FREE MAN

Andy Griggs has a hit, a long-awaited new album - and inspiration at home

Story by Wendy Newcomer • Photos by Morrison/Wulffraat

I was very ready for this album to come out," says Andy Griggs, sitting on the couch in his home outside Nashville.

It's been three long years since Andy's debut, You Won't Ever Be Lonely, made him a star. Now that the follow-up, Freedom, is out - and his hit, "Tonight I Wanna Be Your Man," has cracked the Top 15 - Andy can breathe a sigh of relief.

"I've got a lot of prayers and tears and laughs, hopes and dreams - everything - in this record," he says. "I was ready to give it wings."

On a rare day off in the heat of summer, Andy's spending time with wife Stephanie, an artist who's given their ranch house its eclectic, stylish decor. Andy points to the textured gold wall behind him.

"This is my favorite part of the house," he says. "I came home one day and she'd caulked that wall. I thought, 'Man, that looks really cool.' It was white. The next time I came home it was painted gold. I was like, 'Wow, I love that!' We wanted that wall to be the main focus.

"Lately we've been knocking walls out," says Andy. "Or they've been knocking walls out - my wife, her sister and her sister's husband. They've helped out a lot. I had a real long run on the road - three weeks - and when I came back it was a totally different house!"

Andy admits he's not much of a handyman. "I painted this wall blue," he offers. "You can tell I did it because you can see all the screw-up spots I've gotta go back over. I'm a terrible painter. You know what? I suck at most everything!"

Well, not everything. With three Top 10s from his first album, You Won't Ever Be Lonely, he's clearly doing something right. Andy hopes for similar success with Freedom - a title that sums up his point of view these days.

"Freedom is where I'm at," explains Andy. "Freedom in my marriage with Stephanie. Freedom in my music, freedom on the road. I've learned a lot about freedom with my songwriting. Freedom in my relationship with God and friends."

One of those friends happens to be Martina McBride, who Andy invited to sing on his next single, "Practice Life." Getting one of country's superstars to work with him was surprisingly simple.

"I asked," he says with a smile. "She says no a lot - but I didn't realize that until everybody else told me. I guess she has a lot of people asking her to do things. But I asked if she would be a part of the record and she said yeah. We sent Martina a few songs and she chose 'Practice Life.' I love the way it turned out. With her vocals, Martina took it to another level."

As he penned songs for Freedom, Andy realized his songwriting had reached another level. "I don't think you get better or worse," he says of the craft, "you just evolve. But one thing I've learned is having the courage to write about something real - something that hurts. I guess that's the plate I stepped up to in the last two years. I don't want to write tongue-in-cheek, and I don't want to always write about a perfect ending.

"I want to write about sitting outside at one in the morning, feeling more lonely than ever before," he continues. "I'm not saying all things are negative, I'm saying I want to write what's real - and that takes courage. I'm just now learning that. It's not easy."

Making a marriage work when you're on the road for long stretches isn't easy either. Andy takes a realistic look at love in the song "The Road To Lasting Love." "Love's a battle every day," he declares. "You've gotta fight to keep the woman or man next to you. It's work. Ask Stephanie - she'll probably tell you the hardest thing to do is be married to an artist. You're gone a lot. That song is kind of about us.

Discover Andy's dreams in the current (8/20/02) "Newsstand Issue" on sale now!

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