by Dianne Austin
Ask 16 year old musician/singer/songwriter Andrew Yendunian what THE most important motivating factor is in his life and he'll look you straight in the eye with a great set of baby blues and say, “Well, it's to play, it's just. . .to play.”
Don't be confused though. He does agree that the ultimate goal of the game is to become a star by topping the charts with a hit song, but until that happens, all he wants to do is play music! Oh--and not just in his living room for friends and family. Not even just for a panel of judges on a Reality T.V. competition known as the Voice. No, what Andrew means when he says "to play” is--to produce music for an audience of people in a concert hall or pub, to entertain, and to get paid for his efforts while doing it. For the record, that's what he means!
Interestingly, he is able to accomplish “just playing” on a regular basis, and perhaps it's due to Yendunian's style and genre which set him apart from other kids his age who are making an attempt to break into the biz. Yes, he is a Pop Music kid, but he infuses it with old-school elements from some more traditional genres like Classic Rock, Funk, R&B and Soul. Now we're talkin' appeal for more than one generation. Older crowds love Andrew's music as well, but that doesn't mean it doesn't speak currency.
Not currency as in “cash,” currency as in “hip,” “now,” “current.” However, if you want to speak of the other kind of “currency,” Andrew does earn quite a lot of that when he plays gigs locally, of which, a great big chunk comes from the TIPS he gets! One night, he counted out $700 in tips! People like to throw their appreciation in a pot when they hear Andrew play. It's probably due to the fact that he performs as if he's been on a stage forever, when in actuality, he's only been doing this a short time--he's just a teenager!
So, with that in mind, what becomes apparent is that “out of the mouths of babes” comes not only a beautiful voice warbling silky-sweet notes that slip up and down some insane vocal riffs, but also, Andrew offers simple truths and sound advice for other newbies just starting out in the industry. Aside from his technical expertise and talent he also has great stage presence. Those who have seen him perform and meet him for the first time notice that he has an air of confidence which defies his age. Many say he is an “old soul.” This would most assuredly make him laugh since he thinks of himself as a typical, often unsure, teenage boy.
However he's perceived, he is already fast developing a fan base, a lot of which is comprised of teenage girls (of course.) THEY think of Andrew as the other type of “babe.” So, if you're one of those fans and you're reading this, here are a few of Mr. Yendunian's “likes” Just so you know.
Burgers or sushi?
Hiking or biking?
Blondes or brunettes?
Brunettes. (A blush was detected with this answer.)
And then there's this interesting and ironic fact--something not too many people know about him.
Andrew claims that when he first started playing music, he didn't have a good singing voice. This is pretty hard to believe—but he insists it's true. However, after all of the actual performance time he's accrued with people who are twice and thrice his age (there was the time when he was asked to play with Los Lobos!) and some very productive work with a couple of great vocal coaches, there is a tendency to grow musically, and at a quick rate.
Yendunian's family knew he had a musical gift early on. It was right around age 9 when it materialized on the guitar, and other people noticed as well. It was then that Andrew began visiting the local pubs that ran open-mic sessions (with Mom) and he also started getting invitations from several professional musicians to come up onstage to play.
Jimmy Paxson said this about Andrew:
We just did a rare original gig with Jim Garrison...Great stuff. We also backed up 14 year old Andrew Yendunian who is a mind-blowing young musician....This dude leads the band, plays his ass off and writes great tunes. He will definitely be someone you'll hear about. Great kid, great musician. All in all, a great night.
Ask young Yendunian about his musical influences that come from the bigger industry picture and he will say they are Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Alan Stone, and Justin Timberlake.
But who and what does he listen to on the radio?
Actually, I don't listen to artists who play the same type of music I do. I listen more to Country. I just went to Nashville a couple of weeks ago and I'm definitely going back.
During the Christmas break, Andrew's father took him on a trip to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee. It was a highlight for the Orange County born and raised, Yorba Linda High School boy.
Andrew is managed by his mom—at home (of course)--and also professionally.
Julie Yendunian doesn't only see to it that her son gets his breakfast each morning and that he does his homework at night, she also works on procuring the gigs he plays (an average of about 2 per month while still in High School) and she travels to every show, audition, and recording session he has. She has to--he's only sixteen and he not only needs a manager to manage him, he needs a chaperone to accompany him when he plays in the pubs as well.
So far, there's no "Scooter Braun" involved. The Mother/Son duo are doing just fine on their own orchestrating and running Andrew's career, but of course, they haven't quite made it to that next level of "Yendunian Productions, Inc." If one of Andrew's songs hits the charts, things may have to change as far as help that's needed in managing each day in the life of this particular prodigy. Julie and Andrew have given it a little thought, but for the most part, the prospects of giant fame are not always that attractive anyway, based on what's been happening with the too-much-too-soon- famous-train-wreck-mega-stars that attained their fame in giant proportions at an exceedingly tender age. (Must we mention their names? Not necessary.)
When he decided to try out for ABC's the Voice (on Season 4) Mom went every step of the way with her son. Andrew hung in and went through a multitude of preliminaries. He got all the way up to the chopping block—the blind auditions--in front of the panel of judges that must turn around for you so that you can pick your own mentor/judge and move on. None of them turned, but they definitely heard that special something in his performance and they asked him to return for the following season.
“They called me back, but my heart was just not in it. They wanted me to go through the audition process again the next season, but I was just not into it.”
On a more positive note, Andrew benefited by getting to work with the Voice's premier Vocal Coach, Romeo Johnson (seasons 1-4.) Although the two didn't work together during the time Andrew went through the process, Romeo did get to observe Andrew as he went through his practice and auditions and he recognized there was much talent there. Later, after the family had become friends with Mr. Johnson, Andrew had the opportunity to get guidance and instruction from one of the best teachers in the business.
Here's what Romeo has to say about young Yendunian:
When Andrew came before me in his audition, the first and most noticeable thing I picked up was his level of comfort. He stepped to the mic as if he was a veteran, an old soul of sorts. After stating that he was only 15 years old it made everything he did that much more impressive. First he started by playing a very intricate guitar riff and being a bass guitarist myself it totally peaked my interest. When Andrew began singing I was more than pleasantly surprised at the beautiful tone, range and control that he had. I immediately looked at the other casting person beside me and gave an “OK” for Andrew to be advanced to the next round. Although I heard some technique improvement that I could offer, Andrew was more advanced with his natural ability than lots of other singers were who were much older and more “experienced” than he.
And now, Mr. Johnson's advice for Andrew is this:
In order for Andrew to realize his dream in this industry, I feel he should maintain that wonderful work ethic that he has, avoid distraction, pick and choose when, where, and how to display his talents. I’d love to see him approach his career from this point on only envisioning himself as a success. Focus on the best and make them his target. Always maintain humility, but understand when you’ve been given a special gift that “to whom much is given, much is required.”
Does Andrew want to return to the Voice again soon? It doesn't seem so.
“I got a bitter taste of seeing all the politics involved and my heart was just not in it. I just feel like I don't have to go the route of the TV talent show. Not yet anyway. Those shows will probably always be around--if not the Voice then some new one. If in a few years down the line, I'm not where I want to be with my career, well then, maybe I'll try the Voice or Idol or something like that again.
“But for right now, I just want to play.”
You can catch Andrew “just playing” on Thursday, March 13th at Our Place in Lake Forest, CA. from 8-11 p.m. He's also just added Wednesday nights at Tantalum in Long Beach, CA. with Greg Carroll and the Katz 'n Jammers band from 6:30-9:30 p.m.!
After that, his monthly show schedule will be posted on his soon-to-be published website www.andrewyendunian.com and fans may check there to track his progress and keep abreast of his appearances. Andrew can also be found on Facebook and Instagram and you can follow him on Twitter. If you'd like a sample of his music just go to YouTube and search for Andrew Yendunian.
Out of the mouths of babes sometimes come amazing sounds, simple truths, and eloquent revelations. For those reasons, you can be sure that THIS babe is one to keep your eye on!