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Saturday, 17 March 2007
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Owens says most people in the U.S. don’t realize how famous Druha Trava bandleader, Robert Krestan is. “He’s literally like the Bob Dylan of the Czech Republic, among the top three or four singer/songwriters, ever,” Andy explains. “He has written national classics—it would be like writing ‘500 Miles’ or ‘Blowin’ in the Wind.’ He’s written songs that, when you go and play for a crowd of 3000 people, they know every word. His songs are in folk song books, and they’re taught to every kid in grade school. He’s unbelievable.”
At 51, Andy’s goal is to perform bluegrass music in 100 countries around the world before he turns 60. “I remember one of the last conversations I had with (Bill) Monroe,” he recalls. “I told him one of the things I was doing was trying to take bluegrass to other parts of the world, and that was something he told me to do. He said, ‘I want you to take my music to as many countries as you can.’ So that was kind of my ‘direction from above,’” Owens smiles respectfully. “That conversation was one of the few times I got to spend much time with Monroe…. So I kind of got this mind set: wouldn’t it be cool to be a bluegrass ‘missionary,’ in a more secular nature—not a religious missionary, but a bluegrass missionary from a musical standpoint?

“Before we went on the Bluegrass Expedition, I’d already toured Japan a couple of times, I played in China with Killbilly, and I’d already been to Australia and done a few things in Europe,” Owens continues. “I really like the idea of playing for people who don’t get to see what a bluegrass band from the U.S. sounds like very often,” he confides. “They don’t take it for granted. And at the same time, I get to travel to some pretty amazing places. During the Expedition, we probably spent 70% of our time in people’s houses vs. staying in hotels, and it’s such a better way to travel. I made so many friends all around the world, and it’s kind of a bittersweet thing. Most of my best friends are 8 to 10,000 miles away, and I only get to see them once or twice a year. It’s kind of sad in a way, but I feel good that I’ve been able to go and play in so many places.”
Andy’s creative spirit has recently returned to songwriting. In fact, he’s penned 15 new compositions since August, 2006. Known in the past for writing songs that tell real stories about real people, Andy says now he’s “writing about everything. I’m writing about mid-life crises,” he laughs, noting, “I turned 50 this past year and it was kind of a wake-up call. I’m writing about making the best use of your time, I wrote some love songs, and I’m writing more ethereal songs—more about life and getting older, songs that are more philosophical in nature. I think I just had the weirdest songwriting experience, ever,” he reveals. “My best friend of 35 years who got me started in music was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I felt that losing him was going to be like losing a journal of my life history. I was doing a night Scuba dive in Bonaire off the coast of Venezuela, and I had this song line pop into my head underwater, which was, ‘Tell me my life story,’ a song about losing a good friend. This buddy of mine loved to hear about all my adventures; he was a stay-on-the-farm kind of guy. I thought I would finish the song under water, so a few days later I dove by myself to a shipwreck called the Helma Hooker, and at 100 feet deep crawled inside in the dark, hung up a light and with several tanks of air wrote the rest of the lyrics. When I tried to get out I was by myself and I got stuck, and I thought, ‘Oh, no, I don’t have the melody yet—I can’t die here!’ but I wrenched myself free and got out. The sad part is that although I didn’t know it while I was writing the song, simultaneously my friend was dying of complications from his cancer. I had to rush back and bury him. I will finish the song soon, I hope, and maybe put it on the next album with Druha Trava.”

Last Updated ( Monday, 16 April 2007 )
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