Last May on the season finale of ABC’s hit series “Grey’s Anatomy,” viewers could hear the soothing, coffeehouse voice of Evanston resident Andrew Belle singing “In My Veins.”
Nothin’ goes as planned. Everything will break. People say goodbye in their own special way. All that you rely on and all that you can fake will leave you in the morning but find you in the day.
That night millions of viewers across America learned what many people on the North Shore already knew: that Belle’s songwriting can transform a 5-minute tune into an emotional event. This month, Belle performs at Good Templar Park in Geneva on July 30 and the Taste of Lincoln festival in Chicago on July 31.
Belle, who grew up near Wheaton, has a star that keeps on rising. In February 2010, he released his first full-length LP, “The Ladder,” earning him airtime on several national TV shows and a deluge of iTunes downloads.
For an indie artist in a world where signed bands still dominate popular music charts, Belle gets a kick out of the way he can use TV to promote his music. “Each episode is like 10 to 20 million viewers and then reruns,” Belle explains. “It’s just crazy how many people can hear your song like that.”
Starting Out in the Suburbs
Blessed to be able to make a living playing music, Belle attributes his success to time spent playing any gig he could get in the suburbs, including coffeehouses, sandwich shops and book stores, honing his live performance skills.
“It’s not just about paying your dues,” Belle says, “it’s about learning how to perform well before you’re ready to move up to bigger venues. For years I was doing what felt like really small gigs and I couldn’t wait to be ready to play big shows but I needed to keep working on my live act.”
Meeting a Hero
In January 2009, Belle’s break came when he opened for Brian VanderArk, former lead of The Verve Pipe, at Schubas in Chicago. Playing with the songwriter who composed one of his favorite songs of his youth, “The Freshman,” was a turning point for the 26-year-old.
“I look at what Brian is doing—he’s able to go play for a couple hundred people each night and make money and put out new records,” Belle says. “I don’t really have aspirations for much more than that.”
A Bright Future
Regardless of his aspirations, Belle is likely headed for more than just local fame. He recently returned from a successful tour of the East Coast—the first he’s headlined—and will be embarking on a similar venture along the West Coast in August.
But for now he’s resting easy at home in Evanston, enjoying life by the lake, going out to eat with his girlfriend and recording some new songs.
Between bites of a burrito bowl at the Chipotle on Church Street, Belle says, “I love Evanston because it’s only a few miles out of the city, but it still has that nice suburban feel that allows you to breath a little bit.”
If you can’t make it to any of Andrew Belle’s local gigs, download a sampling of his music for free at daytrotter.com.