SHERIDAN — Doug Andrews is, as a good friend once told him, “a mango in a pumpkin patch.”
Growing up in the shadow of the Bighorn Mountains in the quintessentially western town of Sheridan, Andrews has spent much of his adult life far from the familiarity of home, as an expatriate musician in Vienna, Austria.
Andrews is one of the few American singer-songwriters in the country and often performs his unique brand of Americana and folk music — rooted in the musical traditions of the American West and the work of singer-songwriters like James Taylor and Cat Stevens — for an entirely European audience.
Technically, it shouldn’t work — mangoes shouldn’t be able to grow in pumpkin patches, let alone thrive there. But Andrews said his time in Vienna has allowed him to grow as a musician.
“During my time in Vienna, I have inadvertently learned a lot more about native-English-speaking songwriting traditions,” Andrews said. “I think my time in Vienna, and my relationships with other expat musicians while over there, has helped me grow in my own career. But at the same time, the longer I’m away, the deeper my roots grow and the more I hold onto Wyoming. I have a lot of nostalgia for Wyoming, and that comes through in my songwriting.”
That deep love for his hometown makes Andrews’ annual summer trips back home all the richer.
“My personal tradition on the first day I’m back is to drive up Red Grade at 5 in the morning and watch the sun rise,” Andrews said. “I just sit in the silence and inhale. I feel like I spend my whole year exhaling. Coming back to Wyoming is my way to catch my breath.”
It’s also a way to catch up with old friends, as he did Thursday, July 29, during a performance at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center, alongside the Craft Brothers. The performance was a full-circle moment for Andrews, who started his musical career performing at the brothers’ Wild and Wooly shows at the WYO at age 15.
J.T. Craft, the youngest of the Craft brothers, said the band was excited to share the stage with someone they considered “an honorary Craft brother.”
“My brother Dave and Doug were the best of friends growing up, and he was more or less another family member,” Craft said. “If there was another Craft brother, Doug would be it…He has his own musical stuff going strong, but we always seem to circle back and do these shows together.”
In the past, Andrews has played a metaphorical second fiddle to the brothers, but the roles were reversed during Thursday’s show as Andrews stepped into the spotlight to promote his third album “Movin’ On,” which is set for release later this year.
“They are some of my best and oldest friends,” Andrews said of the Crafts. “I couldn’t think of a better way to launch an album.”
With the release of “Movin’ On,” Andrews will continue moving on, as well — returning to Austria later this year, but also pursuing a master’s degree in songwriting from the Berklee College of Music. He also hopes to tour the U.S. later this year to promote the album.
Wherever his travels take him, the call of the West will keep luring him home, Andrews said.
“Sheridan will always be my home,” Andrews said. “My life can be hectic, but coming back home is always a breath of fresh air.”