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Interview: Ingrid Andress talks debut album, songwriting and touring the UK

We spoke to the rising country star as she prepares to release her new record Lady Like.

Ingrid Andress
Credit: Warner Music

Ingrid Andress has quickly become one of the most popular new country artists.

After impressing UK audiences when she made her live debut here at C2C: Country to Country last year, she followed that up with a headlining tour last autumn, including a sold-out London show. Meanwhile, her debut single More Hearts Than Mine hit the top 10 in the US, and she’s also scored hits as a songwriter for artists including Charli XCX, Sam Hunt and Alicia Keys.

As she prepares to release her debut album Lady Like, I caught up with Ingrid to discuss the record, how her approach to songwriting has changed, what surprised her about the UK audiences – and how she’s coping with social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic…

The last 12 months have been huge for you – what have been your highlights?

Oh man! Probably just hearing people sing my lyrics back to me, because coming from nobody knowing who I am to all of a sudden people knowing is a crazy experience. Going from playing shows at dive bars where everybody is requesting Wagon Wheel and not listening to your songs, to people singing the words back has been an incredible rewarding experience.

You’re about to release your debut album – can you tell us a bit more about that?

Yeah. All the songs are real stories that I’ve either gone through or people close to me have gone through. It’s definitely more of an emotional album. But I wanted it to be very concise – that’s why I put eight songs on there and I didn’t really want any filler songs that a lot of album have. I wanted every song to be meaningful. Yeah, it’s just all real stories and real emotions.

Did you find it difficult narrowing it down to just eight songs? Or was it quite an easy decision?

It was pretty easy, honestly, because some of the songs I wrote three years ago and some I wrote very recently. But I feel like the theme and the way in which I wanted these songs produced all fit together very well. And I just feel like the stories are strong, and so to me that is pretty easy to pick out which ones match each other.

You co-produced the record as well as writing all the songs. Is that creative control something that’s quite important to you?

Yes, it’s very important to me, because I feel like I have an idea in my head of what I want it to sound like, and I feel like I’ve been songwriting long enough to actually be able to contribute to the production of things. Because I have met with a bunch of producers and how people usually do it in Nashville is you pick one person to do all the songs, and to me that doesn’t really work for my style of creativity. So it was very important to me that I be a part of the production, because I think a lot of the time songs tend to sound the same as things that have already been done if you just leave it up to one person who has probably done many records that are successful. But to me it’s more about me getting it to sound the way that I hear it, rather than just handing it off to somebody. So it was really important for me to be a part of that. And it was fun too. I enjoy doing it. So it was really cool to figure out ways to make all the songs fit together as one piece.

Is it something you’d like to do again in future – either for yourself or for other artists?

Totally! It’s such a cool creative process, and always reaching and trying to bend genres is something that’s really fun and exciting to me. So yeah, I would totally do it for another artists. I’m planning on doing it for all of my albums. So it’s a part of the creative process for me that is important. Even when I’m writing songs I’m hearing in my head how I want it to be produced. Because most of the songs just start at the piano, very bare, because I think if a song can just stand alone on a guitar or piano then it’s a good song, and then you should take it further.

You’ve mentioned this record has been quite a long time in the making. Has your approach to your songwriting changed in that period?

I’ve changed as far as maybe certain things that I’ve wanted to talk about and expanding it from just heartbreak. But as far as that, I feel like the lyrics to me have always mattered, and that telling a real story has always been the way that I write. So I think as far as all of them sounding they’re the same time period, I think they do as far as the type of stories that they’re telling.

I wanted to ask you about the storytelling aspect and the way you build characters and put twists in the songs – is that aspect of giving people something unexpected important to you?

Yeah. I think, for me that’s the craft of songwriting. All the songs that I grew up listening to, for me they’re either really emotional and don’t have a twist or they are very clever. And I find that that’s really a fun way to listen to music and it causes you to think differently, and I always like things that challenge my perspective or make me look at things a different way. So that’s what I’m hoping my music does – I hope it makes people feel understood while thinking ‘oh I haven’t thought about it that way’.

You started out as a songwriter and worked with several pop artists before moving into performing. How do you think that influenced your approach as an artist? And do you write differently for other people compared to for yourself?

I feel like I purposely chose to do songwriting first because I always knew that I wanted to be an artist, but I wanted to make sure I could tell stories from my perspective. So that was very intentional. And the process of going from songwriter to artist was actually pretty easy, because I had songs that I knew were very personal to me and that I’d wanna sing over and over again. And also I just got to know who I was more and what I wanted to write about, so I think that’s important as an artist – knowing where you stand.

And then as far as writing for other artists, it definitely is a different way of writing. It’s like a different headspace, because you want it to mean something to you as well, but it’s really more about how you can talk about what that artist is feeling and going through. So it’s more about them. You still have to put a little bit of yourself into it in order for it to feel real, but the hope is that that artist feels connected to what they’re singing about.

You made your UK debut last year at C2C and then had a headlining tour here in the autumn – how did you find that?

It was so great. I think we sold out, so I feel like it was a really awesome experience. There were a lot more people that knew about my music than I thought there would be, and it was really cool to hear how much people related to some of the songs. They’ve gone through the same things and it’s really cool to realise we’re all more alike than we think and we all have the same emotions and feelings. So it was really awesome. And plus the food is amazing there. I would go back just for the food.

Was there anything about the audiences here that was surprising or unexpected?

Everybody is super respectful. Like a lot of the audience in the US, they’re very loud the whole time – in a supportive way, but over there everybody is listening so intently. At first you’re like, ‘are people alive?! Are they having a good time?’ And then you realise that it’s just because they’re listening and being so respectful and wanting to hear the lyrics, and only get rowdy after you’re done playing. Otherwise while you’re playing it’s like everyone’s so quiet. I was like, ‘whoah! Weird! But I love it!’

What have you learnt from touring and being on the road over the years?

Well what I learned from that is how much energy I get from people and playing live. It’s just so fun. And I mean, that was really my first tour that I went on as myself, so that was a really cool experience. Even learning how to get ready in a tiny green room. It was just like an adventure, like not really knowing what was really gonna happen and just taking it every day as it comes. Yeah, hopefully. I was supposed to be on the Dan + Shay tour but that postponed, but I got to experience the first three days of it, which was awesome. It was like an arena tour.

I also wanted to ask you about More Hearts Than Mine. Did you know that song was special when you were working on it?

I mean, after I wrote it I was like, ‘damn, that is a good song’. But I didn’t really think that people would react the way they have done to it. Because most of the time the only songs that get paid attention to are the uptempo party songs. I really didn’t think that people would connect to it as much as I did because I wrote it from such a personal place, and it described my life perfectly but I wasn’t sure if other people would be like, ‘oh yeah, that’s happened to me’. So the fact that it’s doing what it’s doing is just crazy to me.

You’ve been nominated for an ACM Award (for Best New Female Artist) – how did you react when you found that out?

I was definitely super surprised, because I feel like I’m very new to this whole thing. I was in an Uber heading to the airport and so I was so excited and told my Uber driver. I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I’ve been nominated!’ and he had no idea what I was talking about. So it was a very humbling moment as well. Like I was excited, but then I realised, who really cares, honestly? It was fun though. I think all the nominees for that category are very strong. I wish that we could all win.

What are you doing to keep yourself busy during social distancing? Are you working on new music?

[laughs] That is a great question. I feel like I’m actually enjoying it, because the past year has been so crazy and I’ve been on the road. I’m pretty much never home. So I’ve been reading and it gives me a lot of time to write. I feel like I haven’t really been able to do a ton of that. So it’s been a weird time, just because I was so mentally prepared to be on tour at this point, but I think it’s also a blessing because it gives me creative time to just chill and sit back and be like, ‘wow, that has been like a crazy, crazy time’. But in a good way, for sure.

What do you have in the pipeline for the next few months? Obviously the album and I know you’re going on tour with Tim McGraw in the summer…

[laughs] Yeah, we’re planning on coming back over to the UK at some point, if I’m allowed to. But yeah, the plan would have been just basically being on the road and gaining more experience from that, and releasing more music throughout the year on top of this album coming out. So at this point, who knows, but that is the plan as of now. And if not I’ll just keep writing music the way I always do and put it out.

Ingrid Andress’ debut album, Lady Like, is out on 27th March 2020.

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