Chicago-based singer-songwriter Andrew Belle just dropped his fourth album—the first in four years.
It’s a monumental feat to creating something you’re proud of and put it out into the world—it requires, as many things do, so much letting go. That’s why the title, Dive Deep, resonates; it recalls the times in life when you have to hold your breath and say “yes” to the unknown. We sat down with Andrew to celebrate his new record and to chat about how positive life changes have affected his meticulous creative process and how pushing past choice-paralysis can bring artistic freedom.
Hello! You just moved back to Chicago after living in LA for, what, a year? What brought about that change?
Haha yeah, the great west coast experiment was shorter than expected, but my wife and I had a baby last fall and that really just changed everything for us. We didn’t realize how much we would miss the midwest and being near our family and friends. We will always have a fondness for LA, but Chicago feels like our home.
As a touring musician, how important is it to you to have a place that feels like home?
If I’m home for too long I tend to get antsy and want to get out and explore so touring comes in really handy. But just like any long trip you’ve ever been on, touring loses its mystique and excitement usually around day 10, and then all of a sudden I’m dying to be home again. It’s a weird cycle. Having a place to come back to, a family to come home to, is such a gift. I’m a pretty normal guy and I really crave the routines and rhythms of home. Touring with family, at this point, isn’t really sustainable and so coming back to my wife and daughter routinely is pretty necessary for me to re-charge. What’s that Radiohead song? “You are my center…when I spin awayyyy”. It’s like that.
Do you bring anything with you on the road to remind of that “home”? Anything that keeps you centered?
Listening to podcasts and reading food magazines are super helpful because that’s a big part of my life at home. “Here’s the Thing w/ Alec Baldwin” and “Bon Appetit Podcast” are my go-tos as well as Bon Appetit Magazine and Lucky Peach—although I’m super bummed because LP just published their last issue!
You just had a baby, a cross-country move and are now putting out your first album in almost four years. How has this period of constant change and growth affected your creative process?
Well, on one hand all of those changes have really inspired my writing; it’s shifted my focus in many ways so that things that weren’t important to me before now are, and vice versa. But all of this change and moving around has also made it tough to get into a creative rhythm and be as productive as I would like to be. I’m pretty busy right now with the launch of this record and planning the fall tour, but after that I’m hoping to stay put a bit and get back into a creative flow.
What are your current artistic goals? In what directions are you trying to stretch your new music?
Honestly my biggest goal is to, with every album I put out, feel like it’s the best thing I’ve done so far. The day I feel like I’m making music that I’m not proud of or inspired by will be the time time to find something else to do with my life. That’s why every record means so much to me, I guess—I don’t know it’s just the next one or if maybe it’s my last. Going forward, I think I want to scale back production a little bit, still make music that’s vibey and electro but maybe without so much going on. I tend to cover up my imperfections and insecurities with lots of layers, but I’d like to see if I can make something that’s a little simpler, maybe bring back that acoustic guitar I used to play.
Are there any lyrical themes on this record? Any messages or mottos you’re hoping to communicate?
I wrote this record song to song rather than having a theme or concept before I started. But after it was finished I took a step back and realized that I wrote a lot about being afraid to make decisions or take the next steps in life because of fear of the unknown. It’s so easy to find yourself paralyzed by indecision because you don’t want to make the wrong choice, but we can’t stay stuck in that place forever or we’ll miss out on so many amazing aspects of life. So songs like “Dive Deep” and ‘”Down” are about finding yourself in those moments, having the courage to move forward, and not being afraid to make a mistake.
I love the title of your record, Dive Deep—the idea of going all-in on something, no matter how unknown or frightening it might be. Is this at all what the creative process feels like to you?
Absolutely—I’m notorious for being crazy detail-oriented and obsessive about the tiniest aspects of every recording I make. Sometimes in that process I get burned out or anxious about how it’s ultimately gonna turn out—how it will be received. And in those moments when I find myself being really stubborn about a small detail we’re trying to fix, I’m tempted to avoid conflict and settle for something less than what I know it can be if I just keep pushing. But a big part of my job, as much as creating the music itself, is being resilient and mentally tough enough to push through the struggle that always seems to show up when you’re trying to create something meaningful.
How do you cultivate a creative space to record/write in? Do you prefer things to be bare and minimalist or full of cultivated chaos?
I like the idea of keeping things bare, clean, minimal when I’m working, but I think it’s when I’ve let go of everything having to be perfect before I can create that I do my best work. Thinking back on the times when I’ve had breakthroughs or great ideas, I’m usually so enthralled by the possibilities of that moment that I stop caring how clean or organized my studio is and if I have everything in it’s right place. I have moments of clarity now and again when all I care about is the music and everything gets put in it’s proper perspective.
Besides music, what other artistic mediums tend to move you the most?
My wife and I started a podcast called ‘Stemma‘ where we interview artists about where they come from, the food they ate growing up at home, and how those meals have shaped who they are today. It’s a lot of fun for me to do something creative outside of writing music and has helped sharpen my audio editing skills!