It’s been four years since Andrew Sweeney stopped performing full-time, settled into his home in Kalispell and tried, like so many others, to pick out a career that suited him.
The 29-year-old, however, never could quite shake the music bug, and after spending the last 12 months rediscovering his voice and writing new music, Sweeney decided it was time to take another shot at the career he’d wanted in the first place. So the Columbia Falls native picked up his guitar, recorded a cover of Jason Aldean’s “You Make It Easy,” entered it in Bee Broadcasting’s annual Flathead’s Got Talent competition and hoped for the best.
It went better than even he could have imagined.
The Columbia Falls native — now performing as Andrew Raymond Sweeney — won the online vote and will open for the to-be-announced headliner at this summer’s Northwest Montana Fair and Rodeo, a show he hopes will jumpstart his career’s second act.
“I’ve been working really hard the last year to get my voice back and my chops back, and this is the first thing I’ve done since I decided I wanted to get back into it,” Sweeney said. “And to have that kind of response meant a lot to me.”
Sweeney credited Tommy Edwards, a friend and fellow finalist in the Flathead’s Got Talent competition (with his band Man and the Box), for helping inspire his return. Edwards also plays with the band Comatose Posse and figured something out recently that Sweeney had believed was impossible.
“Tommy’s been a full-time musician the last few years and what’s so cool about the competition is starting to meet those other artists and build that network,” Sweeney said. “I’m starting to see that it is possible to be (full-time) musician — I didn’t know a person could do that (in the Flathead Valley).”
In recent years, Sweeney has added to his resume by working as an actor in commercials and short films, and he plans to continue booking acting gigs along with musical ones in the future. Sweeney’s goal is for his performance at the fair this fall to be his musical “kickoff” ahead of to-be-announced shows later in the fall.
The last two headliners at the fair were country music stars Trace Adkins (2016) and Dustin Lynch (2017), and this year’s featured act should be announced next month.
Fans of Sweeney won’t have to wait until August to see him on stage, though, or to see any of the Flathead’s Got Talent finalists. All five — Rheannon, Ben Bridwell and Here to Make Friends are the others — will take the stage at Casey’s Pub and Grill in Whitefish on Friday, April 27 for a free all-ages showcase beginning at 8 p.m. The two-hour performance is a unique, family friendly chance to see local musicians on stage in Casey’s second-floor performance space, a spot usually reserved for DJs spinning for 21-and-over crowds.
Flathead’s Got Talent is in its second year, having replaced the Colgate Country Showdown that was once held annually at the Majestic Valley Arena. In last year’s competition, Kalispell’s Jael Johnson was the top vote getter and opened for Lynch at the Flathead County Fairgrounds in August. Bee Broadcasting and Kalispell Ford sponsor the contest, and the Casey’s show also serves as the opening of Ford’s annual Peanut Butter Drive to fight childhood hunger. Those planning to attend are encouraged to bring a jar of peanut butter to donate.
For more information on Friday’s showcase, visit www.caseyswhitefish.com. To find out about Sweeney’s upcoming performances and to hear his music, including his new single “Red Wine and Brandy,” search for Andrew Raymond Sweeney on Facebook, Apple Music and Spotify.