Andy Offutt Irwin - Storytelling - Evolution As A Storyteller

Evolution As A Storyteller

Irwin's evolution from singer-songwriter to storyteller was gradual and over a decade in the making. While performing with his band in the early 1990s, Irwin would tell a quick story between songs. He would usually end these stories with the phrase, "but I digress," before getting back to his musical performance. One evening a member of the band said to him "You know, the digressions are the best part." When Irwin released his first album as a singer-songwriter, Banana Seat, he also included a 22-minute story recorded live during a 1994 performance at the Shakespeare Tavern. He honed his storytelling skills in his monthly appearances with the Evening Star Music Series where he would tell a story in addition to serving as host and introducing musical acts. However at this point, he did not realize that storytelling was a performance genre and that there was a national storytelling circuit.

Around 1996 while performing at the Georgia Renaissance Festival (GARF), Irwin met nationally prominent storyteller Carmen Deedy. Deedy had previously been a GARF performer and was joining several current performers for dinner after the festival. After spending several hours interacting over dinner, Deedy said to Irwin, "You’re a storyteller". Deedy explained the storytelling circuit and encouraged Irwin to develop his storytelling, splitting a storytelling show with Irwin at Atlanta’s 14th Street Playhouse. Leaving his guitar at home, "to stretch myself a bit," it was Irwin’s first storytelling gig.

Irwin continued to develop his storytelling repertoire at Evening Star and while performing as a singer-songwriter where he would tell one or two stories during a show. His second album, released in 2004, consisted exclusively of stories that Irwin had recorded at Evening Star or at Lena’s Place Coffeehouse, a monthly venue in Atlanta for singer-songwriters. However, it was the 2004 death of Irwin’s eldest son, Tristan, that spurred Irwin to actively pursue storytelling as a career. In 2005, Irwin appeared as a Featured New Voices Storyteller at the National Storytelling Festival (which Irwin refers to as the "Super Bowl" of storytelling). This appearance led him to get eleven storytelling gigs nationwide and launched his career as a full time teller.

Since his debut at the National Storytelling Festival, Irwin has performed at storytelling festivals across the United States including the San Francisco Bay Area Storytelling Festival; the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Orem, Utah; the Hoosier Storytelling Festival in Indianapolis, Indiana; the Cave Run Storytelling Festival in Morehead, Kentucky; and the Winter Tales Festival in Oklahoma City. Irwin has returned several times to the National Storytelling Festival both as a Featured Teller and to perform stories and songs at the Midnight Cabaret.

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