Andrew Ripp used to be an athlete by day and a singer by night - and by that we mean he was an athlete in grade school who enjoyed singing in the shower.

The now-30-year-old says that all changed when he picked up the guitar when he was 15.

"It kind of came naturally to me," he says.

He originally began playing piano, but when he started getting serious about music, he realized that it would probably be easier to carry around a guitar than a keyboard.

Today, the singer-songwriter is the closest thing to a professional opening act you could find. He just finished a tour with Andy Grammer and Parachute, and his show with the Plain White T's at The Black Sheep on Monday is the first date of his tour with the big name band. "I've been doing the opening thing for so long I now know what songs work and what order they work and when to get the crowd in with participation," he says.

He has a love-hate relationship with being the opening act, Ripp says. On one hand, there's no pressure, because the audience doesn't expect the opening act to blow them away. On the other hand, he has to win them over and make them care about what he's doing on stage.

While Ripp ultimately wants to go on his own headlining tour, he has had some great experiences from his time as the opener. He says being on the road with Andy Grammer and Parachute was refreshing because they were kind to him. "They didn't have to be so kind to me, and I felt the love of being around people who actually cared."

The friendship he's formed on past tours is what differentiates this upcoming tour from the rest. He doesn't personally know the Plain White T's, but says friendship is almost mandatory, since being on tour means spending hours with them on the bus.

Despite opening for so many bands, Ripp has still managed to form quite the fan base for himself. The recognition he's received has landed him recording gigs with big names such as Charlie Peacock, who has won a Grammy for his music production work.

Ripp worked with Peacock on his latest album, "Won't Let Go." He says having two artists in the room was challenging, but created a tension that produced some great songs.

"He challenged me to own my ideas," Ripp says. "He made me fight for what I believed in and make a strong case for it."

The result is an album that reflects how Ripp has matured as an artist. Fundamentally, he says his music is a "soulful pop," which stays true to his signature singer-songwriter sound. However, he's attempted to go outside of his comfort zone on the album by adding more pop, folk and blues elements.

No matter how his music sounds, his priority is his songwriting. He says he used to write songs specific to his own personal experiences, but has since learned how to make his songs relatable to everyone in the audience.

"As an artist actually standing on stage singing the songs, it's easier for me to own what I'm saying if it's coming from a real place," he says. "Songs just come out of everyday experience for me."

plain white t's

With: Andrew Ripp, The Wind and the Wave

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: The Black Sheep, 2106 E Platte Ave.

Tickets: $16; 227-7625,