Interview with Andrew MacLeod

Andrew, middle school science teacher and guitarist/vocalist for Fog Ave, talks about how he got into music, his favorite musical artists and books, and his favorite spot to catch a sunrise. He also shares words of wisdom for aspiring musicians!

Lauren — Travel and Write Today: How did you initially decide to become a musician? How old were you when you started playing guitar? When did you form Fog Ave?

Andrew M.: Thanks for inviting me to do this interview. It is funny, I don’t really think of myself as being a musician. I am a 7th grade science teacher, and I happen to also play guitar and sing. I like it that way. If it became my main source of income, it would change the whole mentality of it, and it would become a job. Right now, it is a release and a nice change of pace from the challenges and stresses of being a teacher!

I started to love music way back in elementary school. I would listen to all kinds of music, but my first album I bought (vinyl) was Synchronicity by The Police. It was such a crazy diverse album, and I still love it today. After some time with heavy metal and some early hip hop, I really found myself in the grips of Beatlemania. I was and still am a Beatles Superfan. I read every book I could and watched every video I could rent/buy/or record off the TV. In college, one of my roommates (Jonathan Wyman – ) always had a guitar lying around. I hounded him to teach me some chords, and finally he caved and taught me the chords to U2’s song “All I Want is You”. I was hooked. The next week I went with him to a music store and bought a Beatles song book. I worked through the whole thing, and learned so many chords and riffs and voicings, because I knew what they were supposed to sound like from being such a big fan.

I played at some small “coffee house” type gigs, and opened for Jon Wyman’s band, but I didn’t start playing out in front of people consistently until 2003 when I started playing with what would be known as “The Lower Village People” – named after Lower Village of Kennebunk, ME where we first started playing. Through LVP I met some great people, gained a ton of experience, and had a lot of fun! LVP was a pretty rocking band and some of the songs that I wanted to play didn’t really fit the profile. Two of the members of LVP (John Kumnick on Bass and Steve Brackett on guitar) and I decided to do some acoustic tunes, and we started getting together to try things out. This ultimately became Fog Ave in 2011.

TWT: I love this story! I knew about LVP, but I had never heard about your journey from learning to guitar all the way up to forming Fog Ave. Music definitely helps with the challenges and stressors, even when you are just listening…

TWT: I know you grew up on the North Shore in Massachusetts? Do you ever get back there? What are some of your favorite spots in the area?

AM: Beverly High School, class of ‘93! I don’t really get back there too often anymore, but I always enjoy it when I do. If I am ever in the area, I try to stop at Nick’s Famous Roast Beef. The most delicious sandwich you could ever get is the “Super Beef 3-way” (Cheese, Sauce, and Mayo). Many of the places that I used to go to are no longer there, but Coastal Mass Brewing is also great!

TWT: I used to go to Nick’s when I get out that way!

TWT: What are some of your favorite spots to visit in New England? What are some of your favorite restaurants? 

AM: I love playing tourist in our own area. The Pilot House in Kennebunk is about as local as you can get. Great food, drinks, and people. Our family also loves Garden St. Bowl in Kennebunk, Lost Fire in Cape Porpoise, and Village Tavern in Kennebunk. Outside of our home area, we love to go to North Conway. Moat Mountain Smokehouse is always on the agenda. I wish I got into Boston more often because it is always so fun, and the North End is always a great time. You cannot go wrong with any restaurant there! We have friends who own property up in Parlin, ME (near Jackman and the Canadian border) and that is always a great place to get away.

TWT: I’ve added all of these restaurants to my list. I’m always looking for great spots in Maine!

TWT: What is your favorite book?

AM: That is a tough question… but I think I would say The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is such a difficult read, but it is so rewarding at the same time. It takes commitment, and a lot of time! I also really loved The Road by Cormac McCarthy, So depressing, but an incredible story and so artistic in its style. The Dream Stealer by Gregory Maguire is also an old favorite.

TWT: What are some of your favorite songs? What are some of your favorites to play? 

AM: It is so hard to pick just a few… My favorite artists are The Beatles, Paul Simon, Dave Matthews Band, Grateful Dead, U2, The Police/Sting, Genesis/Phil Collins, Elliot Smith, Avett Brothers… the list goes on.

Some favorites, at the moment, are Warehouse by DMB, You Never Give Me Your Money by The Beatles, Cumberland Blues by The Grateful Dead, and Fortress Around Your Heart by Sting. These change all the time though! I can say that Revolver by The Beatles is probably my favorite album though…

Some favorites to play are Junior’s Farm by Wings, Josie by Steely Dan, Grey Street by DMB, and One by U2. These change all the time too!

TWT: Such great choices (you have some of my favorites listed too), and I know it is so hard to choose, especially when you listen to music as much as we do!

TWT: What is your go-to coffee/tea order, and from where?

AM: I am a pretty easy-going coffee guy… I like dark roast stuff, and just half and half with it. Mostly I make coffee at home (Peet’s Major Dickason’s Blend or Starbucks Sumatra). If I am out and about, I will keep it simple and get a Dunkin’s Dark Roast. I used to be a “Medium-Regular” Dunk’s guy, but it is just so sweet, and I don’t need the calories!

TWT: Where is your favorite place to watch the sunrise/sunset?

AM: Sunsets and Sunrises at Drakes Island Beach in Wells, ME are awesome. I spent every summer of my life there growing up, so it has a sentimental attachment.

TWT: That sounds perfect, and it is even better that it’s local to where you live now!

TWT: Can you share a memorable moment you’ve had while playing music?

AM: Every time I play is so enjoyable, and there are so many moments that stick out. One in particular was when I got to play with my now friend, Jack Sonni, a bunch of times. Jack is super close old friends with the bass player in Fog Ave, John Kumnick. Jack would come visit for a few weeks in the summer, and we ended up doing a bunch of shows with us as The Lower Village People, and later with Fog Ave. Jack was the “other” guitar player in Dire Straits, and played on the Brothers in Arms album and tour, including Live Aid where he shared a mic with Sting on Money for Nothing. What I have realized over time is that musicians are people. We think of them as being these other worldly beings, but they are just humans who also play music!

TWT: This is so true. It is hard to remember when you are sharing a room with some of your favorites, but they are just people, and they all started in the same place that you did!

TWT: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?

AM: I would say to have fun… and to commit to it. Don’t do it for the money. Practice practice practice. It almost needs to be an obsession in order to make progress. It will be slow at first, but keep going and it will pay off. Then practice some more. Learn about Music Theory, modes, scales, chords, time signatures etc., and learn them when you are young. Then practice some more until it becomes a natural part of you. That is where the fun really kicks into high gear. 

TWT: This is such great advice, and it is so similar for writers – don’t do it for the money, and just keep writing!

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