The holiday season is once again upon us, and for Andrew Peterson, that means hitting the road, for the twelfth time, with his annual Christmas tour. Since writing the music for Behold the Lamb of God a dozen years ago, and releasing an album of the same title in 2004, the folksy singer/songwriter has performed the yuletide show hundreds of times throughout North America.
This year, Peterson and his team will do 16 shows in 18 days, with featured guests Jason Gray, Jill Phillips, Andy Gullahorn, Ben Shive, and Andrew Osenga. The tour will conclude, as always, with a gig at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium—a must-see event that in the past has featured such luminous guests as Alison Krauss, Phil Keaggy, Fernando Ortega, Buddy Miller, Nickel Creek, Mindy Smith, Pierce Pettis, and others.
Behold the Lamb of God (listen here), one of the best all-original Christmas albums in the last couple of decades, consists of a dozen songs that tell the story of the coming of Christ chronologically—beginning with Old Testament prophecies and the Passover, all the way through "Matthew's begats" and the title track, celebrating the birth of Jesus.
The award-winning musician (his Counting Stars was one of CT's top five albums of 2010) has also gained notice in recent years writing books for children. His Wingfeather Saga Series has won acclaim; the second in the four-book series, North! Or Be Eaten, won the 2010 Christy Award for Best Young Adult Fiction. The third book, The Monster in the Hollows, released in May, and the fourth and final book, The Warden and the Wolf King, will release in late 2012 or early 2013.
We recently chatted with Peterson—who lives in Nashville with wife Jamie and three children, ages 13, 12, and 9—about his Christmas album and tour, his children's books, the importance of the community, and something called "Hutchmoot." Read on.
What was the inspiration behind your Christmas album?
It came in Bible college in the mid-'90s when I took this Old Testament survey class. It was the first time I realized that the whole Bible was about Jesus; I never realized that the Old Testament was as much about him as the New. It just lit up my imagination, and that eventually turned into this idea: What if we could convey that through a cycle of songs about the coming of Jesus into the world?
You performed these songs live for four years before releasing the album. Why?
My record label [Essential] they wouldn't let me record it. It was really frustrating. They didn't see it as a traditional Christmas record; it was more of a concept album. At the time I wasn't selling a ton of records, so they were reluctant to take a chance. But when the label dropped me [in 2004], I was finally able to record it. By then, I had had four years of "preproduction," so by the time we went into the studio, we really knew exactly how we wanted this record to sound.
Did you have any idea that the Christmas tour would become so popular?
No, but I hoped it would. I wanted to travel the country doing this. But we also dreamed about how cool it would be to do it at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. We've done it there the last 5-6 years, and it's a dream come true. I wanted it to be a blessing to Nashville. When I'm with some of my best friends on that Ryman stage, and we're singing about this thing that unites us—the gospel—and I look out in the audience and see so many friends, it gives me an intense emotional and spiritual high. I feel this overwhelming affection for the city I live in. And we feel that way when we take the show on tour; we really want these songs to be a blessing to the communities we play in.