“He’s laid his life bare.” That’s the remark a friend made after a first listen to Let the Thief Make Honest Work With His Hands, Americana singer-songwriter Andrew Michael Akins’ debut full-length album. It leaves an impression like a faint childhood scar, as if you’ve known the story for years. Akins’ poignant storytelling and genre-bending genius is on full display, as it is in his follow-up EP The Corner Room. Self-produced, each release bookended 2019, respectively, and has earned him a loyal local following in his hometown of Amarillo, TX, garnering comparisons to Gregory Alan Isakov and David Ramirez.
Born in Nashville, TN to a musical family, Andrew moved to Amarillo at only nine months old, but music city had planted a seed. During his childhood he was frequently seated near the piano, watching and listening to his father play everything from Charlie Brown to Gershwin. Eventually, at 10 years old, Andrew begun to learn the instrument himself, but after a year he dropped out of lessons. Similarly, after just a month of guitar lessons, his teacher quit. Andrew then spent his middle school and high school years teaching himself piano and guitar by ear, learning everything from Coldplay songs to classically-inspired works. By the time he graduated, he was skilled enough to be a piano performance major in college.
Though Andrew found piano performance a joy, his true passion was writing songs. He began writing at age 15, and shortly after high school he digitally released an acoustic demo album. This was met with acclaim and found him performing locally at coffee shops and house venues. After a tumultuous and trying three years, he teamed up with Tanyon Sann Allison in 2016 for his first EP, aptly named Wilderness, which shed some light on the personal desolation and discipline he was experiencing. It was met with more local acclaim and an abundance venue opportunities.
Just two months after the release of Wilderness, Andrew found himself bursting with new material that would become 2019's Let the Thief Make Honest Work With His Hands. A chronicle of his childhood, his inherited struggle, and his fight for faith, it would prove to be his most honest and provocative work to date. The album took two years to complete, with Andrew himself engineering, producing and mixing the album, as well as playing most of the instruments. While recording, Andrew took a break from playing shows to focus on playing worship at his church.
Later in the year, Andrew arrived again with another EP, The Corner Room, recorded entirely in the spare room of his home in Amarillo. It features songs that he describes, "wouldn't fit on an album", and a different musical approach, incorporating country and even progressive rock. During this time things would fall through with his worship endeavors, spurring another intense season of writing. Preliminarily named "LP2", it will focus on his own tussle with inward unbelief.
With his hallmarks of brutal honesty, inward disposition and vivid lyricism, accompanying his moving production and instrumentation, Andrew Michael Akins is sure to impress listeners for years to come.