Room to Breathe, Andy Gullahorn

By

Even if you haven’t heard Room to Breathe, its still likely you’ve heard Andy Gullahorn. He’s what I’d call a heavy lifter by trade. He writes lyrics, plays guitar, arranges vocals and adds production help to the work of artists like Jill Phillips and Andrew Peterson.

I call him a heavy lifter because he’s often in the fray taking what might be a decent song and making it a great song. Far from flashy, Andy’s steady and artful hand seems to consistently find what fits a song well, and the result is that he crafts structure that holds a song in place. Heavy lifting.

Finding a talent like this is rare enough, and Andy, on his website, says he’s happy in the supporting role.

gullahorn-room-to-breathe.jpgFortunately, he comes out of that role to offer Room to Breathe, a strong collection of acoustic driven songs. As I listened, three things became evident about Andy’s writing. One, he can be very funny. Two, he can be very serious. Three, he can be both at the same time. It’s no wonder he’s called upon to do some heavy lifting for others, because he’s at home with sober ideas and at ease with levity and finds no contradiction with them existing side by side, and that takes skill.

Pick up Andy’s record here in the Rabbit Room, or visit his website.

Russ Ramsey and his wife and four children make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church and the author of Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative (Rabbit Room Press, 2011) and Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Crossway, 2015). He is a graduate of Taylor University (1991) and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv – 2000, ThM – 2003).

Follow Russ on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.


12 Comments

  1. Geof F. Morris

    It’s a great, great record—and yes, Andy will have you laughing one minute and tearing up the next. It’s one of the things that makes him great. Love the record.

  2. Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    In stark contrast to the sterotypical Texan, with an ego that cannot be contained inside his 10-gallon hat, Andy Gullahorn is the relaxed, understated Texan. If a smidgen of Texas pride were lurking about, we would probably understand; the guy has a distinctive vocal timbre, writes clever songs, and handles his guitar like it was an extra appendage.

    I haven’t met Andy Gullahorn really, but I like him. As he’s filled a supporting role for Andrew Peterson for ages, I’ve witnessed Gully’s stage demeanor many times. AP usually provides time for him to play two or three songs during his shows. If you haven’t witnessed Gully on stage, you must. Not since Steven Wright has an entertainer been so concurrently dead-pan and hilarious. When an artist is funny, simply by being himself, people are bound to laugh … and they do.

    I discovered Andy Gullahorn and his skills early on, after my friend Lefty guaranteed me that I would like his music. I bought Old Hat, Gully’s first CD and it promptly became a favorite. There were no less than seven songs on that CD that resonated personally. You know the kind of song I mean, don’t you? It’s the kind of song that you lock into repeat mode and end up playing seven times in a row, not so much because it’s a particularly great song (though Andy’s songs are pretty great), but because it’s particularly true. What’s that Pierce Pettis line about “kicking at stones just to feel the shock to my bones?” Whether evocative of pain or peace, joy or jade, sometimes the best thing a songwriter can do is to make us feel something, anything but numb. Andy Gullahorn does that for me.

    The worst thing about Andy Gullahorn is that he is a fan of the Texas Longhorns. But that actually makes me like Mr. Gullahorn all the more. With so many talents in one area, it’s nice to see a man’s great deficiency in another.

  3. Russ Ramsey

    @russramsey

    A personal favorite that I had to listen to a few times was track 2, The Secret. I found myself wondering what the secret was (in a subconscious manner), then realized it didn’t really matter to the point of the song. And then the mist cleared and I think I saw the song in a way that haunted me.

    One key to the song is that what Charlie carries is a secret, and part of his burden is he carries it alone. The listener is supposed to feel powerless to help. And we’re also supposed to examine ourselves and the secrets we carry, and consider if what Andy says is true, “carrying secrets to the grave is impossible to do. The secrets carry you.”

    I’ve always loved songs with secrets in them, where the listener can’t know for sure what the singer is being cryptic about. You almost feel let in on the secret… but you’re not really. Instead, you’re just let in on the struggle of the burden of the secret. And this is art imitating life– you can’t help but want to understand, comfort, or counsel someone. But you can’t because you don’t have enough information, and they’re not telling.

    And Andy’s image of a single blade of grass beneath the sidewalk pushing and pushing until it makes a crack– the song gets serious in a hurry there.

  4. Chris Hubbs

    The first time I saw Andy Gullahorn was at a BtLOG concert a couple years ago. With his typical one word intro (“Hello”), his lanky frame, and his obviously subtle sense of humor, I found myself excited about hearing him before he’d hardly started to sing. And then sing he did, Holy Flakes, to be specific. What a song – funny, but with this twist at the end that sneaks up on you and leaves you breathlessly wondering how that happened.

    Aside from his music, you will get much amusement out of his website (with concert summaries in haiku!), and his “Ringo Starr visits an Andrew Peterson recording session” is one of the most brilliant YouTube videos I have seen in a long time.

    Highly recommended. 🙂

  5. Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    Russ Ramsey wrote:

    And we’re also supposed to examine ourselves and the secrets we carry, and consider if what Andy says is true, “carrying secrets to the grave is impossible to do. The secrets carry you.”

    Great line, isn’t it? I appreciate this song, for some of the same reasons that you noted. Another great line is … and his freedom was a hammer to a darkroom wall that let the light shine through, which immediately proceeds the “carrying secrets to the grave …” line that you quoted. This line seems to reinforce the incredible power that the secret holds.

    I don’t think it’s an accident that The Beginning of the End immediately follows The Secret. It’s a song that reinforces the risk of releasing the secret but also explores the freedom that comes from it. It’s hard work to confront our own secrets. Not to mention placing them on the table for examination by others. That’s tough stuff. This song examines those ramifications (“yeah, there’s freedom, but the taste is bittersweet”).

    Both of these songs seem to hint at the important role each of us play in each others secrets–for listening, understanding, forgiveness, and love. But like the phantom in Phantom of the Opera, our mask will stay on until we feel safe enough to remove it.

    For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

    “Wake up, O sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

    Ephesians 5:8-14

    Thanks for the thoughtful review and discussion, Russ. Chris, welcome. It’s good to see you here.

  6. Elliot Smith

    I had the pleasure of bringing Andy into my school last fall for a one man concert. I had been introduced to his music by a friend, taken a stab at booking him, and was surprised at how easy he was to work with. What made this even more “memorable” for myself (and I’m afraid also for him) was that his car was broken into the night before the show, and his guitar and gear were all stolen (trust me, I did not book him a room at a dive – this was a fairly nice place!). Andy showed up to our school, calm and collected, and proceeded to ask if he could borrow my guitar for the show. Without missing a beat, he had my students laughing, being incredibly quiet and serious, and then laughing some more. I cannot thank him enough.

  7. Kevin Beasley

    It’s been so fun having Gully on board with Peterson the past few years. Some of the first words out of Andy’s mouth when I had the opportunity to chat with him were these… “If you could punch one celebrity in the nose, which one would it be?” If you’ve ever spent 10 minutes with him you will understand that question… wait, that’s probably not true… actually, you’ll never understand that question. The second time I met Andy my little girl was barfing as I was trying to introduce my wife and kids. She literally blew out her dinner as soon as Andy arrived in the parking lot. What fun! Although I always laugh my guts out (this actually is NOT another reference to barfing) when he gets a few minutes to share songs at an AP concert, I had never taken time out to listen to Room to Breathe.

    About a year ago I happened to find myself in Nashville for a couple days and had a night to kill. What were the chances of finding Peterson playing a concert in his hometown on a Saturday night? I hopped on the ‘ole inter-web and believe it or not, Peterson, Gullahorn and Jill was scheduled for a concert in Madison, TN. I was pumped about the concert, however, the 5 hour drive home afterwards, not so much… So, I picked up Room to Breathe to make the trip pass a little faster.

    Wow! From the opening track to the last guitar lick, I was ecstatic. I listened to that thing about 3 times in a row just to make sure I wasn’t experiencing unwarranted awe due to delirium. It was true and I was, somehow, in my right mind. This album penetrated me at a level that caused me to shed tears, laugh out loud and find healing in places never before touched by grace. The honesty and vulnerability (are those two the same?) was inspiring. The questions Gully asks on this CD are some of the same that have haunted me since redemption 18 years ago. That drive from Nashville to Auburn truly was one of the best drives of my life.

    Get it now!

  8. Adam Hutchison

    “Room to Breathe” is the CD that I give to people who have expressed a desire for something other than the usual Christian radio fare. Not that there’s anything wrong with Christian radio, but there is something attractive about music that’s not intended to reach the widest possible audience. But, as Andrew Peterson wrote, “a thing resounds when it rings true”, and Andy Gullahorn’s music echoes and draws in the listener yearning for more. It’s a great reflection of Andy in concert – terrific humor that sneaks up you with a poignant message; his skill as a writer and musician come through in spades. My advice: buy more than one, because you’ll want to share.

  9. The Rabbit Room

    […] song I had heard before—one that presents itself as funny—Holy Flakes from his previous record, “Room to Breathe.” The song is about the Christianization of breakfast cereal. But I had heard the song already, and I […]

  10. Autumn Barnett

    Andy Gullahorn is perhaps one of the cleverest writers of our day. He portrays so many problems, not only with the modern day church, but also with the everyday christian walk. He does so in a light, as not to offend, but cause you to see things through a better persons eyes. He sings with such passion as almost to say “I don’t care if anyone listens to my music, I’m doing this for me because I love it!”

    Wonderful, simply wonderful.

  11. Corey Beebe

    The same three things were evident to me upon first listening to Room to Breathe: his humor, his ability to be serious, and his talent for mixing both. I giggled through the song “Holy Flakes” and showed it to all of my friends because it is such hilarious satire. (It also rings true to me because my family owns a small-town grocery store)

    The following is just one example of this song’s priceless lyrics: “so they filled their carts up with John Paul, instead of stuff they liked. They thought it was their duty as the good God-fearing kind”

    The thought of Virgin Mary chicken strips seems to border on sacrilege but Gullahorn explains that they end up with “a faith that was as shallow as the milk left in the bowl.”

    On the same record he has songs like “Beginning of the End”, “Road to Ruin” and “Never Let Me Down” which have spoken truth to me many times. An excellent record. 🙂

  12. Gaye Jones

    Andy is supremely gifted and I cannot wait until he comes to Tampa January 14, 2011. Christ Community Church @ 7:00.

If you have a Rabbit Room account, log in here to comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *