Winter Park / Live Music: New take on the one-man band
March 7, 2008
If at first you don’t believe it, look again as Andy Schneider puts out a full-band sound as just one man, his instruments and the blues.
The musician, who estimated he must have been in about 15 bands in New York at one point, plays lead and bass guitar at the same time.
Schneider also plays harmonica, drums (with his feet) and sings.
“It’s a new take on the traditional one-man band, which was a vehicle for many blues guitarists,” he said. “It’s a way to keep the blues alive and fresh for a new audience.
“Energy is what it’s about – energy in the music, energy on the stage. People seek energy from other people, and that’s why they go to see and hear live music. People come to see the eight-string guitar from curiosity and they definitely respond positively to the energy.”
Built by Ralph Novak of Novax Guitars, his Charlie Hunter-model 1964 Vox guitar has been converted to a baritone. It features two courses of strings, three bass and five guitar, each with its own set of pickups and separate outputs.
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The setup lets him walk bass lines and hold down guitar parts or organ-like chords, both with incredible tones.
“This guitar opens up worlds of possibilities,” he said. “Every day, I find a new avenue to explore.”
Growing up in and around Kansas City, Minneapolis and Chicago, Schneider’s prevailing influence was the blues and he was exposed to country music as the family worked on different farms on summer weekends. Blues and country “were what made me who I am,” he said. “I’m just a country boy playing the blues.”
His mom had also started teaching him piano at the age of 4, encouraged talents in clarinet, violin and upright bass; and he was the first student in his school to be allowed to be in band, orchestra and chorus at the same time. Despite all his exposure to music, Schneider thought he’d become an engineer, like most of the men in his family. However, while he was in college studying physics (with a minor in audio recording technology), he “found out it was much more fun being a musician.”
His songs tend to be biographies, “usually autobiographies,” Schneider explained. “I’m interested in people and the threads that they have in common.
“Now that I think of it, people are a lot like the blues. We all have similar qualities and needs, but in different amounts. It’s the way you put those qualities together that makes an individual.”
He said his 2005 release “Monologues, Dialogues, and Real Conversation,” was a milestone.
“It really captures the energy of a live show,” and is a funky journey that demonstrates his natural ability to combine jazz and rock, funk and blues into his own sound.
“At the time, I was really digging a lot of the urban jazz that happens around New York,” he said. “I call it Interstate 30 music. It takes you from Texas to Tennessee and back again.”
Schneider travels so much that he said he sometimes feels like an old-time medicine show. “Those guys (from the medicine show) really were the first bluesmen,” he said, “preaching to the crowd and making their way on the road.”
His latest CD, “Snake Oil and Preachin'” reflects that theme. The album, his first recording as one-man band The Andy Schneider Music Show, came out at the beginning of this year.
The noted blues guitarist, with eight CDs to his credit and one he’s “about to drop” in the next couple months, has been touring nationally for many years and heads next to play at the 2008 Himalayan Blues Festival in Kathmandu, Nepal. Originally from Austin, Texas, Schneider now calls Harlem, N.Y. home.
He said this upcoming show will include some of his favorite originals, as well as some covers, “or whacked-out covers” and said he’d name them but doesn’t want to spoil the surprise.
“We’re gonna get down,” he said.