Good news for my cousin is bad news for me.
My 27-year-old cousin Andrew is going on tour with World Leader Pretend. They’re the real deal. They’re on Warner Bros. Records. And, as if this is some sort of validation, are one of MTV News’ forthcoming You Hear It First bands. So this is huge, awesome news. Of course, it is also bittersweet.
Andrew — my father’s older brother’s oldest son — grew up in suburban Denver. I spent a few summer’s in college driving cross country, and often spent time with his family. The Wagners were always excellent hosts. His mother, Mary, insisted on stocking my car with groceries. His dad, Stan, took me to all the finest brewpubs. His brother, Luke, and I went for long bike rides. And his little sister, Sarah, and I strung beads together in the basement. It was always a good time.
I like to remind people that I gave Andrew his first guitar, though the truth is he was a terrific musician long before that. He took piano lessons as a kid, and showed great promise. So it was no great surprise that he was playing circles around me on guitar in a few weeks.
I always felt extra connected to Andrew, as he is both musical and just a few years my junior. He’s a sensitive guy, and really feels things deeply, which I also relate to. And with music, whether day job or night job, he’s chosen a difficult path.
Five years ago, his former-band, The Tundra Project, toured nationally before I ever broke out of the Northeast — no doubt he inspired me to finally do so. He wasn’t the front man (which, of course, I thought he should be), but seeing him at South Paw had me beaming none the less.
He lost his day job a few weeks ago — he was video taping legal depositions — and called me for advice. I was excited because it was another opportunity for me to suggest he move to New York. I’d love to have him here, and think he’d do really well. But I tried hard not lobby. Instead, I gave him the classic networking/resume help, and tried to let him figure out his course. After a few days of frequent emailing, he fell silent. I called him late one night (after a few drinks, I’m sure, as is often the case) to see how he was doing.
“Dude,” he said. “I’m going down to New Orleans to try out for World Leader Pretend as a touring keyboardist.”
Of course, I was slightly crestfallen. I knew he’d get the gig. And sure enough, Sunday morning, my father confirmed what I’d suspected. “I guess he’s going on tour with some band, Worm Legal Contention, or something.”
The bad news, then, is that he and I won’t be able to record a record this fall, which has been my plan since he and I effortlessly recorded two songs in, as it ends up, World Leader Pretend’s studio, last fall. You’ll recall, Dear Reader, that my plan was to record in Chicago, Des Moines, and Minneapolis. But my man Andy is gonna’ be on the road — in fact, he’s performing at Lollapalooza the week prior — so at the minimum, Chicago is off the list.
Which is horribly self-centered of me to even mention. It’s pretty neat that Andy’s gonna’ get to see the highways and rest stops and juke joints and theaters of this huge slab of Earth. I am — yes, I’ll admit it — jealous. I’d love to be on tour for a year (as the front man, of course). Overwhelmingly, though, I proud of him, and excited for him, and can’t wait to hear all the stories.
My advice to Andy? “Have fun, keep a level head, wrap that rascal, and for God’s sake man: either start a blog or keep a diary for yourself — this one’s gonna be for the record books!”