Interview: Andy Frasco grows up for his liver

Could it be that Andy Frasco is maturing? He’s returning to touring this winter, and fans can expect Andy Frasco & The U.N. to still bring the party on stage (or somewhere in front of the stage when Frasco is crowd surfing). But the singer/keyboardist is toning down the partying and other shenanigans that typically happened on and off stage on past tours. Andy Frasco & The U.N. are coming to the Commonwealth Room on March 3, 2023, and he sat down with Salt Lake magazine’s Allan Scully to talk about his new direction and the upcoming album Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

“I’m doing it for my liver,” Frasco said when he phoned in for a recent interview. “I’m turning 35 this year, I’m 34 (now). I’m all about the party, but I want people to know that I’m a songwriter, too. So I’m just really dialing in my songwriting, really dialing in my musicianship, so I know I can’t blame my partying for my sh***y songs…I love partying and I love giving the people their entertainment, but I also want to give them something to think about.”

The fact is, by the time the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, Frasco was not in a great place. He’d been drinking too much and doing cocaine and finding his life-of-the-party behavior had left him wondering who his friends were and battling some genuine bouts of depression. 

No one wanted the pandemic, but being forced off of the road gave Frasco the much-needed opportunity to take a hard look at himself, figure out how to get his life in a better place and decide if he still truly loved writing music and going on tour.

“I was just very selfish,” Frasco said, citing one of the contributing factors to his emotional issues. “I was like doing things and not thinking about others. All of a sudden people wouldn’t start calling me back. I was realizing maybe it is me. I always blamed everyone else that I am on an island. But maybe I’m putting myself on an island. So I had to like figure out the (situation) and realize what was making me sad. 

“Before the pandemic, I didn’t want to be there. And I was faking a smile because I was just too depleted,” he said. “I had to look at myself in the mirror, like what are you doing this for if you’re not going to wake up? You preach happiness and you’re not even happy, so why do you keep (doing) it?” 

One significant change was to kick his cocaine habit. He also cut back on drinking, although he admits he still enjoys his beverages. But the supply of Jameson liquor is lasting longer these days, as he and his band have moderated their intake onstage these days.

“There’s still drinking. I’m not going to lie to you there,” Frasco said. “But it’s definitely more toned down. We’re drinking half a bottle of Jameson a night, not the full bottle.”

The changes in behavior won’t surprise those who’ve been paying attention. Especially on the 2020 albums Keep On Keeping On and Wash, Rinse, Repeat., the album that arrived last April, it was clear Frasco wasn’t just offering escapism in his music.

That was a main theme for Frasco after he founded Andy Frasco & the U.N. in 2007, began touring and released the first of eight studio albums in 2010. 

One look at song titles like “Mature As F***,” “Blame It on the P***y” (from 2016’s Happy Bastards) or “Smokin’ Dope n Rock n Roll” and “Commitment Deficit Disorder” (from 2014’s Half a Man) and it was obvious that Frasco and company were bringing the party with funny, sometimes bawdy lyrics, a disregard for rules, decorum (and sobriety), and a rowdy sound that mixed rock, funk, blues, soul and pop.

The approach generated a good bit of popularity, as Frasco and the U.N. began what became a consistent routine of playing roughly 250 shows a year—a pace that continues to this day. Along the way, the band especially caught on in the jam band scene and festival circuit.

But especially with Keep On Keeping On, Frasco started to shift the narrative of his songs to more thoughtful subject matter, a direction that continued on Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Frasco still kept the tone of the lyrics light, while the music on these two most recent albums stayed buoyant and catchy as ever. But Frasco’s lyrics now wrestled with topics like getting older, maintaining his mental health, finding happiness, being considerate and appreciating life as it happens.  

Keep On Keeping On arrived shortly after the pandemic hit, and with touring halted, Frasco didn’t worry about taking the next musical step for quite a while.

Instead, he took to social media. He hosted a video “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” Dance Party and started an irreverent variety show podcast series he called Andy Frasco’s World Saving S***Show. But much of his podcasting work was devoted to a series he calls Andy Frasco’s World Saving Podcast. It features interviews—some of which get downright deep—with musicians and other celebrities, commentary and comedic bits. The series has gained considerable traction and Frasco, who is frequently joined by co-host Nick Gerlach, will continue doing these podcasts even as he returns to a full schedule of touring, songwriting and recording.

With all of this activity, it wasn’t until about six weeks before he was due to return touring in 2021 that Frasco realized he wanted to have new music for the upcoming shows and charged into making Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

He traveled to several cities—Nashville, Charleston, S.C., Los Angeles and Denver—to write and record with other songwriters, a process that helped him sharpen his songwriting chops as the album took shape.

“It was basically like going to songwriting school,” Frasco said. “Like I wrote with 20 different songwriters and I wrote with like 15 different songwriters in Nashville, and I wrote with a couple of guys in Charleston and a couple of guys in L.A., and instead of like the mental state of ‘I know everything,’ I went in there with my mental state of ‘I don’t know anything.’ It kind of helped me grow into the next phase of my career.”

Feeling he was in a creative space, Frasco spent a chunk of last year making a new album that’s now finished and is targeted for release before this summer. The new album reflects a new development in Frasco’s life.

“I think it’s a love album. I finally committed to someone and I’ve been writing about her,” Frasco said. 

The songs, though, aren’t all about romantic bliss.

“It’s scary as hell. I’ve never had a relationship,” Frasco revealed. “I don’t even know what the f*** I’m doing. That’s what I’m writing about. Like is this OK?”

Some of the songs from the next album are popping up in set lists on Frasco’s current tour with his band, along with material from Keep On Keeping On, Wash, Rinse, Repeat. and older fan-favorite songs. 

“We’re testing out the new songs we just wrote to see how they fit with our live show,” Frasco said. “I have two different philosophies when I write songs. Sometimes I write songs for the record and sometimes I write songs for the (live) set. And these new songs, I was really focusing on trying to write it for both. It’s been really nice. It’s given me confidence that I can write songs for both the (album) and for the live show.”

  • Who: The Motet with Andy Frasco & The U.N.
  • When: Mar 3, 2023
  • Where: The Commonwealth Room
  • Tickets and Information: thestateroompresents.com

See more music coverage from Salt Lake magazine.

Alan Sculley
Alan Sculleyhttp://saltlakemagazine.com
Alan Sculley has operated his music feature service, Last Word Features, for more than 25 years. His music features and reviews have appeared in more than 100 daily newspapers, alternative weeklies and entertainment publications.

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