by Matt Conner
A new album. A new book. A new film. There’s even a new building project. Any of these endeavors would be the primary work ahead of most christian music artists, but Andrew Peterson is tackling all of these (with some helpful hands along the way) at the same time, a sign of serious creative momentum on the part of the singer-songwriter.
Whether you love his music or his books or the Rabbit Room website or all of the above, we asked the Nashville resident to detail his busy calendar. We also asked him how he keeps from letting it all come crashing down due to feeling overwhelmed by it all.
CCM: So I’ve heard some rumors about several projects that all involve you at this point. Can you update us on all that’s going on in the world of Andrew Peterson?
Andrew Peterson: Well, we’re re-recording the Christmas album Behold the Lamb of God. The whole gang is going to Sound Emporium, which is this huge room, and record it as live as we can. Everyone will be there over the same two days. It’s a combination of the current band as members of the band over the last 20 years. We’ll get into the studio and update it.
I’m super excited about it because it’s the 20th anniversary of the tour but also because when I listen to the first record, the arrangements have drifted in good ways from what was recorded back then. We thought we should make those same tweaks, lower the keys on some songs, and breathe some fresh life into the record. Matt Maher is singing one of the songs and Jess Ray is singing on it as well. We’re adding some new voices to the room, so it should be great. That should be out this fall.
I’m also finishing up a non-fiction book called Adorning the Dark. It’s a memoir about the creative process that was written to encourage other writers. I’m also working on Hutchmoot U.K., which is exciting. A fair bit of energy has gone into arrranging that from this side of the pond. We just got the revised screenplay for the Wingfeather Saga film, and we’re in the process of approving and making final edits to that before we go into the next round of meetings with studios. I’m hoping to secure the deal on that pretty soon.
Then Random House is re-releasing the Wingfeather Saga books in hardback with all new covers as a new push to the general market. That’s super exciting. I got to be the art director for the covers and they’re sorta tied into the movie. Then the Rabbit Room is doing great right now. We’re busy just trying to shepherd the growth of that whole thing.
CCM: How do you normally describe something like the Rabbit Room to an outsider?
Andrew: I usually start with our mission statement, which is “The Rabbit Room fosters spiritual formation and Christ-centered community through story, art, and music.” Then they say, “Okay, what does that mean?” Then I usually say that it’s created in the spirit of the Oxford Inklings as a way to gather people in Nashville around the intersection of art and faith and work.
I think one of the things I’m proudest of is that the Rabbit Room makes stuff. We don’t sit around and comment on things that are made without jumping into the fight and try to produce things. We’ve published 30 books and a lot of the people involved with the Rabbit Room are songwriters or authors or other things. That’s what we’re interested in doing. It’s not just encouraging creative community but creativity in general, in the highest sense of the word.
CCM: So what’s happening with the Rabbit Room tangibly?
Andrew: Well, we believe in place, that physical place matters. It’s pushing against gnosticism. It’s not that matter doesn’t matter, but we believe the gospel touches everywhere. So the Rabbit Room community has always been leaning toward embodiment and incarnation. It started out as a blog, an online presence only, with a web store, but it only took two or three years before we realized that there’s no such thing as a virtual community. Real community was meant to happen face-to-face in flesh and blood. That’s how Hutchmoot started. Starting with the first year of Hutchmoot, the Rabbit Room suddenly took shape and we saw what it looked like in real time. At the same time, it felt embryonic.
After 10 years or so and lots of prayer, we knew we needed a place. It needs a home. In one sense, we’re painting a picture, but we’re building the picture frame first. North Wind Manor is something we have plans for, but it’s also a blank canvas. We’re creating the space with open-handed curiosity about what the Lord will do for it. We hope to have house shows and lectures and Bible studies and hospitality and conversation, but we’re also pretty certain that once it’s built, it will surprise us with what it’s becoming.
CCM: Has this book been in the works for a long time? Have you wanted to speak into this particular space for a while?
Andrew: Yes, I started working on it when I was recording The Burning Edge of Dawn which was four years ago or so. I was experiencing some writer’s block from a songwriting standpoint and a lack of inspiration. I thought, “What if I just documented in real time what’s going on inside of me as I embark on a creative project?” Part of the book is memoir, but some of it is a snapshot of the internal struggle that goes into the making of a record.
It’s written so that other people who have experienced it that they’re not alone, that they’re not crazy, that the battle is the same across the board. I’ve done a handful of college classes or writer-in-residence kind of things, and I typically end up talking about the same points, so I thought I’d write them down and cast them out into the world. My hope is that when someone finishes the book, it will give them the courage to finish the thing they’ve always wanted to finish.
CCM: With so many things going on, how often do you feel overwhelmed by the output?
Andrew: It can be super overwhelming. I’ve started asking myself, “How do I keep from feeling this way in the future?” At the same time, there are days I pray for rest and days I pray for vigor. I don’t know which is the right prayer. I think some combination of the two is right.
Someone asked me recently with some concern about my tendency to bite off more than I can chew, and I jokingly said, “Well, what else am I going to do? Watch Netflix?” [Laughs] I said it as a joke and the irony is that I do like Netflix. But the reality is that I could sit around or I could do stuff. I’d rather be worn out from working too hard than feeling worn out from sitting around. Finding sabbath is the key and I’m trying to be better at blocking out chunks of time to remember and reorient myself.