Andrew Belle: On new digs, new music and new flavors

Andrew Belle
Andrew Belle

Singer-songwriter, foodie and new family man Andrew Belle has put down stakes in Southern California. The Chicagoland native has a lot on his plate.

It’s been over three years since singer-songwriter Andrew Belle released “Black Bear,” the sophomore full-length that saw the Chicagoland native exploring the new (for him) turf of moody, textured electronic music. Belle, 32, is still embracing the new: He moved to Southern California this summer; he’s putting the finishing touches on his third album, arriving in 2017; and last month he became a new father. How’s the Midwesterner adapting?

Pretty well, thank you, for a guy whose plate is overflowing.

First, there’s the music. His third album, made with producer Chad Copelin (Sufjan Stevens, Broncho, Ivan & Alyosha), is almost ready, and it includes the R&B-tinged nugget “You” and the typically intimate confessional “Dive Deep,” a song, he says, “is about the moment when we let our guard down and invite another person to know us on a deeper, more meaningful level.”

||| Stream: “You” and “Dive Deep”

Belle is balancing that with being a family man, a foodie and an overall bon vivant. Via email, we asked to him about his move — he has settled in Pasadena, because “I really wanted a yard and studio space to work in,” he says — his music and what else is on his menu.

What inspired the big move?

Andrew Belle: My wife and I have talked about moving out west for years but were always afraid to pull the trigger. But lately I’ve been wanting to be near a creative community that I identify with and am more inspired by; so we decided to finally take the leap. Coming from Illinois, it’s hard not to appreciate the geography and weather here in California, but as a food enthusiast, I also really love having access to so many incredible restaurants. There are literally an endless amount of places to explore out here and we really love that.

What segments of L.A.’s artistic community have impressed you the most and why? You likely already had some acquaintances living here already — how has the circle expanded?

Andrew Belle: Since we live in Pasadena, we spend most of our time on the east side of L.A. (Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Highland Park, Eagle Rock). One of the guys that I worked with on my last record and again on this new one lives there and we’ve been able to collaborate a little bit since I’ve gotten here. And there’s a bunch of people closer to Hollywood that are a part of the Hotel Café cafe scene that I’ve seen a little bit. But honestly, most of my time since arriving has been dedicated to finishing these singles (and the album as a whole) that I haven’t gotten a chance to explore the music community as much as I’d like to. I’m looking forward to closing the book on this record and starting to collaborate more.

I guess really what it comes down to [is] I’m pretty slow at creating music that I’m proud of.

When the new album arrives, it will have been going on four years since “Black Bear.” Did you find yourself at a creative crossroads after that record? In what ways, if any, did you seek to hit “refresh”?

Andrew Belle: I guess really what it comes down to [is] I’m pretty slow at creating music that I’m proud of. First of all, it takes me a long time between records to even muster up the desire to create again because it’s such an exhausting process for me. And then once I have gotten the inspiration to write again, it takes me a long time to sculpt 10 songs that I think are worth people spending their time on. And finally, once the songs are complete, it typically takes me a year or so to bring them to life in the way that I envision them in my head. I agree four years is a long time between albums — and I plan to pick up the pace a bit — but I like that each of my albums reminds me of a different season of life when I hear them and I think my fans identify with each of them in that way too.

L.A. has become prime real estate for foodies — what are your favorite discoveries in terms of eateries?

Andrew Belle: Oh man, Gjusta in Venice and Pine & Crane in Silver Lake are most often our go-to spots. Also right there’s is Trois Familia — sort of a French/Mexican, mostly vegetarian hybrid. Night + Market Song on Sunset is probably the best Thai street food I’ve found yet. In the San Gabriel area, we’ve found my new favorite pho spot — Golden Deli. The pork fried egg rolls are unbelievable. Finally, Sapp Coffee is a tiny little Thai spot near Hollywood that people come from all over for — get the boat noodles + Thai iced coffee. Oh, I almost forgot Zankou’s Chicken. … I know it’s a chain, but it’s seriously good!

I get the impression from looking at your socials that you and your wife might be fans of day trips/geographical explorations. Any favorite places?

Andrew Belle: You’re right about that, although my wife was pregnant by the time we moved here so our ability to do anything too adventurous or strenuous has been scaled back a bit. But now that our daughter is here, we’re looking forward to next year when she’s a little older and we can do some actual hiking or camping. We have gotten out to Joshua Tree a few times, we took a day trip to Santa Barbara to see Ryan Adams this summer and then down to San Diego a few times as well. Also, we took a trip out to King’s Canyon National Park to visit some friends in July which was incredible.

And I have to ask you about the Cubs …

Andrew Belle: Football and basketball are the sports I really get into, but I do enjoy playoff baseball in October. Before we moved to California, we would try to make it to Wrigley Field once or twice a season, and so it was a lot of fun to finally see them win it all. Everyone was saying all year they were the best team in baseball, but it wasn’t an easy road and almost didn’t even happen in the end. Our daughter was born during Game 3 [of the World Series] and so we were cheering quietly (trying not to wake her) there at the end of Game 7.