by Mark Geil
The mutual love of music has brought people together since the first notes were played. That common bond helped kindle a friendship the first time Andrew Ripp stepped into Chris Rice’s living room and saw the piano there. “When you’re a musician,” Ripp says, “and there’s a piano in the room, you have to sit there and start playing.” So, Ripp started playing, and just like that, the pair found themselves writing a song. And so began seven years’ worth of random lunches and hangouts that resulted in the most improbable album in some time, Songs We Wrote on Tuesdays.
Chris Rice is familiar to many CCM fans following more than a decade of impact, starting by writing for others before making his own massive hits on CCM and then mainstream AC charts, and then suddenly departing from music following his 2007 release What a Heart is Beating For. He has continued to create visual art and poetry, but he has stayed about as far out of the spotlight as you can get.
By contrast, Andrew Ripp is familiar to many general market music fans, again by writing songs for other artists that netted multiple Billboard pop chart successes before releasing his own albums and touring with the likes of Andy Grammer and Sara Bareilles.
We spoke with Ripp about the origins of the pairing and the new album, Ripp + Rice, and the unusual creative process used to make it.
CCM: How did you and Chris Rice meet?
Andrew Ripp: I moved to Nashville maybe nine years ago and met Chris soon thereafter. Chris came to a show that I was playing. I had heard some of his music before, but when I met him, I didn’t realize those were his songs I had heard. Chris is just such a sweet-hearted individual, very unassuming. Just by meeting him and not having a back story, you wouldn’t know that he’s brilliant.
CCM: And eventually, you found yourself in the living room where he recorded his instrumental albums?
Ripp: Yes, we had grabbed some lunch one day, and then we walked back to his house, and he’s got a grand piano. So I just started playing, and we found ourselves writing the first song we wrote together called “Gorgeous.”
CCM: Wow, that’s my favorite song on the album.
Ripp: It was this immediate ‘Oh my gosh, what just happened?’ I said, ‘We’re going to be doing more of this, whether you like it or not!’ He was like, ‘I don’t really do music anymore,’ and I said, ‘I didn’t know that you did a ton of music in the first place, but wow, you can write a song!’
CCM: This seems like such a Nashville story.
Ripp: That’s kind of how our community works. You hang out with people, and you wind up in a great conversation, and songs start popping out. It’s unique. I lived in L.A. for eight years, and that wasn’t the deal. There’s something special about this community. You ask real questions and go deep. You care for each other. The LA scene for me was more ‘what can you do for me?,’ and the Nashville scene is ‘what can I do for you?’ The competition element is there, but it’s healthy.
CCM: Although you’re established in Nashville, in some ways this album will introduce you to the CCM world. Are those intersecting worlds in your mind?
Ripp: My music has never been rooted in the Christian world at all. I just love the Lord. When you’re a believer and you write songs, it’s inevitable that your songs will exude the heart of the writer, and my songs have always come from the heart of my faith. It’s cool that people who have no idea what I’m talking about relate to it. The Holy Spirit breathes on something and the heart of an unbeliever—or a believer—moves in a way that they can’t explain, but it’s so good because it’s God.
I grew up listening to Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty. I also remember thinking Jars of Clay didn’t have anything to do with the Christian world. Even Amy Grant, when the Christian world got mad at her for her crossover, that’s when I heard her songs. When she got out of the Christian world, it made its way into pop radio, and that’s what I was listening to. I love blurring the lines, I don’t need to be a part of a club. I just love making music and I’m grateful that people listen. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to come and talk to a Christian magazine and share my heart. It’s such an honor.