Andrew neil's complete biography
Poet, Songwriter, Recording Artist, Painter
Andrew Neil is considered an "Outsider music artist” in the spirit of Daniel Johnston, Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, and others. He is included in Ranker’s list of “Best Outsider Music Artists”, which ranks the top outsider music artists in the world. When one listens to Andrew play live, one quickly realizes they are hearing something unique, pure, distinctive, and very honest. It’s a combination of Andrews raw unpolished driving rhythm percussive guitar playing on his vintage nylon string Ovation and his soft yet powerful and emotionally charged vocals as he takes one on an uncompromising musical journey. Very subtly, one hears influences of Elliot Smith, Anthony Kiedis, Kurt Cobain, Nick Drake, Daniel Johnston, Neil Young and others in his distinctive vocal delivery and songwriting.
Andrew began writing songs following a head injury sustained in a car accident in 2009. Despite having no formal music training, he has written ~400 songs since the accident. When he writes a song, he has no idea the key to the song or the chording. He plays what he hears in his head. Andrew taught himself how to play Keyboard and Guitar by writing songs. In fact, he has never played a cover song.
After his accident and head injury in 2009, Andrew began his struggle with Mental Illness (MI) issues. He was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder and schizoaffective Disorders. He writes about his struggle with MI in many of his songs.
Andrew was Born August 9, 1988 at the USAF Academy Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado to military parents. His parents, Chester “Ray” Maternick, then a USAF Captain and Constance Ann Maternick, a Captain in the USAF Reserves, had recently moved there as a result of Ray’s reassignment to the US Space Command. Andrew was their third child. As a very young child, exhibited strength and athleticism. Though Andrew would concentrate mostly on Sports during his youth, he also developed a love for music during his early years. He would try to create mixes in the basement with his little brother, Kyle. His first ever CD was by Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers. He began to listen to the Grunge era Bands like Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers and also grew very fond of Rap music. However, sports always predominated his thinking and his visions of his future, as either a professional athlete or a career in the military. During his high school years at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, Virginia, Andrew excelled in both Football and Lacrosse. In football, he was a starting quarterback. In lacrosse he became one of the most competitive Goalies in the State of Virginia and was recruited by numerous Division 1 and Division 2 schools.
The US Military Academy at West Point recruited Andrew heavily. Following his high school graduation, Andrew attended the US Military Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS) at Fort Monmouth, NJ, where he received his nomination for the US Military Academy, West Point. During this time, Andrew would spend his free time writing rap and hip-hop lyrics. At a talent show prior to his USMAPs graduation, Andrew performed one of his “Raps” he had written. Upon graduation from USMAPS, Andrew and entered West Point as a Plebe and member of the class of 2012. However, following in his parents’ footsteps, in the military was not to be. He began having academic problems at West Point and was diagnosed with Adult ADHD at the West Point Clinic and prescribed Adderall, in an attempt to keep him more focused. However, Andrew soon realized that West Point was not for him, and he resigned his plebe year in December 2008 and returned home, not knowing what his immediate future would hold. Later on, he would say he and Edgar Allan Poe, whom he admired greatly, now had something in common, both had attended, but not graduated from West Point.
Soon after returning home to Fairfax Station, Virginia, Andrew decided to join the USMC and was accepted into their delayed entry program. He was to be bussed down to USMC basic training at Paris Island, SC in May 2009. However, a month prior to his entry into the USMC basic training, Andrew was involved in a serious car accident on 27 April 2009 and sustained a bad head injury, which was later determined to be a “TBI”. One week following the car accident and head injury, Andrew suffered a very serious psychotic break, which would forever alter his life.
Now with the immediate military (USMC) option closed, Andrew tried to get his life back on track by attending Liberty University in the Fall of 2009. He was still interested in sports and tried out for one of 7 walk-on spots on the Liberty University Football Team. Approximately 200 athletes tried out for the 7 walk-on slots. Andrew made it into the top 10 but did not make the final cut. During his brief stay at Liberty, University, Andrew began to become intensely interested in Music. Here, Andrew wrote one of first songs called “Can you Hear the Knock” on the keyboard. His stay at Liberty University was again, short-lived. One month into his first semester, Andrew had his second psychotic break. Andrew was subsequently hospitalized for four weeks at Virginia Baptist Psychiatric Hospital in Lynchburg, Virginia. Here, he received his first diagnosis of a mental illness, Bipolar 1 and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, or PTSD. Later on, he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which was later reassessed, again, as Bipolar 1.
Enter The Music:
Upon returning home to Fairfax Station, Virginia, Andrew had begun writing songs incessantly on his keyboard. He declared himself an artist, to be known as “Andrew Neil” and began becoming more and more reclusive, essentially living as a recluse in his parent’s basement writing songs, at first on the keyboard. Then, in April 2010, Andrew picked up a Yamaha G-40 nylon string classical guitar, and that day wrote his first guitar song, called “Fire is born”, on the top string. During the period between 2010 – 2013 he wrote over 200 songs, and began to upload them to Reverbnation, Soundcloud, and other online music platforms. Other artist that heard Andrew’s songs on Reverbnation and other platforms began to compare him to the great Daniel Johnston, Kurt Cobain, and others. One fellow artist penned this comment on Andrew’s Reverbnation page: "Andrew - you are like folk music's Kurt Cobain - you have that mysterious air about you and your work - wonderful creativity"
Andrew began playing at various open mics in Northern Virginia in 2011. In April while performing a few original songs at one such open mic in Alexandria Virginia, Surekha Vijh, a TV Producer, Prominent award-winning Poet and Author was impressed with Andrew’s unique sound and song lyrics invited Andrew to be a featured guest on her TV show, “Passion for Life – Inner Splendor”. Andrew played five original songs and recited some poetry. The showed aired on 1 and 3 June 2011 on Channel 10 and was repeated weekly for a month afterward. Andrew was featured along with the now late noted poet, Delores Kendrick (September 7, 1927 – November 7, 2017), Second Poet Laureate of the District of Columbia.
In addition to his Public TV Performance, Andrew performed at some music festivals in 2011 and 2012. He was beginning to get some breaks.
In November 2011, Andrew Neil was invited to play at the Deland Original Music Festival, which at the time, was considered the largest one-day Music festival in the Southeast featuring independent original music. Andrew played at two locations on 5 November: Stage 20, outside of Steve’s Downtown Music Record store and Stage 22, Mad Hatters. http://ssa.cc/d11sch.htm
In December 2011, Andrew was invited by Dan Cull, Gorilla Music, to play at the Cleveland Music Festival help at the iconic Peabody’s Downunder, an iconic Rock Club in Cleveland for 30 years. Andrew opened the Music Festival on December 3, 2011, with an hour-long solo set. Peabody’s played host to early shows to would-be arena rock bands Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction, as well as fiery performances by Gang of Four and the Replacements. Peabody’s closed its doors in 2013.
In January 2012, Andrew was selected at the 2012 “Heart of Texas Rockfest which took place March 14-17 in Downtown Austin, TX. The Rock Fest was an “Anti-festival” answer to the large corporate South by Southwest (SXSW) and at the time held concurrently. It was founded in 2000. Andrew opened the main stage at the event on the morning of 14 March 2012. The concert promoter, Adam Brewer, arranged for Justin Black, then the front man for the Band “Justin Black and Big Heart”, to accompany Andrew on drums. Justin is now a prominent solo artist in Austin Texas. Andrew played a 45-minute set.
During this period, Andrew was constantly battling his mental illness. He struggled and could not find consistent treatment. He was in and out of psychiatric hospitals, for several short stays. He attempted to work different day jobs but was no able to hold onto them. He would either get fired of just stop going to work due to the onset of major depression. The only consistent element in his life was music. It kept him going, and he kept writing songs. In 2013, he seriously considered recording his first studio album, and visited Ravensworth Studio in Scottsville, Virginia. Unfortunately, this dream would be put on hold for four years.
Major Episode, Jail and commitment to a Psychiatric Hospital:
In July 2013, Andrew’s father was on his third deployment to Afghanistan. Andrew was struggling and decided to stop taking his medication. As a result, he was hospitalized at Rockingham General Hospital Psych ward in Virginia. When he was released, he was only given enough medication for a week. When Connie tried to get the prescription renewed, the hospital replied that they were sorry be Andrew was no longer their patient. Connie scrambled to get his prescription renewed but could not get an appointment with a psychiatrist. Andrew was spiraling down rapidly.
On July 7, 2013, while experiencing a severe psychotic episode, Andrew stabbed his younger brother Kyle with a small 4-inch blade ceramic paring knife. Andrew had begun screaming and punching holes in his bedroom wall with his fists. He was hallucinating and Andrew picked up the knife and thrust it towards his brother as he thought his brother was trapped in a fluffy suite and he had to cut him out. Kyle raised his arm in a defensive move and the knife pierced through his forearm. Connie called 911 and both Andrew and his brother Kyle were taken separately to the Hospital. Fortunately, the knife did not do any permanent damage to Kyle’s arm.
Andrew was treated, stabilized, and then immediately arrested and charged with Felony Malicious wounding by the Commonwealth’s attorney. Andrew was not offered bond and spent seven months in an isolation cell at the Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange, Virginia. He was found Not guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) and committed to the Virginia State Psychiatric Hospital System for an indefinite period. He was first sent to Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia for Forensic evaluation, where he stayed for three months, and was then transferred to Western State Hospital in Stanton, Virginia. He remained there as an NGRI patient for three years. He finally was able to get the consistent help he needed.
The Music continues at western State Hospital:
About a month into Andrew’s hospitalization at Western State Hospital, he was allowed to have a guitar and a cheap battery powered Tascam recorder in his room. He began writing songs and recording them. He would the give the recorder to his dad to archive and upload to several music sites. During the first years and a half at Western State, Andrew managed to write and record 70+ songs in his room. His parents visited him almost every weekend for about an hour. During one of these early visits, Andrew implored his dad to learn to play the guitar. “you have songs in your heart as well dad, so you need to learn how to play the guitar. When I get out of here, we can write songs together.”
At what would end up being the halfway point of his hospitalization, Andrew had another Psychotic break in his room at the Hospital. He was seeing faces coming out of the walls and began to fight them. During this episode, Andrew smashed his guild guitar to pieces. Andrew was forcibly restrained, and soon became non-responsive, almost comatose. Andrew was rushed to the University of Virginia Hospital Emergency Room, in an attempt to determine what had happened to him. He was moved to acute care for tests and monitoring where he remained for several days. To this day, the cause has not been determined, but the medication he was on was suspect. He was released back to Western State hospital after four days.
Following this incident, Andrew was moved to another ward and his medications were thoroughly reviewed and modified. He was no longer allowed to have a guitar and recorder in his room. In a few months, Andrew began to show considerable improvement and was eventually allowed to go out on 6-hour weekend passes with his parents. He enjoyed going out to dinner and then to one of the parks in Staunton, Virginia. His parents would bring him a guitar to play during these visits and he and his father would jam together in the park. He began to write songs again. Andrew would write and self-record nearly 30 songs during second half of his hospitalization.
Conditional Release from Western State Hospital and Code Purple:
In April 2017, Judge Saner, Louisa County Circuit Court, determined that Andrew was well enough to be conditionally released from Western State Hospital. On 1 May 2017, Andrew left Western State Hospital and moved into a Community Services Board, Region 10, Group Home in Charlottesville, Virginia. Andrew wanted to tell his story through his music, so he and his father decided to choose 10-11 songs from the 70 songs he had written during the first half of his hospitalization and produce a record album. In order to help Andrew, his father started a small record label, Tree Heart Records, LLC. Eleven songs were chosen and mastered for the album, which he titled "Code Purple-Andrew Neil”. Nothing was done to enhance the songs. You hear them just as they recorded them in his room. You can even hear background noises at times. The album is as raw and as honest as it gets. “Coe Purple” was officially released on 10 October 2017, World Mental Health Day. The album is recognized as the only full-length record album ever produced in which all the songs were written and recorded in a State Mental Hospital. The meaning of the term Code Purple is quite appropriate as it is a message announced over a hospital’s public address system warning the staff of a violent person or patient in the hospital and/or A psychiatric emergency.
He began to play at open mics in the area. He became a regular at the Monday night Singer-Songwriter open mic held at “The Local” Restaurant and Bar in the Belmont district of Charlottesville.
First Studio Album: “Merry Go Round”:
After the release of “Code Purple”, Andrew had written scores of new songs. He decided to pursue the dream he originally had prior to his lengthy hospitalization in 2013, to record his first studio album at Ravensworth Studio. He needed a producer. With the help of his dad, Andrew became aware of Andy Waldeck, a musician. Songwriter and a music producer in the Charlottesville area. Andy Waldeck was the co-founder of the 1990’s Grunge Band ‘Egypt” and a follow-on band “Earth to Andy” which was briefly signed to Giant Records, a subsidiary label for Warner Music Group. Andrew’s dad arranged a meeting at the Mudhouse Café on main Street, Charlottesville downtown Mall. Andy agreed to work with Andrew on his first studio album which would be called “Merry Go Round”. Nathan Brown, of the band “Everything” was hired as a session drummer for the album. Andy Waldeck played Lead Guitar and Bass. Jack Sheehan is featured on Saxophone on the song “Sorry Kyle” and Gina Sobel is featured flute on “Beautiful Mess” and “Tie Dye Dinosaur”. The Album artwork was done by Bostonian Pop Artist Daniel Benayun (https://www.danielbenayun.com)
The title track “Merry Go Round” was officially released on 15 June 2018. The complete Album was released Digitally on 15 September 2018. The Physical Release (CD and Vinyl) was on 15 October 2018. There were 1,000 CDs produced and only 300 Vinyl Albums pressed. The album reached No. 59 on the unweighted College Radio Charts and No. 134 on the weighted College Radio Charts. The album remained on the College Radio Charts from November 2018 through mid-January 2019.
Second Studio Album, “Freak” and Lymphoma Cancer:
During the recording and production of “Merry Go Round”, Andrew had written even more songs, enough for another full-length album. The album would be titled “Freak”. Andy Waldeck would again produce the album which was recorded again at Ravensworth Studio in Scottsville, Virginia. This album would feature 14 tracks and would include some firsts, to include a duet. Nathan Brown was retained as the session drummer. Andy Waldeck would play Bass. We decided to bring in a established well known Charlottesville guitarist, Matty Metcalf to play lead guitar. Other session musicians were Nick A. Berkin (Keyboard), Roxanne Allison Groves-McDaniel - Mountain Dulcimer on "Drum Song", and Savannah Weaver - Duet Vocals on "All Over". Album Art was done by Andrew’s brother Kyle Scott Maternick.
The album started out without any issues. During the third studio Session, Andrew began to have issues getting his breath. He was also very tired and slept on the couch when he wasn’t involved in the recording process. When he tried to sing, he was off key and appeared very fatigued. Originally, we thought it was his Psychotropic medications he was still taking as a result of his chronic bipolar disorder. He went to the Doctors and was at first diagnosed with Bronchitis He was given some antibiotics and told to rest. His symptoms got worse, so a CT scan and Xray was done. The CT scan and Xray’s revealed a 7.5 x 4.5-inch mass in Andrew’s chest. It was actually crushing his right lung and his aorta. A biopsy of the mass confirmed a very fast-growing malignant cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Andrew was immediately admitted to UVA Hospital and preparations were made for intense Chemotherapy treatments. During this time Andrew was always upbeat and was determined to finish the album. He was told that the cancer had been caught just in time and was treatable. After the 2nd Chemotherapy treatment, the mass in Andrew’s chest was reduced considerably. It was enough for Andrew to decide to go back into the studio to finish the “Freak” album. All that was left was his final rhythm guitar tracks and his final vocals. He had to redo most of the final vocals for the album. The Album was officially released on 15 September 2019 and Andrew was declared in-remission in November 2019.
The “Freak” album charted for 8 weeks on the College Radio Charts, reaching the top 100. A member of the Recording Academy, Will Stenner, liked the album enough to submit it for “Grammy Consideration” in the Alternative Music Album Category for the 2020 Grammy Awards. The album was not nominated.
Cancer Can Rock:
Shortly after Andrew’s first Chemotherapy treatment, he was contacted by Jim Ebert, a Multi-Platinum music producer, cancer survivor and founder of the non-profit organization “Cancer Can Rock”. Jim asked Andrew is he would like to be one of the featured artists for “Cancer Can Rock”.
Cancer Can Rock is a non-profit organization founded by Jim Ebert, a multi-platinum record producer, himself a cancer survivor. Unlike most cancer-based charities, this foundation doesn’t seek a cure, rather it strives to serve a singular community: Musicians facing aggressive cancer. Donations to Cancer Can Rock go toward getting these musicians into a studio with professionals and producing a tangible result for them and their families during what is otherwise an unsettling time for them.
The song Andrew chose to record was an older Reggae-style song he had written in 2010 called “One Love One Globe”. On Friday, 2 August 2019, Andrew Neil and a host of musicians and production folks Came together at Ravensworth studio. Jim Ebert was producer and engineer. Some of the musicians were very familiar to Andrew: Nathan Brown (drums), Alex Bragg (Bass), Island Styles (Lead Guitar) and Mary Ann Redmond (Backup Vocals) (https://youtu.be/CDIUqmTnkvQ )
Release from conditions, Finally Free: (10/19/2020)
On 19 October 2020, The Louisa Circuit Court, Judge Saner, determined that all of the conditions regarding Andrew’s “Conditional Release” from Western State hospital Would be lifted. Andrew was finally free. He was able to move out of the Group Home situation he was in as a result of his conditions imposed by the Virginia Courts. Andrew moved into his own apartment in Charlottesville.
Covid impacted everything in 2020. Andrew continued to record but was not able to play out in open mics as most of the e venues were closed to public events. In late 2020, Andrew returned to the studio to record another Album. This time Andrew would record in a new studio setting. Andrew’s father and owner of Tree Heart Records had just converted a 16 x 20 outbuilding and turned it into a small recording studio. The studio was dubbed “Hawksnest Studio”.
With Music Producer and engineer Andy Waldeck at the console, Andrew recorded 40 new songs in four sessions at Hawksnest Studio. The songs were recorded live, in the studio, without use of a click track to retain a lofi feel. This album is a lo-fi live in the Studio Production and just includes Andrew and his Nylon Strong Guitar with a few keyboard overdubs. Ten of those songs were selected for his new album “Sunny Side”. Skope Entertainment Inc. (SEI) had this to say about the album “Sonically, this is a severely stripped-down recording. To these ears, it’s sometimes like a less punk/folk Billy Bragg because – like Bragg – Neil builds all his songs around his unique guitar style. Neil taught himself how to play guitar, so the chords he plays are all of his own creation. With that said, though, these melodies sound straight forward and familiar. As a singer, Neil is not any smooth operator. Instead, his singing throughout is a little rough around the edges. He’s ragged, but he’s right.” (https://skopemag.com/2021/06/21/album-review-andrew-neil-presents-new-album-sunny-side)
Early on, Andrew Neil has been compared to the great outsider artist and songwriter Daniel Johnston. This album highlights that comparison. Kathy McCarty, of the famed Alternative Art Rock Group, "Glass Eye" and close friend and colleague of the Great Songwriter and artist Daniel Johnston, wrote a brief liner note, which is included on the cover of the CD and the Vinyl. This is what she had to say about “Sunny Side”:
"Andrew Neil’s SUNNY SIDE is a revelation. The outpouring of melody and counterpoint is deeply affecting, seeming to come directly from a heart so genuine that it is almost too pure for this world. His simple, direct lyrics can seem almost too plain; but then you find them reverberating in your mind for days afterward. This is a songwriter who will find his audience, as Daniel Johnston did. There is nothing that can stop someone so focused on the songs that seem to find expression through him alone." Kathy McCarty
Working with Tiezzi:
In 2021, Andrew began a collaboration with a new band out of Richmond, Virginia called “Tiezzi”. The founder of the band, Travis Brandolo Tiezzi wanted to cover some of Andrew’s original songs and wanted to collaborate with Andrew in writing new material for the newly formed Band. In early 2022, Andrew will release two singles “Lying to Myself” and “Manic” which feature this band. Andrew Neil and Travis Tiezzi have begun to write songs for an album that will be released in late 2022. To Be Continued…….
“I hope my music leads to a positive place, where loves echoes around the Earth’s face”