As a kind of chubby (ok, very chubby) 8th grader, I made friends immediately with the new kid from Toronto, Andy Hull. His dad and mine were both former pastors, we both played basketball, and we both had a love for music. We hung out over at his house and I got to listen to him play guitar renditions of Weezer...I sang back up. Even then, however, I knew that he was gonna be famous. He had that je ne sais quoi. He didn't really care what anyone said about his ego or his music, he just kept doing it...and it kept getting better. It's almost as if, despite his propensity to be an asshole, people fell in love with his music and, more specifically, his on-stage persona. Andy knew what he wanted to be. Everyone did.
At that time, I was playing JV baseball for Providence Christian Academy. I pitched, slowly. I ran, slowly. I played, rarely. As confident as Andy was in his music, I was equally self-conscious in my baseball abilities. Playing in the Big Leagues (Hell, even playing in college) seemed like a distant dream. After my 8th grade year I began to develop a little bit physically and as a ball player. I began throwing harder. I pitched in my first varsity game. I gave up my first varsity home run...on my first varsity pitch. Ouch! Andy and I began to drift into distinctly different groups. He started his first band (East on Autry, I think) and I started playing ball more competitively with the thought of actually playing in college somewhere. I got my scholarship to play at Berry College and Andy got his record deal and released his first album. I know that you can't really compare careers in such different areas, but it always felt like Andy was one step ahead of me.
I played in college, I played in Cape Cod, I started getting some hype. I felt like I was on my way to being famous (my not-so-secret desire). Then I looked around to see what Andy was up to. They had released their album to solid reviews, toured around around the country, around Europe, around Australia. They were getting good press and bad press...but they were getting it none-the-less. They were recording their second full length album. I heard some of the tracks, they were really good. I saw a couple of their shows. Andy was contagious on stage. His energy was palpable and his ego was very very visible. He spit on a guy in the crowd for talking. He was an ass, people loved it. Everything inside of me wanted to dislike the band. Andy and I weren't friends anymore. My new girlfriend, Ashley, was on the outs with him and his friends. He was beating me to famous. I hated it. But I couldn't help it, the music was too good and Andy was too interesting to me.
I got drafted in '08. I was now a pro ballplayer and on my way to the Bigs (it's a longer road than I originally thought). I got married to Ashley. Things were looking up! Andy got married too, they got their own record label, he released a solo album, I heard him on the radio for the first time. Ugh. Yet still, when any of my baseball buddies heard the band and asked about them, I always talked about them being old high school friends of mine. Do we talk still? No. Are we actually friends? No. But there was something about Andy and the band that made me want them to succeed. Maybe if they succeeded it meant that I would follow close behind. Whatever the reason, I was their biggest promoter in Minor League Baseball.
Now Andy and Manchester have released their 3rd full length album, their best yet in my opinion. I'm in High A with the Mets. Andy seems to have mellowed out a little bit, matured in his song writing, and still puts on a killer show. I think I'm learning how to pitch a little bit more and I'm closer than ever to being in the Bigs. He's famous, I'm not. But honestly, I couldn't be happier for him. I remember those days when he would play his Fender in the basement with the dream of selling out venues all over the world. He's accomplished that. His attitude, while off-putting at times, never accepted the idea that maybe it just wouldn't work out. He was focused, intense, and passionate about doing what he loved. As much as I wanted to hate him, he's inspired me to be better at what I do. Who knows, maybe one day we can be friends again. Maybe when we're both famous, sitting on our yachts, drinking and remembering when we were mere commoners (thanks for that reference Royal Family), we'll be friends again. Who knows.
Either way I want to take this opportunity to say...Thanks Andy. Best of luck. And this new album is great.