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Americana’s new generation: an interview with Courtney Marie Andrews

ByMagdalena Pulit

Mar 12, 2018

Courtney Marie Andrews has been on the road since she was 16.  She has spent over a decade honing her craft, releasing six albums and playing with the likes of Jimmy Eat World and Damien Jurado. Her seventh album May Your Kindness Remain will be released on  23 March, and showcases her signature blend of indie-folk and Americana. We caught up with Andrews, ahead of her UK and Ireland tour, where she will make a stop at Edinburgh’s Summerhall on 19 April.

What was the process of recording your fourth album, May Your Kindness Remain?

I was actually gonna do it in the same studio where I recorded the previous album, but when I got to the Litho Studios in Seattle I had this artist’s sinking feeling in my stomach that I had to do something different. I contacted the producer, Mark Howard, and I asked him to produce the album. We recorded it in a big glass house overlooking the LA skyline, pretty much live, without a click.

Did the LA sun match the album better than Seattle rain? 

Some tracks definitely feel like that. More than anything, the theme matches it really well because LA is a melting pot. It goes from poverty to extreme wealth and the record deals with those things.

Kindness is a recurring motif on this album. What does this word mean to you?

I’m not religious and I realised, after many years, that my moral compass and gospel is kindness. It’s not always easy and I’m aware of the flaws in humanity, in myself and in others. But I also feel that this is something to strive for: some people strive for God, I strive for kindness. In moments of complete despair, even the smallest smile at the grocery store feels comforting. Especially as a musician, you’re so far removed from humans that you start to feel isolated and lonely. So musicians are literally getting by on the kindness of strangers.

How is the album photoshoot connected with this message?

I wrote a lot on poverty and depression, so I wanted to create a space that wasn’t perfect, but that also felt like a dream. There are strange books, empty bottles, a TV that’s always on but nobody ever watches it. This is the sort of space I spent a lot of my childhood in.

The album cover is one of the few chances we get to see you without a guitar. Is guitar your comfort zone? 

For many years, it was my safety blanket. I’ll never forget going to a party when I was 14 and feeling completely like an outcast. But if I had a guitar in my hands, I felt comfortable. It’s definitely a safety bubble.

You touch upon issues like mental health as well as poverty and feminism. Is it the artist’s duty or privilege to speak up in social matters? 

As a songwriter, I feel it’s definitely a duty to be an emphasiser for the world. You have to be observant and understand what’s happening, especially when you’re singing songs in a traditional way, like I am. It’s important to be tuned in to the world. Right now we’re living in a time with a lot of change, discourse, sadness and confusion, and I can’t help but write about those things because I’m experiencing them as well.

Feminism especially has always been an important part of your music. How does it feel to be a woman in the music business? 

A lot of times people just assumed that I couldn’t set up my guitar or mike. I heard ‘What do we have to do for you?’. Even when it wasn’t outspoken, I felt the vibe ‘you can’t do this.’ I’m really stubborn, I wanted to do everything myself and prove that I could. I’m in a band with guys and it often goes straight to them when it’s me who’s headlining. I’m just as capable as men. We’re hitting US and Europe now – with me as a girl boss.

Do you feel that your music, inspired by American folklore and mentality, is received differently in Europe and that you need to find a new way to present it?

What I have is what I have, and I present it everywhere. I don’t try to change anything for a specific country. I say the same jokes, and if people don’t get it, it’s fine.

In the UK people are a bit reserved but they’re very good listeners. Americans tend to be very loud. The balance is actually the best – too quiet is scary, too loud is obnoxious.

Have you ever played in Edinburgh before?

Yes, I played in the Caves. It was so beautiful, you don’t often get to play in an old, medieval cave.

Do you have anything special planned for the upcoming gig?

I love Scotland, it’s one of my favourite countries. Everybody’s so nice and I have great memories there. We’ll bring the new record and put on a rock show with beautiful ballads in between, and have some drinks afterwards. It’s gonna be a great night.

Image: Laura E. Partain

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