Musician Andrew St. James (S4E27)
Photography by Michelle Kilfeather
Andrew St. James's birth mom was a tour caterer for the Rolling Stones.
In Part 1, the musician traces his lineage back to his being adopted by a young San Francisco couple. Carol moved to San Francisco in 1971. She worked at the Gap and what used to be Live 105 and KMEL. Nathan was born in Brooklyn to Holocaust survivor parents. After his New York marriage fizzled, he hopped on a motorcycle and rode to San Francisco in 1978. Nathan and some friends opened the original Captain Video stores. The two met when Nathan went to buy radio advertising from Carol.
The couple lived in Glen Park when they adopted Andrew, then they all moved to the Sunset District, where Andrew was raised. Andrew shares early memories from both neighborhoods.
He sang in the San Francisco Boys Choir for a number of years before getting jaded at a young age. He decided to branch out more on his own, and so he bought an organ. He soon began playing rock music with friends roughly his age—12.
Andrew got into Urban High School, which he shares the background and philosophy of for us. Andrew says that by the time he entered high school, in the late-2000s, that philosophy had more or less gone by the wayside.
In Part 2, Andrew starts with the different bands and music projects he took part in during high school. He got a guitar and started writing solo songs when he was 16.
Andrew shares the story of how he got his stage name. (Surprise! Andrew St. James isn't his real name.) It involves being totally smitten with a woman way, way older than he was at the time.
After high school, he moved to Boston to go to Berklee School of Music. The twist—he got in on the wrong instrument. Turns out, he didn't dig college life too much. He had just released a record, Doldrums, and it got wide critical praise. He went to New York to play a show and was immediately awestruck by the city. It all led to Andrew quitting college and recording another album: The Shakes.
In 2014, The Killers' manager called him and had him do a residency in North Beach. But San Francisco had changed so much in his short absence that Andrew moved to LA, a town that had been luring him. It turned out to be a wild but pretty brief stay, as the pull of San Francisco and family brought him back.
Once he returned to The City, Andrew started playing with a friend and touring. He hooked up with a producer to start putting on shows at Amnesia, and with that, the Fast Times Presents series was born. For Andrew, the aim was to bring together San Francisco's many segregated music cliques. He's the first to admit the messiness of the music events. They eventually relocated to The Chapel to accommodate a bigger audience, but then the pandemic hit and Andrew took his show to the streets, literally.
Starting in September this year, Fast Times Presents events have moved to Make-Out Room. The next show is tonight (Nov. 18).
We end this podcast with Andrew reflecting on our Season 4 theme: We're still here.
Shout out to Ashley Graham for connecting us with Andrew.
We recorded this podcast at Hyde Street Studios in the Tenderloin in November 2021.
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