Recently described by Sir Elton John as “reminding him of a young Joni Mitchell”, Courtney Marie Andrews has nearly 20 years of experience in the music industry despite only being 32.
Releasing a series of albums when she was a teenager and touring the world with bestselling rock band Jimmy Eat World at 18, the Grammy nominated singer-songwriter is back with a new album and a UK tour.
On that Elton John remark, she said: “It’s such a high compliment from a legendary person and I don’t even think I’ve processed it. I don’t know what to make of it, but it’s very kind.”
Andrews, based in Nashville, has always been creative but with the worldwide lockdown she found herself suffering from writer’s block.
“I wrote poems when I was seven or eight that I think in some way were songs. I wrote my first a capella song when I was eight. It was called Respect, and was a direct rip-off of the Aretha Franklin song – I hadn’t quite found my voice yet!
“Then when I was 13 or 14, I got my first guitar and started writing for a punk band I formed. I was releasing albums that are not available to the public anymore. I knew it was what I wanted to do, and when I realised that I could do it for a living, I was so excited.
“But during the first few months of the pandemic, I had a self-induced writer’s block. I convinced myself I couldn’t write. I went and quarantined with a friend in a little beach shack she had and as a result I felt this rush of a need to make a song. I imposed on myself the instruction to write a song a day and realised I could write about anything at any time if I allowed myself to, so it became a practice that bled into my creativity and I’m constantly creative now.
“It was a breaking the ice moment and it was beautiful. Now I’m creating something every day – whether it’s a song or a painting or a poem. I think it’s hard to turn off and the older I get, the more creative I become, and that’s really exciting.”
As Andrews speaks, there is an easel in the background and several of her paintings are propped up against the walls. She also published her first book of poetry during the pandemic, using the downtime to finish a collection she had been working on for some time. She is back out on the road now, coming to the UK this week in support of her latest album, Loose Future, the critically-acclaimed follow-up to the Grammy-nominated Old Flowers.
Yet it took until her fifth album, Honest Life, released six years ago, for Andrews to make the breakthrough.
“I always had a hopefulness,” she said. “I knew I’d always write songs but I’d maybe change my life course in some ways. I’d just done this really horrendous tour where I was the opener for someone lovely but I had to sleep in my car every night because there was no one at the shows and I was making $10 a night.
“I asked myself what I was doing, because I couldn’t financially afford to be in that situation. Then I made Honest Life after that tour, using all of my bartending money and back-up singing money and it changed everything.”
Andrews had often worked as a backing singer over the years, including for Jimmy Eat World, who consequently asked her to join their touring band in 2010.
“I’d toured for three years prior to that but it was busking and travelling by Greyhound bus. It was only when they asked me to go on tour that I realised it could be much bigger,” she said.
“It was a huge learning experience for me; if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have learned so quickly how the industry works.”
Courtney Marie Andrews, St Luke’s, Glasgow, Saturday
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