Feature Stories

Astronautalis Won't Ever Scratch His Itch to Travel

Astronautalis has a hard time standing still. For more than 10 years, his life has been lived on the road, flying by the seat of his pants and on the move. If he's not on tour, he's traveling for the hell of it, probably on a Harley. He has the itch to move and shake, and moving and shaking is what he does. And yet, for many in Dallas and Denton, Astronautalis will always be a local boy.

Born Andrew Bothwell and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, he did a stint in Dallas and has family from Texas. “I think my grandma was more proud that I ended up at SMU then if I had gone to Harvard,” says Astronatualis, who visits Denton tonight to play at Harvest House. “Denton and Dallas is really where a lot of my musical and creative understanding came from. Beyond the more direct career boosts, and the fact that I make my albums in Dallas.” Despite his love for the Lone Star State, he doesn’t plan on moving back. “I ain't got any plans for leaving Minneapolis," he says. "It has stolen my heart.”

While Astronautalis hasn't released a solo album since 2011, late last year he and friends Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver fame) and S. Carey released a collaboration album called De Oro under the moniker Jason Feathers. He followed that up with a televangelical-like campaign on social media ahead of Vernon's Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival in Wisconsin, where he encouraged people to call in and confess their sins. He reportedly was dressed in a white and red robe, with bare feet poking out of a confession booth. People would come in, confess their sins, and he would absolve them and send them on their way.

"I am still processing it all, but this was like nothing I have ever experienced in my life," Astronautalis says. "Having about 250 people share with me their sincere secrets, fears, failures and confessions — that is unbelievably overwhelming." Although he has said that he’ll take this stuff to his grave, he did share that on a scale of 1 to 10, general infidelity ranks at about 6. "It is truly beautiful, to see the common need in all of us to unload a burden. To speak a pain out loud, and the relief it is to confess."
A graduate of SMU's theater program, Astronautalis has also been busy in front of the camera. In 2014, he and Minneapolis director Isaac Gale, a member of the band Marijuana Deathsquads, made a short film capturing Astronautalis' workaholic schedule, which averages an incredible 200-plus shows per year. He even got picked out for a promotional film by Harley-Davidson as part of their Taste of Freedom Tour. The film documents the lives of Astronautalis, a pro skater, a UFC fighter, a photographer and another artist as they learn how to ride their motorcycles and captures their adventures over the course of a summer. He still "rides the hell out of his bike," which he says “is about as good as it gets.”

Despite having been in Dallas earlier this year for a show at Three Links, Astronautalis hasn't performed in Denton since the first Oaktopia festival in 2013. But he's maintained ties to North Texas: He's getting to ready to release the follow-up to This Is Our Science, which was produced here in Dallas with Grammy-wining producer John Congleton at his Elmwood studio. It's his fourth-consecutive album to be produced by Congleton, although this time he recorded in Wisconsin at April Base, Vernon’s studio. The as-yet unnamed record is also significant because, while he's been rapping for more than 20 years, it will be his first full-on rap record. Whereas previous albums have had more prolific instrumental roles, this album is rolling with the less is more factor.

Outside of this weekend's visit to Denton, Astronautalis is on a world tour that's set to wrap up this fall. Then what? More traveling, of course. "I'll probably tour the hell out of my new album, and try to continue to pull off this trick where I get to spend the rest of my life making art, riding motorcycles and traveling the world with my friends," he says. He dreams of one day working with artists as varied as Sturgill Simpson and Trinidad James. But then that type of adventure is, in both a vocational and spiritual sense, his job.

"I wouldn't do that, grind on the road like I do, if I didn't love it,” Astronautalis insists. “I really do still love it. I love the travel; I love the ritual of touring; I love the adventure; I love it all. Which is why i itch to travel, even after being on the road working for 10 months out of the year.”

ASTRONAUTALIS performs with the BoomBachs, S. Good and Greenhouse at 8:30 p.m. Friday, August 28, at Harvest House, 331 E. Hickory St., Denton, $15
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