Alumnus, rock star returns for Homecoming

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JessicaBills -- Switchfoot
JessicaBills — Switchfoot

On Nov. 1, Andrew Shirley, guitarist for Switchfoot, did something he never thought he would — returned to his alma mater as a rock star.

“(Music) is something that I always loved to do but not something that I thought would actually pan out,” Shirley said. “It is a rare thing.”

Performing at California Baptist University for its annual Homecoming event kickoff concert was all about a return to his beginning.

“I was telling the guys, and we had a really good laugh about it, that I was actually Mr. CBC one year,” Shirley said. “It was kind of like a stage during Homecoming just like this. Here I am now in a band getting paid to play here. It was just like coming full circle. There are not very many things in life that you are able to experience like that where you come back to the same place in a different capacity.”

Drumming up even more nostalgia, Shirley brought the guitar he used during his time at CBC while forming the chapel praise band.

“It was my only guitar all through college,” Shirley said. “I only had one because at that time I was super poor and just trying to figure out how to be a musician.”

Upon graduation, Shirley began his music career with the band All Together Separate.

After the group disbanded, Switchfoot approached the musician.

“When they asked me to play with them, they only had one tour booked,” Shirley said. “So I thought, ‘I’ll just play a few shows and that will be that.’”

A decade later, he still travels with the group. Busy years can mean around 200 espresso-fueled days of work plus travel, he said. As a father and husband, the time away from home is one of his biggest challenges.

“The amount of travel is a little crazy,” Shirley said. “Sometimes I feel like I get paid to sit on planes and buses, but you have got to bring the music to the people. … We’re a live band. We want to be out playing.”

Despite traveling around the world while performing for hundreds of thousands of people, marrying his wife and experiencing the births of his children, Shirley said each day becomes his favorite one.

“There are so many great days in life — monumental decisions made and days that formed who I am in different capacities,” Shirley said. “I hope that today is one of those days.”

The brotherhood between Switchfoot’s members is a characteristic that sets the band apart, and it is through that bond that they have been able to create honest music that resonates with listeners around the world, he said.

“The best song is the most honest song because it will resonate with people no matter where they are at,” Shirley said. “I think our songs are very honest … there is an honesty and brotherhood in this band that I have not seen before, and I worked with lots of bands before. I think when people see us play they believe that we believe what we are singing.”

He said he hopes their music provides more than just entertainment.

“I would like people to be challenged to think,” Shirley said. “We ask more questions than we give answers in our music. It is an honor when people take our songs and make them their own and think about things and allow God to work through them.

Despite his connection with the band, Shirley could not leave without one last cheer for his alma mater, the place where it all began for him. “Go, Lancers!”

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