Music has always been an integral part of Andy Bothwell’s life. While growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, his parents and older brother would unknowingly begin to help Bothwell carve out his alter ego, Astronautalis. Bothwell now specializes in genre bending, indie rock-infused hip-hop delivered with an immense amount of intellect and endless adjectives. His upbringing undoubtedly paved the way.
“My parents were playing Van Morrison and stuff when I was really young. My brother taught me about the British Invasion; artists like The Clash and Morrissey. He also taught me about rap music when I was in middle school. He was the first person I told that I was going to be a rapper,” Bothwell says. “Then there’s other stuff that is subtle like my father is one of the most incredible storytellers I’ve ever met. That was a big shaper for my song writing. We’re a close family and place a very high price on wit.”
And it shows. Perhaps his wit is one reason he was brave enough to hit the battle rap circuit during the beginning of his career. After six years of polishing and defending his freestyle prowess, Bothwell began to tap into the songwriting recesses of his brain. In 2003, he released his debut album, You and Yer Good Ideas, which was more folk rock than hip-hop. After switching record labels a couple of times, he happily settled with the small, Connecticut-based independent label, Fake Four, Inc. which recently released his fourth and most successful album to date, This Is Our Science. The 180 from battle rapper to a nearly unclassifiable songwriter didn’t exactly happen by accident.
“I think at the start it was a conscious choice to not be “something.” What rap music was at the time was so boring in a lot of ways so there was a different goal to not be classified and push the boundaries of the genre,” he explains. “As I finished my 4th record, it became more about just writing the best songs and most interesting music and I could use any genre or style to accomplish that. It was more about the fact that I could be limitless to serve the story and the song. It became about doing whatever I wanted.”
This Is Our Science is an example of the simple brilliance that can happen from working with people you can trust, rather than big record label executives who have a reputation for squashing one’s artistic expression and individuality in pursuit of dollar signs.
“Fake Four has been really great. It’s super small and run by two people. I wanted to work with my friends, but these bigger labels were telling me what to do and it never worked,” he says. “Fake Four approached us and said ‘here’s what we have to spend on the record. How do you want to spend it?’ It’s the most successful record I’ve done. Fake Four wanted me to make the record the way I wanted to make it.”
In addition to completing an extensive European tour with Tegan and Sara as well as fellow emcee, Busdriver, the humble, carrot juice-loving artist is just excited to have his own Wikipedia page.
“That was a really kind of strange little landmark moment [laughs]. Someone actually said, ‘what!? No Astronautalis Wiki page! That’s unacceptable!’ That’s really, really amazing to me. There’s a lot of stuff that happens like that which is totally mind blowing.”
Astronautalis with Busdriver, March 12, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St., 9 p.m. Tickets are $10. Visit www.onepercentproductions.com for more information.