grammys, it was a welcome bit of solace. The journey of the ‘Heist’ had reached its final summit, and could now rest for a few.

Being an observer on both sides of the fence of the relationship between fans and artists is an interesting, and enlightening one. From my days of obsessing over U2 and Tears for Fears when I was younger, to performing alongside Madonna, in front of other major artists in the music industry – there is an intrinsic connection between both worlds that is mutually dependent. However, as I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, an important part of any artist is their story. Their journey. M&RL reached a glorious end to theirs last month at the Grammys – well at least the chapter about the Heist.  But, it was an amazing ending, and everyone felt included. Everybody loves a happy ending.

Feature on The Art Zone with Nancy Guppy

I have a feature tonight on the Art Zone with Nancy Guppy, Seattle Channel 21 at 8:00 PM PST!  Check in tonight for more!

After Macklemore Tour, Andrew Joslyn ’12 Back to Berklee Online

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Berklee College of Music just did a fantastic write up about my involvement in music, touring, and playing on the Tonight Show with Mary Lambert!  Thanks to Mike Keefe-Feldman for the relaxed and fun interview!  See the whole interview here, or read below:

By: Mike Keefe-Feldman

January 17, 2014

Prior to recently touring the U.S. and world with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and appearing onThe Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Berklee Online alumnus Andrew Joslyn ’12 had to take a “terrifying” leap. In July 2013, he quit his “dream job” as an A&R manager at the Seattle-based indie label Votiv in order to play the world’s largest concert venues before tens of thousands of hip-hop fans each night.

A multi-instrumentalist, composer, orchestrator, and scorer, Joslyn plays violin on several of the tracks on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s The Heist, which has been nominated for seven Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year. He also recruited and conducted other string players who perform on The Heist, and thanks to his string arrangements, Joslyn shares co-songwriting credits on two of the acclaimed album’s tracks, “Neon Cathedral” and “Wing$.”

Joslyn’s day-to-day life changed overnight upon joining the Macklemore tour, but the call to do so came after years of hard work in Seattle and music education with Berklee.

From Studio to Stage: Making Music with Macklemore

Joslyn had developed a reputation in Seattle as an excellent multi-tracking studio arranger who was adept at bridging the worlds of classical music and rock. He connected with Ben Haggerty (a.k.a Macklemore) thanks to a friend who passed the burgeoning rapper a tape featuring Joslyn on violin.

“This was when Macklemore first got out of rehab,” Joslyn says. “He had no career and no buzz. When I first met the guy, he was living in his parents’ basement and he had a sound recording booth shoved up against a wall in the corner so he could track things like vocals and violin.”

Soon, Joslyn started playing live with Macklemore, along with a trumpet player and a DJ. A couple months later, Ryan Lewis teamed up with Macklemore to work on songs that would eventually turn into The Heist and propel the duo forward as one of the most popular artists in contemporary music.

“It was an incredible feeling to watch this album that we’d all been involved with hit right at the top of the charts,” Joslyn says. “And now for it to garner seven Grammy nominations? That’s not something that I ever thought would be a possibility in my lifetime.”

Still, Joslyn feels equipped to navigate his new path in music, in part due to his education withBerklee Online, through which Joslyn has earned a master’s certificate in music business as well as a certificate in orchestration for film and television.

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Coming Back for More: Joslyn and Berklee Online

Joslyn holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Western Washington University and, even after earning two certificates from Berklee Online, he is enrolled in more Berklee Online courses this semester in order “to re-up on some things” such as advanced theory and counterpoint. He explains that he was initially drawn to Berklee shortly after completing his undergraduate studies while he was touring the West Coast with a rock band.

“It was just a bunch of bros hanging out and rocking out,” Joslyn says. “It was fun, but at a certain point, I thought, ‘I need to be realistic about this and find a way to have some sort of career longevity.’ So I started taking online classes with Berklee.”

The online format appealed to Joslyn because it enabled him to take courses while still working full-time at Votiv. Joslyn points to professors such as Brad HatfieldMike King, and George Howard as particularly helpful and says that Berklee Online was “instrumental in my development as a better performer, artist, arranger, and musician—period.”

“The thing that I loved is that I had these Berklee professors who weren’t academic stowaways up in some ivory tower,” Joslyn adds. “They were working in their field day-to-day. I wanted to learn about publishing and licensing and the stuff that every single artist really needs to know, and I love Berklee for teaching that stuff so well and making it accessible.”

The most important real-world result of his Berklee experience, says Joslyn, is that he now feels he can walk into a studio to deliver his next great track while getting a fair deal and protecting himself as an artist.

“I absolutely wanted to have a piece of paper saying, ‘Yeah, I’m a badass from Berklee,’” says Joslyn. “But that only matters if the information that you’re getting actually helps, and I’m still exercising the vast majority of the knowledge that I got from my Berklee classes, which is why I’m coming back for more.”

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A Sherpa for Orchestra Nerds

On Friday, January 10, 2014, Joslyn kicked off the year by appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in support of Mary Lambert, who wrote the hook featured in Macklemore and Lewis’ hit song, “Same Love.”

The Tonight Show appearance was just the first stop on what looks to be another crazy ride of a year for Joslyn, who will once again find time for his music education in between a number of other projects, including work with his own band, the Passenger String Quartet, an album of original compositions, and collaborations with David Bazan from Pedro the Lion and with the rock bandWalking Papers, which includes former members of rock powerhouses Guns n’ Roses and Screaming Trees.

Despite the exciting prospects on the horizon and even after performing at many of the world’s top concert venues, however, Joslyn seems most excited not about the gratifying ride he is on but about the fact that he can bring others along with him.

“I started out as an orchestra geek looking in on the rock world and contemporary music and thinking, ‘I want a part of that,’” Joslyn says. “Because of Berklee and touring and all of these experiences, I feel like I’m now a sherpa for other orchestra nerd friends of mine, because a lot of rock artists don’t know how to talk to the classical world—but when I’m conducting these huge sessions for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with a large string group, it just feels really incredible.”

Passenger String Quartet performing on Jay Leno Tonight

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The Passenger String Quartet will be performing with Mary Lambert tonight on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno!  Tune in at 11:35 PM PST tonight to watch!  Really excited for the opportunity!

Happy New Years!

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I awoke this morning with an unbridled sense of excitement.  I’m not sure what 2014 has in store for me – but it is the first time that I feel fully in control of my own career, and direction as an artist. With that I feel blessed that I even have an opportunity to be where I am. 2013 was an incredibly transitional period for me as an artist.  I’ve fully embraced a full-time position as a composer/arranger, and also got to experience an amazing 3 month world tour with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I know that I’ve been relatively neglectful when it came to keeping a lot of people up-to-date with everything, but so much has been happening in such a brief period of time!

For starters I had been working as an A&R Manager at the local Seattle label, Votiv for the last three years thinking that it was my dream job. It was actually – but I always had a deeper yearning to realize my grander dream to be a full-time musician and artist.  It always seemed an unrealistic pursuit, and even while touring/recording/performing earlier in my career as a musician with bands such as Handful of Luvin’, Kris Orlowski, Seattle Rock Orchestra…. I always had a day-job to help keep me grounded, and was always a Plan B fall back plan. I recently read an amazing article recently about Art and Music, which I strongly encourage you to take a look at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/blake-morgan/post_6463_b_4461936.html

Blake Morgan (a musician and recording article) wrote a contributing article to the Huffington post and stated:
“Every profession has daunting risks. And yet I’ve never heard of anyone who’s been successful in any profession who went for it half way. We artists and musicians have the right to expect from our profession what others expect from their professions. That through hard work and determination, perspiration and inspiration, we’ll have the same fair shot to realize our dreams, answer our callings, support our families. With commitment and respect, for Plan A.”

In July 2013 – I left my work at Votiv, after it became clear to me that I had to embrace my path as an artist, with no Plan B in place – no safety net.  It has been a terrifying, exciting, and ultimately fulfilling decision.  As fate would have it – shortly after I made that choice, Zach Quillen (Macklemore’s manager) called and asked if I would be interested in touring with them for the next three months starting in September.  The choice was crystal clear – but what came from it I would have never anticipated.

For the last three months of 2013 I toured the globe from a full European journey, to a full North American tour, and finally brought me back home to a set of three sold out shows at Seattle’s Key Arena.  I blogged about my travels here at the Monarch review, and it proved to be the best way for me to process everything I’ve been through.  The massive culmination of everything I’ve been through the past three months occurred when we played at the Grammy Nomination ceremony in Los Angeles, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis walked away with an astounding 7 Grammy Nominations for their album the ‘Heist’, which I contributed heavily to. It’s an amazing feeling to see work that I’ve done be so well received by the music world at large. I can’t wait to see what is in store for this upcoming year!

A couple of things to expect from me in 2014:

-Passenger String Quartet with Mary Lambert on Jay Leno on January 10, 2014
-PSQ tour with Judy Collins at the end of January 2014 (PNW tour)
-New album with the Passenger String Quartet with David Bazan (tour TBD)
-New album with the Passenger String Quartet with Kevin Sur
-New album with the Passenger String Quartet
-My brand new debut album
-more to come very soon!

Anyway, thank you everyone for the support, and reading this newsletter! Best wishes to you and yours in this new year!

Cheers,
-Andrew Joslyn

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis World Tour Diary Vol. 8

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I’m on my way home.

It is a simple, singular, and powerful thought that has been pounding in my head for the past week.  When I landed at Bob Hope airport in Burbank, CA 7 days ago, I had this resounding feeling of excitement and comfort. I was back on the west coast.  I was in familiar territory, and just a couple steps closer to Seattle, where my heart has been aching to be for 3 months.

I was born in Pomona, CA, east of Los Angeles, and my very early childhood was spent growing up on Mount Baldy near a Zen Buddhist retreat just north before my family later moved to Washington.  Honestly I can’t remember anything from my brief stint living in California as a child, but I’ve always felt strong ties to my birth state, and it was nice to be back.

When I landed in Burbank, I stepped off the small connecting jet plane with ‘Same Love’ singer Mary Lambert, and my fellow string player cellist Rebecca Chung-Filice.  Just being on the tarmac at this small airport in California gave me an extra spring in my step, and I was so elated that I felt akin to floating as we walked to baggage claim. Even my violin case didn’t dig as deep into my shoulder as it usually did.

Mary, Rebecca and I diverged from the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis tour for a couple days in support of Mary Lambert’s signing with Capitol Records.  Of all the singers and featured artists on the ‘Heist’, she is the first to depart with a major label contract in hand, and I couldn’t imagine it happening to a more deserving, wonderful human being.  Her performances are utterly spellbinding in their rawness and execution. Previously I had done a lot of string arranging for her, and she brought Rebecca and me along to California as a duet to back her for a showcase and some video taping at Capitol Records Studios. I was thrilled to join her.

A secondary thought started creeping into my singular happiness of being back on the west coast: Who’s Life Did I just Steal into?

The next day we walked into Capitol Records Studio A. This was hallowed ground to me.  Nat King Cole, Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra and millions of other iconic artists have recorded there.  I felt my pulse run. We recorded a number of songs with a large team of cameras, stylists, record executives watching and tracking our every move.  Now I felt like I was in a gilded birdcage, but instead of feeling trapped, I felt like the prized royal jewel along with Mary Lambert.  When I worked at a record label myself, I always marveled at the relationship between the business people behind the scenes and the creative artists they managed, oversaw, and guided.  There was always a sense of awe and excitement from the label people at the talents of their artists.  Being at the receiving end of this adoration, at Capitol Records of all places, was too surreal for me to fully process. Once we wrapped up the video taping at the iconic Capitol Records Tower, the next day we played an industry showcase at the Mint in Hollywood for a huge majority of the Capitol Records executive staff. It was an incredible show. Yet again the thought crept into my head: Who’s life did I just steal into?

I think this secondary thought had been stirring on the periphery of my consciousness for almost 2 months now, and was only now fully manifesting.  It got significantly more bizarre and pronounced over the next couple of days however…

The next day I took a cab to the massive Staples Center, and reunited with the Macklemore tour team for our show that evening. Just stepping into the 950,000 square foot arena was awe-inspiring, but knowing that that evening we would be playing for a close to sold out crowd – 20,000 filled seats – was mind-numbing. Being with the full Macklemore family again was comforting – and our full homecoming to the West Coast was momentous. Our performance that night at the Staples center had a new sense of purpose, and was full of fervor and excitement.  I think it was one of the most engaged shows I had played the entire US tour. I think just knowing that we were close to home was reinvigorating all of us: Ben, Ryan, the band, the crew, management, etc.  The end was just over the horizon. Some semblance of a normal life was just around the corner.

Later that week, I sat to the left of the massive stage for the Grammy Nominations 2014 ceremony at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. Mary was sweet enough to give me one of her extra tickets so I could have a seat. I had shook hands with LL Cool J earlier, and exchanged brief greetings with Robin Thicke like they were my neighbors. This was definitely not my life. I found myself scrutinizing if stuff was real or not everywhere.  As the show was broadcasted nationwide that evening, I was sitting in the audience scrutinizing if someone was actually playing the music live or not…. is the performance actually real or artificial? Are they triggering the music being played?  Is the band ACTUALLY playing or is it all backing track?  Is it fake? or smoke and mirrors?  Most of it is highly orchestrated theatrics.  However, some of the performances (Keith Urban, Robin Thicke, Earth, Wind and Fire) were incredible displays of virtuosity, and gave me hope that the artistry and integrity of music wasn’t completely deluded in this world of cameras and stylists.

During the commercial breaks of the show, they had Los Angeles debutantes come in as seat fillers, so it gave the impression that the entire theater was filled and that there wasn’t an empty seat in the house – at least to the national audience on the other side of the camera.  The room was plenty filled, but this practice of literal musical chairs surprised me.  The life I felt like I was stealing into definitely was showing it’s darker, more artificial side. It was fun, showy and theatrical, but definitely fake.

Then the most incredible moment happened. The Heist – the juggernaut the entire team had been supporting for the past 3 months – was nominated for seven Grammy awards. I remember my heart stopping, and feeling a rush of conflicted emotions. Could I say I was a Grammy nominated composer for my work on the album? I’m still not sure, and that is disconcerting. I felt like it was a victory for the team, but then I also felt like it was the victory of Ben and Ryan.  We are the smoke and mirrors for their show – the theatrics and the unsung heroes.  Was this our night as well? The way everyone outside of the Macklemore team was acting it didn’t feel that way. I was proud and ultimately happy for Ben and Ryan however, and for Mary Lambert for picking up a nomination for ‘Song of the Year.’ This wasn’t home however. This was an insane other dimension.  I had effectively jumped through time and space in a Fringe-like universe shift. This was the bizarre world that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis had been occupying for the past year since the release, and now I was fully seeing it all.

Backstage at the Grammy’s was a mad rush of cameras, security, and random colorful characters.  I felt out of place. There was so much hustle and excitement, intense adoration, sucking up, and more…. and still that ubiquitous feeling that a lot of it was artificial – just one giant theatrical show – even backstage.  Where exactly did I fit into all of this, in this bizarre plastic heaven? How does one retain a compass of self in the madness without succumbing to it?

A couple of days later, I’m still reeling from this brief exposure into the world of intense fame and celebirtydom.  There is an intense alluring nature to it all. Just feeling a taste of that adoration while I was at Capitol Records with Mary Lambert was addictive.  Thankfully, the singular, powerful thought that I originally began with has returned:  I’m finally going home, where life makes sense.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis World Tour Diary Vol. 7

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I remember an inkling of a faint dream I had last night.  One of my favorite moments from the live show of the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis tour is during the performance of the song, “Thrift Shop,” where a huge mass of metallic golden confetti is blown into the air during a climatic part before the bridge.  The magical part happens right after this, though:  the golden confetti floats and lingers in the air for the next 2-3 songs like golden spinning fireflies.  Glittering and strangely meditative. It is always a mystical period of time during the set.  This memory is what I wake up to this morning, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Touring is such a dreamlike state we drift along in. I’ve been on the road for 34 days and played 19 shows for the US leg of the 2013 World Tour.  I feel more at home on stage (with the relatively same set list, familiar faces, set changes, etc.), than I do out in the real world.  The band has become my surrogate siblings, our production/management crew has become my surrogate parents, and the staging crew my extended family.  We are now a full-fledged family, drifting along in this stream together.

After the Midwest dates, we travelled further east into Detroit, Chicago, Syracuse, Pennsylvania, Buffalo, Boston, NYC, Washington DC, and Raleigh. I’ve never driven straight through the continental United States before, and now I can cross that off my bucket-list.

About two weeks ago, we reached the east coast when we hit Boston, Massachusetts. Boston was one of the first moments I felt empowered as an individual artist again since the beginning of the tour.  Unfortunately on such a large-scale tour as M&RL, you sometimes feel lost in the shuffle with all of the other moving parts. Cameras, security, interviews, record label execs, etc. etc. You are a part of the blessed machine.  However, when I played the TD Garden in Boston with M&RL, I was blessed with knowing that my own group, the Passenger String Quartet, was also playing with the amazing songwriter David Bazan back in my hometown Seattle (sans me), but playing a collection of original pieces I wrote specifically for that performance. Just knowing that my own work – my own voice in music – was being played on the exact opposite coast, felt amazing.  It was the first time in a while that I had something, which I could completely call my own.

Not to say that my work with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is unrewarding or not amazing – quite the exact opposite.  However, ALL artists need those moments of individuality and significance.  Art gives us a purpose, but it is also a storyline that we have to share for ourselves and with everyone else.  Finding a voice is key to creative growth. Honestly, I feel like it has been a long trek for me to reach a moment of confidence where I can fully stand behind something of my own, and one which is genuinely my own.

Once the tour reached New York City, we had a week in the city, and my girlfriend Susy joined up with us.  New York was a mixed blessing: it gave me time to regain some sort of stability with my girl there and being in a single place for more than 24 hours, but it also gave me time to overly dwell on my upcoming life as a musician in 2014.  Also, my father was hospitalized for a period of time.  There were a lot of reality checks to deal with in a short span of time.  It was difficult, but a necessary break from the dreamlike state I had been in for the past couple of months.  Because of all that, I got a chance to truly reflect on my life at this present moment.

One thing that I reflected on was that New York is an incredible place. There is such a level of excellence that the city has in so many different professions: music, theater, dance, business, law, etc.  You cannot be lazy in NYC – you will be eaten alive and simply not survive long.  As such, you are driven to innovate, work hard, and excel.  Finding a voice is truly a journey, and always changing. I feel like NYC embodies this principle.  You have to find your own voice or you simply will fade into obscurity in the thriving masses.  It challenges you to be an even greater artist.

My dad once pointed out that both the words ‘voice’ and vocation’ are sourced from the Latin word, ‘vocare,’ which means “to call, or invoke”.   I just find this relationship fascinating:  that from within our work there is an intrinsic link to our passion and our inner being – that which we pull/invoke from within.  I truly believe that aligning the two (passion and work) is incredibly important to creative power.  It is what helps make anyone a greater, more self empowered, confident, artist.  One that will thrive, and ultimately be happy with their art.

So now we are in Atlanta. I feel that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have both found their voices in this past year, after years of hard work and challenging themselves to excel.  As Ben points out in his song, “10,000 Hours”:

“I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential
And I know that one day I’mma be him
Put the gloves on, sparring with my ego
Everyone’s greatest obstacle, I beat him, celebrate that achievement
Got some attachments, some baggage I’m actually working on leaving
See, I observed Escher
I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring
You see I studied art
The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot”

Well I’ve definitely been working hard, and been putting in my time as a composer, arranger and violinist for years now. Now it’s time for me to fully realize my own voice.  The passion and the work have been there for a long time.

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Seattle Times Write Up about the Passenger String Quartet

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The Seattle Times released a nice write up about the recent collaboration between David Bazan and the Passenger String Quartet. Check it out! I’m getting pretty excited for 2014! See the full article here.

“David Bazan (of Pedro and the Lion) and the Passenger String Quartet offered a challenging take on some old Pedro favorites like “The Fleecing” while also testing out some new material for an album. That bit of information is courtesy of Roderick’s impromptu announcement after Bazan’s set. If Bazan does hook up with the Passenger String Quartet, it’ll be a collaboration to look out for as the quartet added some needed verve to Bazan’s depressing lyrical landscape.”

Hint hint – this collaboration is more than just a rumor now. Keep an eye out for more news in the future on this.

UW Daily features Andrew Joslyn: No Strings Attached

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Thank you to Vicki Ferguson for the great write-up and interview regarding my work in the music industry!  Check out the article here, or read it below:

Andrew Joslyn, 31, is a Seattle-native composer, orchestrator, and violinist. He has performed with and composed for some of music’s most well-known artists, including, Allen Stone, Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan. Joslyn is currently on tour with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for the rap-duo’s platinum album, “The Heist.” Though his musical credentials prove his talent, his work ethic and determination are what gave him the opportunity to tour with some of the biggest names in music.

His musical journey began at the young age of five when his parents started him on the violin. Though they wanted their son to obtain a good music education, they also wanted Joslyn to continue the family legacy.

“There was a history of classical string players on my dad’s side of the family,” Joslyn said. “My great aunt was a famous violinist, and my grandmother and step-grandfather were both renowned cellists in Hollywood in the 1920s and 1930s.”

Joslyn found even at a young age that he connected with music. However, as a young child, the discipline and focus needed to learn the violin brought occasional cries and moans over practicing. Throughout his childhood and teenage years, Joslyn continued playing, but it wasn’t until he graduated high school that he really gave thought on whether he should continue.

“Music had just become such a normal part of my life that it seemed unnatural for me not to continue playing,” he said. “My appreciation and ultimate love of music blossomed when I grew older.”

Joslyn continued his musical aspirations throughout college, receiving degrees in music for both his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Western Washington University and Berklee College of Music. At first, playing and composing music was an escape for Joslyn from what he called the mundane office day job. Unsure on how to make a living off music, Joslyn didn’t put much consideration into establishing a professional career. It wasn’t until earlier this year that he decided to take that chance.

“In July, I left my day job as an A&R manager at a local Seattle Indie Record label and started pursuing music full time,” Josyln said.

Though fulfilled by his choice, Josyln felt nervous on whether he made the right decision. It wasn’t until he spoke with a friend, who was a record executive at a major label, that he was able to find peace with his new career path.

“We talked about what we would be doing if we weren’t involved in music. What he said still rings very true to me: ‘We are blessed and cursed with our love of music and everything that involves it. Unfortunately nothing else really makes sense or matters, and we are inextricably bound to it. Also, we would probably be pretty lousy at normal day jobs anyways,’” Josyln said.

With music finally in the front seat, Josyln stepped into the industry with full force; reconnecting with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Josyln first met Macklemore (Ben Haggerty) and Ryan Lewis in 2008.

Joslyn met Macklemore after the rapper first got out of rehab. A mutual friend connected the two as Macklemore was looking to expand his live sound. Ryan Lewis joined the team shortly after and, since then, Josyln has composed orchestral material for the duo, even playing the violin and viola on the duo’s “The VS. EP,” “The VS. Redux,” and “The Heist” albums. Playing with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis has led Joslyn to take part in musical performances that he calls surreal.

“The first time that I had that ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ moment was when I was playing at the Dave Niehaus tribute at Safeco Field with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. It was for an audience of 35,000 people and it was being broadcasted on national television,” Joslyn said.

From baseball stadiums and sold out arenas to traveling throughout Europe and the United States, Josyln said the entire experience has been unforgettable.

“The entire world tour has been a lot to process. I’ve seen Ben and Ryan grow from their humble beginnings into the juggernaut it is now,” Josyln said. “Being able to see the entirety of Europe for the first time through the lens of an arena tour was an amazing and momentous experience for me.”

And Joslyn’s tour partners couldn’t be more thrilled to have him on board. Ryan Lewis spoke on behalf of himself and Macklemore.

“Andrew is not only a phenomenal composer, he’s a great live performer. From the very beginning days of my collaboration with Ben, he’s been involved and central to creating some of our best songs,” Lewis said.

Though Josyln has found that rigorous touring and traveling does have its downsides, from being homesick to battling insomnia, he said the overall experience of being on the road and constantly being surrounded by music has only fueled his desire to get into the studio and record his own material.

In the meantime, Joslyn is continuing “The Heist” world tour, which will make its three-day stop in Seattle next month.

“Being able to say I’ve rocked out to 10,000 plus arenas around the world is really amazing.”

Reach contributing writer Vicki Ferguson at development@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @TheDailyVicki

Passenger String Quartet Backing David Bazan

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Just a quick announcement!  My group, the Passenger String Quartet will be backing the amazingly talented David Bazan tonight at the Neptune Theater, for Barsuk Records 15th Anniversary Party!  I started working with Bazan back in June of 2012, and this show is a sneak preview of future big things to come!  (album collab – hint hint)  So come on out and support my quartet for an evening of beautiful music!  Unfortunately I won’t be there in person since I am in Boston tonight with Macklemore performing at TD Garden, but I’ll be there in spirit on-stage, and in the music.