American singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews released her first album at the tender age of 18.
The Phoenix-born guitarist has been on the road since she was 16 years old; travelling around the West Coast, she would busk on street corners and play any bar that would have her, much like folk legends like Joni Mitchell did five decades before her.
Last year, Rolling Stone magazine listed her latest album, the self-produced Honest Life, among its Top 40 Country Albums of 2016. Andrews relentless tour schedule continues this year, with her currently embarked upon a headline solo tour, which calls at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, tonight.
How did you find it producing your own album?
Producing Honest Life felt very natural because I had a great band to work out the songs with, and because it didn’t need very much production wise. The record is very raw, and close, and personal, and it’s easy to capture that when you have a great group of players at your disposal.
You gained a following doing it the old fashioned way of playing all the clubs and cafes that would have you. Do you think this is the best method for a musician to gain
experience and get noticed?
I believe everyone’s experience is unique. For me, it was an intuition thing. I really believed in playing everywhere and anywhere I could, to gain experience, and it led me to a lot of amazing places. I feel like the more you put yourself out there, the more you increase your skill set, and are able to build relationships and stories. Personally, it was the right path for me.
Your songwriting echoes many of the great songwriters from the ‘classic’ era of singer-songwriters. Are there any particular artists you’ve drawn inspiration from for your own writing style?
I love songs that transcend time. Those songs are what get my gears turning, and I aim to make records that can be listened to for years to come. There are too many great artists to name who have accomplished this skill, (Townes, Dylan, Guthrie, Williams, to name a few) but it’s a style of writing that I deeply admire.
What did your family and friends think about you going on the road at such a young age?
In the moment, my mom was hesitant, but she didn’t stop me from going. She knew that’s all I wanted to do. There was no stopping me. I was determined to be a musician. I thought I was 40 years old when I was a teenager. I’ve always felt older, and it’s strange to look back on those tours knowing I was only a kid.
Much of the album seems to be centred around travelling – do you find it easy to write when you are constantly on the road, or do you need to set aside a time to get it done?
I’ve spent lots of late nights and early mornings writing in hotels, motels, and cars. My only requirement is that I’m alone. I like to write in solitary without anyone listening. I love writing in the anonymity of hotels, being the strange singing troubadour in the next room. It’s one of my favourite environments to write in.
Are you ever nervous about baring your inner feelings in your songs? Are there certain things you wouldn’t write about, or do you think it’s better to get it out in your music?
I don’t get nervous about that. Inner feelings and thoughts end up in your songs whether you like it or not. The only thing I get nervous about is writing a song well with my best intentions, and conveying each emotion articulately and properly. That’s way more important to me.
What do you think of today’s music scene? Do you think there’s a lack of singer-songwriters having mainstream success?
There has been a lack of singer/songwriters in mainstream success for over 50 years now. Look at the charts in the 60s and 70s... Hardly any of the singer/songwriters we know and admire today topped those lists. It’s hard to be successful as a writer, if you’re not an entertainer as well. It’s not impossible though. I think there a lots of great writers and bands nowadays, but you have to search for them. There are thousands of needles in the haystack of good songs, just depends on how willing you are to scrounge for them.
Courtney Andrews plays at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on Monday February 27. www.courtneymarieandrews.com