Andy Rieber

Andy Rieber

 Bandon, Oregon, USA
BandCountryFolk

Andy Rieber is a song lyric writer who specializes in cowboy, western, and country music. Her lyrics are often drawn from her personal experiences working on ranches, or based on real people and places. She recently placed first in the lyric category of the Great American Song Contest 2007.

Biography

I fell in love with cattle ranching about the same time I started my PhD studies in philosophy. This is not a conventional career track: studying logic and writing papers half the year, the other half learning the “cowboy logic” of calf –pulling, gathering cattle, haying, and hard work. I’ve been a visiting scholar at Harvard one semester, and living in a 12x12 bunkhouse on a northern Nevada ranch, working for thirty-five dollars a day the next. What became perfectly plain, after leading this dual life for a time, was that agriculture was my greater love. And it’s out of this love that my song ideas tend to flow.

In August 2006, I sat down to write a song about Shane, a friend of mine who lives in a teenie map dot of a town in southern Iowa. “Harvest of Gold”, I called it, was my first song. I wrote it for the heck of it, because I thought Shane was special and he needed his own song. And for the heck of it I entered it in the Great American Song Contest (because you never know!). So it was a real surprise when my humble effort received an honorable mention. And so it goes… The following year my second song “Big Montana Sky” (written for another friend who cowboys in Montana) won the lyric category. It is humbling to be appreciated in this way. All I can say is that I try to get across a story, and a feeling, about something I love and care about. If people can get a feel for the rare and beautiful ranch and farm lands in our country, and the folks who still work on them, I guess I’ve done what I set out to.

It is interesting how a disaster in a person’s life can teach a lesson, and sometimes even offer a gift, if you are sharp-sighted enough to see it. My disaster was getting Lyme disease. I have been battling with this unruly passenger since 2002. It has taken me to specialists on both coasts, to medical doctors, alternative practitioners, acupuncturists, herbalists, and every other thing imaginable. Worst, it has made it impossible for me to do the ranch work that I love to do most, or even to work a “normal” job. Being on disability is yet another humbling experience, especially when you’re young and strong and aching to work with the cows and horses. But as I inch back towards health, I have begun to discover the small gifts that illness leaves in its wake. I now especially appreciate the multitude of small beauties in the world around me, and the great strength and soulfulness of people. Seeing more has caused me to want to share what I see, and song lyrics are a natural and simple way of sharing. There is truly something very special about singing how you feel, and although I am not able to write music for these songs, I imagine them as though they are sung.

My mother learned to play piano from Pete Seeger’s mother. I was raised on Pete and Woody, the Weavers, Joan Baez: dyed-in-the-wool folkies of the old school. It was a sound education of honest, plain dealing, no-frills music. I still like songs that tell a story, or teach a lesson. I love songs about places and people. When I write, I try not to be clever, just honest. I want to paint a picture with words that makes the listener feel like I do. But this is a delicate thing. A listener can’t be told how to feel; they have to find their own way there. So when I write, I just try to put that feeling out there for them, and let nothing be forced. Heroes? Ian Tyson, Michael Martin Murphy, Alison Krauss, George Strait, Johnny Cash, Lucinda Williams, Neil Young, among others. And I still enjoy the old folk music (and any song about a train!).

Right now, I am living on a beautiful ranch in southern Oregon, where a very wonderful family has made me welcome to stay here while I mend and recover. (I will post some ranch photos soon.) Meantime, I will continue to write about the land and its people, and (who knows?) maybe some other ideas, too. It may be that song writing will prove to be its own adventure for me, if I am able to make folks feel things with these songs. If you should read them, and would care to comment, I would be very appreciative of an email. Until then, friend, may your joys be great, may your troubles be small, and may you always have a good horse under you.