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The Sound

Andrew Ripp’s uncomfortable confession


Andrew Ripp performs at the M-Shop in Ames on Friday, Feb. 7.

Andrew Ripp performs at the M-Shop in Ames on Friday, Feb. 7.

Andrew Ripp has three albums under his belt since debuting in 2008 with “Fifty Miles to Chicago,” but the industry vet first cut his teeth helping write winners for other performers, including Ryan Cabrera’s 2005 Top 40 hit “Shine On.” But as is often the case, Ripp could only watch the quality head out the door for so long before deciding to try his own hand at recording.

“I just hit a point where I felt I needed to man-up, in a sense, and define my own success,” Ripp explained. “It was no longer about people accepting me. It became more about what I can offer others, to speak life into the world and offer hope through my music.”

His first two albums, the above-mentioned “Fifty Miles” and 2010’s “She Remains the Same,” were highly regarded collaborations with artists such as former Dishwalla drummer Pete Maloney and former Tonic bassist Dan Lavery. And without the benefit of extensive amounts of airplay or a major label push, Ripp still managed enormous success: “She Remains the Same” hit No. 1 on the 2010 iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart. But for 2013’s “Won’t Let Go,” Ripp has returned to his roots in a way, and, for the first time, is listed as a writer or co-writer for every song on the album.

“I wanted to write more songs than I’ve ever written just to have a pot full of great songs,” Ripp said. “I picked the best 12 out of 70.”

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The result is an album that Ripp feels is the closest he’s come to showing the world who he really is as an artist. It’s a deeply personal album in which Ripp bears his soul in a way he feels all good music should.

“I try to be as honest as I can possibly be when I’m writing a song,” he explained. “I think that’s what the listener wants: total vulnerability from a writer.”

And it’s in that act of flaying open his soul that Ripp feels like he finds his creative sweet spot.

“(‘Won’t Let Go’) is most true to what I love musically,” he said. “It sounds like something I would listen to, which is pretty exciting to me.”

Once the album was finished, Ripp hit the road in support of the release and did so in a way that made an already very personal musical experience even more intimate. Touring with former busker Andy Grammer, Ripp took the new album’s fully-arranged songs and stripped them back down, turning it into an acoustic show. It had a powerful effect on songs that already cover pretty serious ground, including Ripp’s own road to personal recovery.

“It’s been a bit challenging taking full band songs and turning them into an acoustic delivery,” he admitted. “But I think it’s helped me grow as a performer, and the response has been amazing.”

And for Ripp, that means a visceral reaction to his desire to come clean, and it’s what drives him. It’s from where he feels his best work comes. “Won’t Let Go” is Ripp’s best work to date.

“It was a war, to be honest,” he said, describing the process of producing the intensely personal album. “You can hear the tension in that record. Music is a feeling and an emotion. If you’re comfortable in the moment when you’re recording, I don’t know that you’re getting the best out of the song or the experience.” CV

Chad Taylor is an award-winning news journalist and music writer from Des Moines who would love to take his talents abroad if the rent were not so much more affordable in Des Moines.

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