INTERVIEW: COURTNEY MARIE ANDREWS
I’ll be honest – I’ve never really ‘got’ country music. I don’t know what it is about it that turns me off, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the saccharine patriotism that I always thought featured prominently in most country songs. Courtney Marie Andrews has proven me wrong however, and I am more than a little enamoured with her new single ‘May Your Kindness Remain‘. Since leaving her Arizona hometown at the tender age of 16, Andrews has toured relentlessly, even sleeping under bridges and busking on the street – experiences that are woven intrinsically into the fabric of the record as she recalls the people she’s met and her own childhood. With moody distorted guitar, orchestral percussion, and gospel inspired backing vocals, the richness of the track’s timbre provides a fittingly dramatic backdrop to Andrew’s embellished country style vocals. I spoke to her about her influences, sleeping rough, and why the country music industry’s attitude towards women needs to change:
KM: Can you tell us about how you first discovered your talent for songwriting?
C: It’s hard to remember an exact moment but I’ve always been interested in songwriting. I started writing songs around seven or eight years old. They were technically poems since they didn’t have a melody but I always called them songs. I loved to sing and I loved to write, so the two merged together pretty naturally.
KM: What kind of music did you listen to growing up? You’ve often been compared to Joni Mitchell and I’m wondering if she was an influence on you?
C: I didn’t have a musical family to introduce me to music, so growing up I listened to a lot of Top 40’s pop and country. It wasn’t until my teen years that I discovered punk and indie music. I found great pleasure in finding obscure indie bands. Those bands eventually led me to the music I was most passionate about, like singer/songwriters. It was then I discovered Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and Townes Van Zandt. The artists that have not only incredible voices but incredible lyrical voices have impacted me the most as an artist.
KM: At the tender age of sixteen you embarked on your first tour, even sleeping under bridges to make ends meet. What was that like?
C: Those years were pretty magical because it wasn’t a business. It was an adventure, and I was still so young with so much to learn about music. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. They still cling to my core and define me in a lot of ways. The free-ness of the open road, and the endless well of friends and stories. They taught me how to be a road warrior and how to be grateful for whatever opportunities come my way.
KM: Having spent so much time on tour you must have encountered a huge number of people, all with different stories and backgrounds. Do you think this has influenced your songwriting?
C: Absolutely. Stories = songs. It’s never usually a conscious thing but I’ve noticed that I am constantly searching for them, even when I don’t mean to. That’s what makes a song real for me, a mix of truth and wonder. Good songs always have an acute awareness and empathy for the world.
KM: In 2017, you released ‘Honest Life’ which received glowing reviews across the board – Elton John is even reportedly a fan! Were you expecting that kind of reception?
C: I knew that I put my heart and soul into the record and I put it out there. That’s all you can do as an artist. The rest is up to the universe to decide what to do with it. I’m incredibly grateful for the reception it’s received.
KM: What is your favourite track from ‘Honest Life’ and why?
C: I wanted to create ‘Honest Life’ as a free-standing, all-encompassing body of work. So, I’m proud of that record as a whole because I really believe all those songs belong together.
KM: You recently released brand new single ‘May your Kindness Remain’ from your upcoming album of the same name. Can you tell us what the song is about?
C: This song is about keeping your goodness in a world that is constantly trying to strip you of it.
KM: One of the best things about your music is the way it presents Country and Americana in such an accessible way to fans of indie and pop music. Did you always set out to blur the boundaries between different genres or did that naturally come about as a result of working with so many different artists over the years?
C: I love melting all my influences together and not being tied to a genre or sound. That’s the beauty of being a songwriter. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon; they all made records with different sounds and influences. I love the freedom of being a singer/songwriter.
KM: Recently, Marissa R. Moss wrote an article in The Rolling Stone exposing the endemic sexual harassment that plagues the country music industry specifically. What has your experience of the industry been like?
C: I’ve had some terrible experiences as a woman in the industry including sexual harassment, sexism, and chauvinism. But I’m an optimist and people like Marissa R. Moss, and many other incredible women, are standing up to these issues. I think it’s important that we as women are vocal about these issues. That’s what’s going to make the biggest leap towards a more equal music industry.
KM: What words of advice would you give to young female artists trying to find their voice within country music?
C: Go all in. Immerse yourself in it and don’t give up! Sounds so cheesy but it’s true. The music industry has never been kind to quitters.
KM: Can we catch you live any time soon?
Yes! I’ll be touring all throughout the UK, Europe, and the US this year.