Andrew Osenga’s Leonard, the Lonely Astronaut
Andrew Osenga is an independent musician based in Nashville, and JG and I are big fans. Ever since we heard his solo stuff at a Caedmon’s Call concert, we’ve followed his career eagerly. One of my favorite things that Andy has done was write songs based on submissions people sent him, resulting in a really cool album called Letters to the Editor. His music is so well crafted and interesting, and I basically love anything he produces.
A year and a half ago, Andy posted his latest idea on his blog:
My next solo record is going to tell the story of a man named Leonard Belle. He lives 300 years from now and loses his wife in a sudden accident while their divorce is being finalized. In his rage and grief he takes a gig driving a long-distance space freighter for a year. (Due to relativity, by the time he returns to Earth everyone he knows will be old or dead.) He decides to bring along some antique instruments and recording equipment (just like the stuff I have!) and will make a record.
This is the record I will make; the man whose story I will tell.
I’m going to build the interior of a spaceship, like the set of a play or a movie, and record the album in there. In uniform. I think it will be crazy fun, inspiring and will allow me to really get into the character and the idea and give it everything I have.
That night, I asked JG if he’d read about the new concept, and he said, “Yeah, I don’t get it.”
“I know, it’s totally weird.”
For the next year or so, I followed along with the progress of the project — writing songs, building the spaceship, recording, taking pictures — but I never got it. I didn’t know what to make of it. There would be a story, or something? And it would be like, astronaut music? I shook my head. I don’t know about this one, Andy. Maybe we wouldn’t buy this one after all.
And then in April, Andy posted a video for a song off the album, “Ever and Always.” I listened to the song, and everything clicked into place.
The lyrics and drive of the chorus caught me right away.
She brought the sea to a landlocked boy
Held my heart, taught me joy
And I’m hers completely, ever and always
I loved the image of bringing the sea (and the stars and beauty and color) to a lonely boy and all that it symbolizes in the new things that a loved one can bring. As if that weren’t enough, the bridge hammered it home for me.
Love is motion
Love is action
Love is choosing someone other than yourself
Love is freedom, rest, and passion
The heights of pain and healing tower like a mountaintop above everyone else
And I’m yours completely
Whoa. This was the songwriting I remembered. I immediately pre-ordered the download.
People, I love this album.
I was dubious at first, but the whole thing hangs together. Each song is really strong and stands on its own, but they all contribute to the overarching story of loss and regret. I don’t think it’s necessary to interpret the record through the lens of “sad astronaut traveling through the space/time continuum,” but it adds more depth to lyrics that are already striking and true. Although the conceit of the astronaut threw me off initially, I see now that it serves to highlight his sorrow and distance in an illustrative way. The more I listen, the more I understand how the lyrics apply universally to grief and growth. Together, the songs work to create Leonard’s narrative of sadness, acceptance, and forward motion. It’s very ambitious for one collection of 14 tracks, but they do a lot of heavy lifting.
“Ever and Always” continues to be my favorite track, but I really enjoy the rest of the songs, too. I was listening to this album while Ted and I took a walk downtown in the early morning, and it was the perfect music fit. The air was cool, the sun had just risen, and the town was still asleep. The pace was just the right walking beat, and I seemed to notice more with the introspective soundtrack in the background. It’s that type of music, if that makes any sense. It makes you think, but not in a didactic, harsh way. It questions you softly and waits while you mull it over.
Tomorrow, Leonard, the Lonely Astronaut will be available for purchase, and I encourage you to give the music a shot. If you are into supporting independent musicians, then know that you are doing so with this purchase. Andy’s home underwent major damage during the Tennessee floods this year, and he is rebuilding his house from scratch. Most of all, you should buy this record because it is really, really good. It’s heartfelt and complex and poignant. I hope you buy it, and I hope you love it.
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