21st Century Troubadour by Andy White Is an ‘On The Road’ for Musicians

21st Century Troubadour

Book Review
Title: 21st Century Troubadour
Author: Andy White
Publisher: Lagan Press
Released: 2009
Pages: 320
ISBN-10: 1904652727
ISBN-13: 978-1904652724
Stars: 5.0

Freewheeling, mordant, rumbustious, 21st Century Troubadour is a travelogue into the imaginative heartlands of rock and roll. It’s the journal of a slightly twisted love affair with life, art, music, the musical life and all the combinations thereof.

Its author, Andy White, is a complex, Belfast-born, Cambridge-educated man who travels the globe as a 21st-century troubadour—hauling an acoustic guitar, a laptop, and a 70 lb. Bag. There are Rules of the Bag, with his life in it. This brilliant poet/musician spends half the year away from his beloveds and their house on the hill in Melbourne. He has worked with such music legends as Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, Sinead O’Connor, and Tim Finn (though he doesn’t talk much about this in the book) and was once the director of the World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) festival in the UK. 

White earns a living playing his exquisite, intelligent, and heartfelt songs mainly in Europe, America and Australia but has given up trying to answer the question, “where’s my home?” Andy’s a citizen of the world, comfortable in his skin, confident of his gift, and has seen and done more in his 49 years than most could ever imagine. I confess that I fell a wee bit in love with him after reading this book.

His publisher at Lagan Press wanted a journal, an On The Road, and White delivered in spades. 21st Century Troubadour is an On The Road for musicians and music fans and is even more accessible to this generation than Kerouac’s masterpiece. It’s a collection of thoughtfully written snapshots of Andy’s life as a touring musician between 2000 and 2008—an engaging, funny, and poignant chronicle that cries out for a sequel. In the meantime, fans like me can stay in the loop by following his blog.

As a lifelong music fanatic who has read countless volumes of music biographies and autobiographies, I can honestly say that no book with a musician as its central character has ever moved me more than this. Of course, it probably helps that I’m close in age to White, have met him, and can identify with all of his pop and cultural references. Still, I had so much fun reading the prose of 21st Century Troubadour that I re-read it and savoured every moment of his myriad of adventures.

Andy has an earnest, spirited, yet realistic view of the world and the people he meets and seems to take something meaningful away from every encounter. 21st Century Troubadour began as a tour diary/blog through which he shared his concert experiences. It evolved into a descriptive account of the places he’s been to and the assortment of remarkable characters he’s met along the way. As he affirms at the very beginning of the book, “there is no narrative on a 21st Century Troubadour’s tour. There is no plot and only a few recurring characters. Nothing is certain except that nothing is certain.”

Reading this journal, you’ll discover just how unglamorous most of a touring musician’s life is as Andy chalks up millions of air miles, waits in airport departure lounges, and maintains a steady diet of sandwiches and KitKat bars. He sleeps in hotel rooms if he’s lucky. He’s slept in some pretty strange places—and prays that the gigs booked via email aren’t cancelled before he gets to his destination (places like Soweto, Berlin, Glasgow, Alaska & Tokyo, to name a few) and that they’ll be financially lucrative. There are lists, poems, and advice on checking large amounts of bags on budget airlines without paying excess baggage fees and what to do when you’re mistaken as one of U2. I understand Andy was also taken for a member of Sting’s band. So naturally, he wants to know which band member he is supposed to be. His list called ’56 Reasons Why The German Concert Will Be Empty Tonight’ and section on ‘The Hugh Grant Pack’ are particularly funny! At the back of the book, two interviews with Andy offer even more insight into his fascinating character.

It can be a rough road sometimes, but Andy wouldn’t have it any other way. His hilarious tales of a troubadour’s Hell and Nirvana will make you smile, laugh, and nod your head to acknowledge his pleasure and pain. 21st Century Troubadour is a must-read for anyone who dreams of being a touring musician, knows one, or loves music.