Backstage in Dallas

By

I’m sitting behind the merchandise table backdrop in a gigantic church building, nursing a cold.

We just finished soundcheck a few minutes ago, and I have a little pocket of time before I have to go shower and eat dinner before tonight’s concert, so I thought I’d fill you in on what the Christmas tour has been like so far.

Let’s see. We have Sara Groves and her husband Troy, along with their three sweet kids, Jamie Rau (road manager and nanny), Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn, along with their youngest son Tyler, Dan Brown (sound guy and author of the Da Vinci Code), Andrew Osenga, Marcus Myers, Gabe Scott, Bebo Norman, Cason Cooley, Garett Buell, and Ben Shive.

Seventeen people!

The rehearsal in Nashville before we left was a sweet (if stressful) time, where we played through the songs at at rehearsal studio while wives chatted over pizza and our many kids ran around jumping over gear cases. Music is a fine thing, partly because it’s a community effort. I remember emailing with a guy named Jef Mallet who writes the comic strip Frazz, which I like. He’s a music fan and we’ve exchanged emails a few times, partly because in my first email to him I asked if he was Bill Watterson in disguise, which would be like him asking me if I was really James Taylor or something; he took it as a high compliment.

Anyway, one of his strips joked about how books are usually dedicated to just one person while CDs have paragraphs of thank-you’s in the liner notes. The joke, if I remember correctly, was that musicians are long-winded or something. Can’t remember. The point is, I felt compelled to write him to let him know that (now that I’ve made records and written a book) there’s a huge difference between the two. Book writing, for the most part, is a solitary occupation. You only really get any work done at the expense of social interaction. Sure, you’ll need your manuscript read by people you trust, and their input is invaluable, but the bulk of the work is done alone. Music, on the other hand, is by nature a community effort, and anyone who’s put a record out or played professionally for any amount of time realizes early on that there’s just no way to make this kind of art on your own. (I guess there are exceptions when it comes to solo musicians and folky stuff–Bruce Springsteen did it with Nebraska, but you know what I mean.)

I have the feeling that in forty years I’ll look back on these times fondly. I count myself blessed beyond measure to share the stage with songwriters like Osenga, Gullahorn, Groves, Phillips, singers and players like Shive, Norman, Scott, Buell, Cooley, Myers (I had to write each name down in case one of them reads this and thinks I left them out on purpose; we musicians are a fragile lot). I love the way music pulls us together toward a common purpose. I love the way we prepare in an empty auditorium, hoping that each seat in the house is filled, and that each heart who attends will be filled too. We eat together, laugh together (or play Boggle together, which is what they’re probably all doing right now), and then, just before the show, we pray together.

The thrill of walking out on a stage to share your gifts with a good audience is like nothing else I know. I went to an artist’s retreat last week at Charlie Peacock’s Art House. The room was filled with musicians and writers of an intimidating caliber, and during the question and answer time I was too sheepish to speak up, though I had definite opinions about what we were talking about. But at some point in the retreat the conversations were sometimes tinged with frustration or discontent. It seemed like many of the artists were wanting the Answer to the question of how to succeed in the music business. I admit that I’ve gone through long periods of frustration, looking for that same Answer. But the Lord has shown me that there is no Answer apart from him. He’s the only place we’ll ever find satisfaction or joy. I don’t know why God has blessed me with being able to play music for a living. He knows I don’t deserve it–

—-

Just after I wrote that last sentence, I got interrupted. It’s now 11:03 PM, and the show is over. We’ve packed up and are sitting on the bus, about to head to Taco Cabana for a midnight snack (when you’re in Texas, you just have to stop at the Cabana). I re-read what I was writing earlier, and I’m not sure how to wrap it up. I’ll say that the show was a delight. The musicians assembled on this tour are humble, gentle, joyful, and I’m thankful for each of them.

It would be easy to idealize this group of people. It’s important that you know that we’re sinful. We talk frankly about the nature of our sins here on the “Guy Bus”. I’ve spoken with the Groves fam and the Gullahorns on the “Family Bus” and I know that the same is true over there. We’re a community of people who have doubts and insecurities, people who are lustful, selfish, greedy. The tour’s been going for not even a week and I’ve probably had to apologize four times already for saying something I shouldn’t have. That sinfulness (and I know this confounds Satan) allows us to love one another better. We can hold one another up only because we are bent low with our own weakness. What a beautiful mystery we find ourselves in. I keep wondering why God allows us to sing these songs, why he fills my life with such goodness.

I will keep asking that question, because the answer is so good I love to hear it over and over again.

AP

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


27 Comments

  1. JWheeler

    Thank you thank you thank you. The show tonight was a joy and a blessing. We hope you make it back to Dallas next year.

    John

    May God richly bless you, and all of those around you.

  2. Kelly Hayley

    I talked to you briefly tonight about living in England – I forgot to tell you that we became CS Lewis freaks too.

    We went to Oxford a bit and would always go to the “Eagle and Child” pub, or as the inklings would say it – “The bird and the Baby!”

    We also went to his church where he is buried.

    Unforgetable concert!

  3. Bill (from Florida)

    Great concert once again, Andrew!! Laura and I were talking to someone before the concert who had never heard of you before, but knew of Bebo. When it was over, he commented that it was just incredible! (we agree), and that it needed to be played at a much larger auditorium. He was fully impressed. Blessings to you all!

  4. Robert C

    Thanks for a great show guys. I have been anticipating it since I first heard ‘Behold.’ You all did amazing, but most importantly, God was honored and worshiped.

  5. Kevin Beasley

    I am about to lay the sleepy head down for a nod, but wanted to comment before my nasty cold gets a rest tonight.

    I lost my dad in a car accident 2 weeks ago from tomorrow. I never could have anticipated a couple of realities of this tragedy. One, that it would hurt this bad. When the ugly monster of grief rears it’s intrusive head no amount of hope can frighten it away! I really did imagine an experience like this to be much easier. I am an ignorant sort!

    Second, I could have never anticipated the unbelievable outpouring of the body of Christ during the past couple of weeks. I’m not kidding, it “boggles” (no reference to the past entry intended) my pea-sized little thinker!

    The night I found out about the accident was the day before we were moving from one house to another just across town. I absolutely had no idea how I would move at a time like that! Well, I traveled on up to North Alabama and before I lay my head down to sleep the following night everything I owned was at the new house. Turns out about 20 people chipped in to get the job done throughout the day. And I’m telling you, we have a whole LOT of stuff, or did I should say. (massive purging when we returned)

    The letters, the prayers, the phone calls, the emails, I’m not kidding, like 150 of them, just kept pouring in. Money, pictures, stories, laughter, tears, silence, hugs… it was all absolutely breathtaking!

    I share all that to say that the Body of Christ is a marvelous, intricate, frustrating, beautiful, fierce animal indeed! We are part of a new faith community and recently exited out of another. There’s beautiful things about them all. Some of the very people who drive you insane one day can penetrate your soul the next. Living in true community has been the most treasured experience of my life. It always amazes me how, when we choose to live it well, wonderful and wounding and wild and exposing the whole thing can be.
    A roller coaster of emotion and relational intricacy, but a ride I’d spend my life savings to take! And I’ll tell you, in times like we’ve seen the past couple of weeks, I’d go in debt up to my heals to have it if I had to… the beautiful thing is that it’s like the dam I built across the creek when I was a child, free except for the agony of building it. (man those rocks were heavy)

    I used to lead a worship service at our prior church. It was one of the most difficult community experiences I’ve ever had. I thought there’d be no possible way I could love some of those people when it was behind us. Then God gifted me with a penetrating experience. The communion chalice we used for communion sprung a leak. It was old and wooden. I realized that from that cup I took of the life of Christ with hundreds of other people sharing in the common bond of the Messiah! And all of those on that worship team were included in that number! With those who spoke ill of me and I of them, in all the glory of our sinfulness, I drank from the blood of Christ. I still have that cup sitting in my office today, broken and aged as it is, to remind me that a leaky cup has more love in it than my redeemed heart could think of having.

    Can’t wait to see the tour in Birmingham in a couple weeks!

    Kevin

  6. Brian Carter

    I thought that was you typing behind the merchandise table at the church…

    I again wanted to say what a wonderful show it was tonight; not just Andrew (although you would never know he was recovering from a cold) but to all the participants. We hope to see you in Dallas/North Texas again soon.

    Like I mentioned after the show though, we do need more live releases from you so that we can enjoy your shows from afar. That goes for all the Square Pegs.

    God Bless

  7. Tom Bubb

    Thank you for this post Andrew! I’m a bit of a broken record on this subject but this post and the comments got me really excited to see y’all in Austin tomorrow! I pray for safety and blessings for everybody on the tour and I can’t wait to see the show!!

  8. Christi S.

    What an incredible blessing! My husband & I would definitely classify ourselves as music nerds. We actually met at a Bible study when I was asked to help him lead Praise & Worship. That was six years ago. We love so many kinds of music and came to the show last nightly, honestly because we love Bebo! But we were totally blessed by the whole night. We loved every part of it. My husband was so excited to see Andrew Osenga there; he was a fan of “The Normals” and has no idea he was still making albums. Jill& Andy were great! We were overwhelmed by the talent and the hearts of every one who participated last night. The music ofBehold the lamb totally blessed our hearts. We can’t wait to see all of you together again, and we hope to see all of you when you come back to Dallas again for this and other tours! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for blessing us with your tallents anf gifts! Merry Christmas!

  9. Frank S.

    When I read these posts, I’m so bummed that I can’t see you guys during the Christmas tour. Andrew, I hope one day that you will eat some more baby octopuss for my kids. (Columbia, S.C. army shows back in July). Unfortunately my wife and I will not be able to come to the Charlotte concert next week but I sure wish I could. Take care and merry Christmas,

    Frank Sellers

  10. Brother John

    Andrew, I loved the show in Dallas last night. It was my first time to see you and the Captains (and Squared Pegs and Friends of the Captains, Squared Pegs and Friends, etc.) play in person and I was totally blessed. I especially enjoyed the singer-songwriter “in the round” performances. It’s a real blessing to see each one of you use the gifts God has given to glorify Him and lift up the Body of Christ in the process. I’d love to see a whole concert in that format, to be honest. Might be a great way to sell CDs, too. Drive safely on your tour and I hope you come back this way when it’s time to start sharing Resurrection Letters with the world.

  11. Robert McB

    I was truly blessed to attend your performance in Sugar Land on November 30th. What distinguished the live performance form the truth and beauty of the CDsDVDs was the humanness that was so eveident in the artists – wekness, vulnerability, the struggle. This only lent greater depth and texture to the inspired work that was presented.

    This reminds me of the human side of Christ, that although He was God, He chose to be that little brave boy who made himself mothing – to face pain, and struggle and choice, yet in spite of all human temptation stood strong and chose to die. Making Him even more credible, even more real than any God could be “out there.”

    With regard to your reference to the solitude of writing versus the collbaorative nature of music, I think back to two of the highlights of the show for me – the insturmental “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and “The Theme of My Song.” The cacading beuaty of the talents each artist lent to the whole made pure magic. No offense to the artists on the CD, but the recording seems almost two-dimnesional in the shadow of the tapestry woven on the stage that night.

    Although this is my first live encounter with this production, I have every reason to belive that you open yourselves to Chrsit at each and every one of these performances and He blodly shows up thorugh your offereings. What a blessing from Him, made available through you.

  12. Mike Humphrey, Kansas City

    Andrew and Everyone,

    Behold the Lamb and the songwriter’s circle you brought to Leawood, KS last weekend was awesome. I’ve enjoyed the blessing of serving on some progressive and passionate worship teams over the last 10 years and it was greatly encouraging to me to experience the high level of musicianship (what awesome technicians you all are) combined with a wonderfully authetnic passion for reaching people for Christ. I particularly appreciate the musical example of Ben Shive–someone who clearly knows where to play something and when to put it there.

    Thanks!

  13. Tim Phillips

    I had to work a ‘Holiday’ Festival for 14 hours before being able to rush away and drive 20 miles to catch most of the second half of the show (the Behold the Lamb part) in Richardson, TX. I hadn’t been able to catch an AP concert since 2000 and REALLY wanted to be there for all of it, but feel truly blessed that I was able to witness what I could.

    My wife and a friend managed to catch the entire show and were able to share what I had missed later. We are all in awe of the awesome talents God has given to you all, and that you have come to use them so well. Far too many of us let fear hold us back or think we might fail so never try.

    A ditto from us for coming back to the Dallas area next year, and in between also! Thanks for a wonderful show… Merry Christmas!

    Tim Phillips

  14. Heart of Hope

    God is awesome! I was invited to the concert by a friend – we went to see Sarah (which I was not familar with), then at the sales table I saw CD’s by Jill -freaked out (I have used one of her songs in prison ministry for years) and then the rest, well… God showed up and the Holy Spirit soared around that place. My only content was that people were not standing and praising the Lord with hands held high (I did – second row middle – hi Andrew 🙂 I saw Him in each of you as you shared your love for Him through your music and by sharing your own “stuff” I was truly blessed. Shalom!

  15. Tom Bubb

    Andrew (and all the other super talented folks in the show) I just got home from the Behold the Lamb of God show in Austin Texas and it was phenomenal! That was one of the most moving beautiful musical experiences I’ve ever seen! It was also pretty cool to be the first person in line for the show (never done that before) and to have Andy Gullahorn dedicate “Roast Beef” to my I like Andy t-shirt. GOOD TIMES. Thank you SO much for sharing your songs with us Andrew- it means the world to me! I’ll be praying for a safe trip for y’all back to Nashville tonight.

    In Christ,
    Tom

  16. Chris T.

    Andrew-
    I can’t help but smile as I think about the show in Dallas. Days later, the memory still brings me joy. It speaks to your humility that you took time to speak with my young children after the show. The knowledge that you were fighting a cold and still spared a few moments for them only enhances our appreication for you and your music. Thank you and your Captains for leading us in worship of our Saviour on Saturday night.
    —Chris

  17. Zackary Greer

    The show the other night in Dallas was beyond our expectations. I brought with me my wife Jennifer and a couple of our friends who are also fans. The last time we saw you play was in the little town of Pampa, Texas, north east of Amarillo, Texas. We thought you did a great job then, but there is nothing that compares to Behold the Lamb in my opinion. OH and by the way we were the goofy college band that opened for you. Audios Senior!

  18. John and Veronica Rudolph

    Andrew and company,
    As a previous writer on this page so accurately put it: “unforgettable”. This is my favorite Christmastime production of all. We are thoroughly enjoying the DVD as well as the hysterical Captains Courageous skits on You-tube. You are all gifted musicians and writers! Thank you for all of your hard work–it shows in the excellent product.

  19. Kyle Raybourn

    I’m the guy that Bill (from Florida) in Response #3 talked about. I came to your concert because I’m a fan of Bebo’s, but left being a fan of all you guys & gals. By the way, while I had never heard of you or most of the other artists on stage, Bill had never heard of Bebo (I had to say this to keep Bebo humble). I actually heard about Bebo from the parent’s of Brett Dolenc (Scott & Cee Dolenc), I think Brett & Bebo used to do Young Life Camp in Colorado together. BUT I DIGRESS.

    I’ve seen some great artists perform over the years, but the performance all of you gave in Dallas now ranks as my favorite concert of all time. Sure it wasn’t like a big rock & roll type of concert with lasers and special effects. It was just wonderful, moving music. The first part of the evening was ideal, I loved the acoustic format with each artist playing a few of their own songs. Of course, I wish they could have all played even more, but I guess we would have been there all evening. Had the concert ended at the intermission I would have been completely satisfied, but I’m sure glad it didn’t.

    The “Behold the Lamb of God” performance was incredible, I can’t wait to buy copies for my friends. By the way, I did buy a few copies after the concert but I didn’t buy enough. Oh yeah, I called the LifeWay Christian Store in my area and they didn’t have the “Behold” CD or DVD in stock, I hope its because you’ve sold so many. Hopefully, I can find a way to purchase some CDs on your website after I finish this posting. While I’ve rambled quite a bit in this post, I just want you to know that I was deeply touched by the performance and hope to see it again next year.

    The messages delivered by all of you through your music and words also touched a cord with some friends that we brought with us to the concert. (My wife and I already lend our support to Compassion International, which we heard about a few years ago at a Bebo concert). I believe the two couples that joined us left the concert with a commitment to sponsor nine kids through Compassion International. While you guys definitely under-charged for your concert and may not have walked away with a financial windfall you have enabled nine more kids to receive the help they need.

    Merry Christmas

  20. Felicia Canfield

    Well I was at this Concert and I loved it! I wish I had not forgotten my camera though! I wanted a photo of me and AP! Oh well hopefully I’ll se you again Andrew! It was wonderful to meet you and to be able to tell you about my solo of Let Me Sing. You were a blessing! I hope you werent short on sleep! I will never forget talking to you! Thanks again! BTW I loved the song Labor of Love and hope to sing it in church someday! Pray that I’ll get that chance. 🙂

  21. Katie R.

    Hi! We enjoyed your Austin show. It was such a blessing to start the season on the right foot! I am a fan of the cup game (Rich Mullins) and just wanted to let you know that Matthew Begats goes beautifully with it. If you don’t know the cup game, it is on youtube.com just type in cup game Rich mullins.

    Enjoy!

  22. Adam Hutchison, Alamo, TX

    Last Friday we made our annual trip to catch the BTLOG in Sugar Land. It’s become a bit of a family tradition, and, after listening the players (AP, Gullahorns, Osenga, Ben, et al) for years, it has the feel of going to see old friends. We have the luxury of making a real trip out of it since we live about 6 hours away, so our four children identify seeing Andrew and Co. with staying in hotel and eating at Denny’s!

    It was, as always, a beautiful concert on all counts, and I was struck again with the humanity involved in an project like this. From where we sit, it’s easy to forget that the musicians are people too, struggling like us in the crowd to keep life in perspective. I think the honesty and reality that come through in the music are made even more real in person, and I, for one, am really grateful. Thanks for willing to stand up there – even when you’re not feeling well (don’t worry, we could only tell because we were on the 3rd row!), and share your hearts and souls.

    Be sure of our prayers for you all and your families as you travel. Grace and peace to you all.

  23. Nate

    hey, I was at the show in terre haute thursday night. It was great! I so appreciate you guys sharing your hearts and your songs, but especially just sharing your fellowship in a Christ honoring way. To Him be the glory. The songs tell a story which really tug at my heart. Its the story that tugs, that God broke into our sin-filled world for nothing but a smelly manger – buy hey, thats the best we could do in our sin and filth. But the songs, too, are wonderful and beautiful, and only that way because of the work of the Man who came that the story tells of.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say Great Job to everyone involved, and, though I’m Mr. Gullahorn’s number one fan (number one), I especially wanted to say good job to ben shive who seemed to make the whole thing go. He’s playing every instrument, singing incredible background vocals, just like everyone else I guess. It was a wonderful experience. Thanks a lot guys and gals!

  24. William Livingston

    In reference to the must stop at Taco Cabana. Yes, to be sure TC has some great hand made tortillas but it just can’t beat Rosa’s Tortilla Factory. What began in West Texas is now in the DFW area in case you get a chance. You can also find them in Waco, Abilene, Lubbock, and of course Midland. Best Chicken, Queso, and tortillas around.

  25. Brady

    I attended your tour stop in Wausau, WI about a month ago and was deeply moved by your ministry as well as that of the other musicians. I was expecting another “pop” christian concert, and thank the Lord that you decided to minister with your gifts instead of simply putting on a show.

    You said in this post: “The musicians assembled on this tour are humble, gentle, joyful, and I’m thankful for each of them.” Thank you for being genuine; being real; being a minister of God’s grace—Jesus. We plan on using songs from the Lamb of God album in our family Christmas devotion this year.

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