Losing and Wynning: A Conversation with Colorado Songwriter Andrew Wynne

Let’s start off by stating what will be come clear the moment you hear his music: if you live in Colorado and miss your chance to see Denver’s Andrew Wynne at any of his upcoming performances, you may need to check your priorities…just saying. The reality is that few songwriters, or human beings for that matter, exemplify the power and opportunity of recovery like he has. Recovery Unplugged had the chance to catch up with Andrew to discuss his journey to recovery, his music, his ambition and the close relationship between all three.

It seems fitting to mention that we caught Andrew a bit off-guard, as he was up late the night before the interview attending a late-night recovery meeting and yoga session. This should give you some idea of how committed he is to the process. Once we got down to business, however, he discussed in great detail the evolution of his substance abuse, including a family history of alcoholism and a strained relationship with this father after his parents’ divorce: “I think some of my struggles stemmed from a lack of relationship with my dad.” After the divorce, Andrew moved to Denver from White Plains, NY with his mother, who he said just wanted to get a fresh start.

While his mother found her fresh start, Andrew found a new passion in music, one that has endured to this day and shows no signs of mellowing. Unfortunately, however, it was only a few years until he also found drugs: “Right around the time I turned 14, I started smoking pot and taking acid and doing what I considered to be some of the normal things for kids to do.” Concerned about the turn his life was taking, his mother put the 15-year-old Andrew in a Denver treatment facility.

Although he first entered treatment in the mid-1980s, a time when the addiction care landscape was admittedly limited in its scope of capabilities compared to today, it was a period of growth and education for the young but precocious Andrew: “I got introduced to the 12 Steps and the principles of recovery through both AA and NA at a young age. A lot of those concepts stuck with me.” Unfortunately, however, Andrew learned that education is not always enough to sustain recovery, and it wasn’t long before he started using again: “I didn’t stay sober. I was 15 and I went through treatment and that was great; but shortly thereafter, I was off and running again and continued to party for about 25 years.”

Though obviously regretful about his prolonged period of active substance abuse, Andrew is also realistic and candid about his past as a whole: “Hindsight is always 20-20. I was making the best decisions I thought I could at the time. I had a lot of amazing experiences and some successes in both music and activism.” Andrew is a lifelong advocate of environmental causes, a passion he expresses through songs like “The Place”.

The rest of Andrew’s songs, which he tends to group in categories of “pre- and post-recovery”, boast honest lyricism, infectious melodies, sophisticated yet accessible guitar work and disciplined and insightful instrumental layering. They comprise a canon that is rich with experience and worth getting lost in for a while, whether or not you’re in recovery or have ever been intoxicated in your life. In other words, it’s music for everyone. He is, however, quick to mention the role that recovery has played in his writing process: “There are definitely themes {within the songs]. ‘The Stream’ was inspired by my first bout with recovery and having a sense that there was something missing. What I was pursuing in using, I wasn’t finding.” Although he wrote and recorded it before getting clean for the last time, Andrew claims the writing was on the wall with “The Stream” and other songs like it: “I already sort of intuitively knew that there was something more and that recovery was going to be critical to me going any further in my life.” Andrew recently parlayed “The Stream” into a full-length record of the same name, which was released on 11-15.

Regarding the evolution of his recovery and where it’s led him, Andrew had the following to say: “They talk about this disease being cunning, baffling and powerful and it’s hard to separate the influence of my addiction on my thinking versus just ordinary ego and fear-based mentality that we all experience and are influenced by. And a lot of this, for me, has just been a process of growing up, which is something that everyone at some point in their lives goes through; where their old ways of thinking don’t work anymore.”

Now, 46 years old and with nearly six years of sobriety under his belt, Andrew seems completely comfortable in his own skin, and with that comfort has come some truly incredible and inspiring music. The man who once received a grant from Musicares for his treatment seems determined to give something back the best way he can: with a guitar and experience.