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Singer Andrew Varner features Columbus with ‘love letter’ to city

Courtesy of Andrew Varner

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This is part of our weekly series titled “Columbus’ Own,” where we profile a local band every week.

In an age where indie rock and unabridged hip-hop thrives, Andrew Varner works full time to continue the catchy, sonically attractive nature of pop music.

“I like pop. I think pop has everything you want in it,” Varner said. “I grew up listening to everything. My mom and dad had very eclectic tastes.” 

The musical career of Varner has been a dynamic one – he has moved between Nashville, Tenn., and Columbus twice during his life, ultimately settling in the southern state just earlier this year. 

Varner was born and raised in Defiance, Ohio, and moved to Columbus to attend school at Columbus State Community College. Varner did not graduate from Columbus State, however, because in 2005 he left school and moved to Nashville for the first time to pursue a music career. He performed regularly at a Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar there for about three years, as well as making time to record his first release, the “Make Believe” EP in 2009, Varner said. 

The release of Varner’s EP coincidentally coincided with the Big Bang’s decision to open up shop in Columbus. With that, Varner moved back to his home state to work as the entertainment director at the newly established location and perform shows in promotion of his EP, Varner said. 

Columbus’ Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar is located at 401 N. Front St.

It was also at the Columbus Big Bang that Varner met guitarist Matty Monk, who performs regularly with Varner during live shows. Monk and Varner took to campus’ own Scarlet & Grey Cafe, located at 2203 N. High St., on a weekly basis to perform, Varner said. 

“I had some of the best times in the world doing that,” Varner said. It was in performing these shows that Varner first began to develop a following.

Like Varner, Monk resides in Nashville, where he moved two years ago. He said Nashville is the place to be for musicians aspiring to make a career out of performing. 

“If you want to do the musician thing, you’ve got to go where it’s going down,” Monk said. “You can land big tours there faster. You really can’t do that in Columbus, Ohio. You can if your band blows up, but to find an artist that tours nationally is next to impossible unless you’re already an established musician.”

Along with Monk, Varner’s band includes Kasey Todd on drums and Varner’s younger brother, Nate Varner, on bass guitar. The younger Varner also lives in Nashville, having made his move to the city official as of two weeks ago, Nate Varner said. 

Nate Varner, like his brother, is a full-time musician. The brothers diverged in their musical paths early in their careers, but Nate Varner said they “tried to do a band thing together.” Andrew Varner’s new album, “Shades of Red,” released April 9, and its supporting tour presented that opportunity. 

“His original music was always something I wanted to be a part of,” Nate Varner said. “There were always songs I liked. I always wanted to play with him.”

Twenty-seven-year-old Andrew Varner said he wrote some of the songs on “Shades of Red” when he was 17 years old. This can be attributed to his patient style of songwriting.

“If songs take years to write, I let that happen, I guess. It’s really frustrating, but I’ve been at both ends; I’ve tried to push a song and release it before it really had time to fully develop, and I’ve let songs cook and stew for years before they’re ready to go,” Andrew Varner said. “I don’t mean that I got lazy with it, I mean it’s just the inspiration isn’t there. I know that there’s something that’s going to happen that will allow me to finish the song.” 

“Shades of Red,” like Andrew Varner’s EP, was recorded in about four months’ time in Nashville. This is what he dedicated his time to when he moved to the city for the second time early this year.

However, unlike the EP, Andrew Varner’s full-length album was not released on a label. He said the label he was signed to did little to support him, which affected his decision to do everything himself on the new album. 

“The label that I signed to pretty much didn’t do anything they promised,” Andrew Varner said. “I had to fend for myself: book a lot of shows on my own, market my own record and kind of play the role (of the label).” 

Complications with a label originated with his EP release. Andrew Varner said he does not plan to sign with a label again anytime soon. 

Although Andrew Varner has moved around quite a bit, he said he makes it a point to show his love for Columbus. Andrew Varner refers to the last song on “Shades of Red,” titled “Scarlet Town,” as his love letter to Columbus.

In a similar vein, Andrew Varner said he hopes that the accessibility of his brand of pop music helps entertain listeners at live concerts as well as understand his music on the record. 

“I hope my music is accessible for anybody,” Varner said. “As long as I’m saying what I mean, and as long as I’m trying to say something that is intriguing, then I’m OK with it.”

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