Singer-trombonist Glen David Andrews always knew that a musician can’t do his best if he’s high.
“For some reason, musicians got this idea that, if they get loaded, they play better,” he said. “You actually sound worse. And in the process, you’re killing your creative gifts.”
Andrews, a musician from the musical Treme neighborhood whose cousins include Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and trumpeter James Andrews, knows the pitfalls of addiction all too well. He stayed in the grip of drugs and alcohol for years, until he couldn’t help but see the damage done.
Andrews wasn’t sleeping, his weight was dropping and he was getting in trouble. Following two much-publicized confrontations with a girlfriend, the musician faced serious criminal charges in 2012.
Amid the chaos, Andrews decided to make a new album. But before he recorded “Redemption” in November at The Living Room, a West Bank studio and former church, he made plans to turn his life around.
In the summer of 2012, Andrews entered Right Turn, a rehab program near Boston designed for creative people and founded by musician Woody Giessmann, former drummer in the Boston garage-rock band the Del Fuegos.
Nearly two years later, Andrews is living in the light.
“I have been extremely blessed to get to a hugely positive place,” he said.
To achieve sobriety, Andrews put his career on hold, including the multiple tours he scheduled during the height of touring season, to spend four months at Right Turn.
“What’s a career if you’re living in all the darkness that I was in?” he asked. “I made the smartest decision of my life, which was to drop everything and focus on me.”
In rehab, Andrew wrote songs that he’d later recorded for “Redemption.” In the seriously funky “Bad By Myself” he sings, “I’ve been down that road before and I know it leads to a dead end.” In soul ballad “Surrender,” he asks a higher power to banish his trials and tribulations. And Andrews celebrates a new life with the breezy positivity of “Movin’ Up.”
“I’m singing about being in darkness and coming to light,” he said. “And I knew that more opportunities than I could ever image would come my way if I got my life together.”
Andrews lived with the songs he’d written in rehab for a year before joining producer Leo Sacks in the studio. Sacks has more than 300 albums to his credit, including recordings by Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Earth, Wind & Fire. The producer told Andrews that he’d already made the first, biggest step.
“Leo said, ‘Getting your life together, that’s the main thing.’ And he said, ‘The second component is for you to realize that we are not doing a New Orleans record. We’re doing a record for the entire nation.’ ”
The varied “Redemption” contains the hard blues-rock of “NY to Nola,” a gospelized rendition of pop singer Gavin DeGraw’s “Chariot” and straight-up gospel of “Didn’t It Rain” (featuring the sampled vocals of New Orleans-born gospel great Mahalia Jackson).
“I worked real hard to show that New Orleans musicians are more than jazz and brass bands,” Andrews said.
Andrews and Sacks used the singer-trombonist’s own band in the studio as well a select number of supportive guests.
“The idea was for everybody to rally behind me,” Andrews said. “We all come together to make one solid project.” Two fellow New Orleans artists who also struggled with addiction — Ivan Neville and Anders Osborne — are among the guests.
“Ivan came in the studio wearing a pair of Saints tennis shoes,” Andrews recalled. “I was like, ‘We can’t go wrong now.’ And he’s been a positive supporter of mine for a long time. I’m really blessed to be in good company now.”
Andrews saved his light-on-its-feet interpretation of soul star and funk pioneer Curtis Mayfield’s “Something to Believe In” for “Redemption’s” final track.
“Curtis Mayfield is a huge influence on me,” he said. “And I couldn’t figure a better way to end the record than to reinforce believing in myself.”