Announcing Apple Music’s Up Next Artist for March: Ingrid Andress, the rising Nashville-based singer-songwriter penning poignant country ballads in awe of the power of love and reckless abandon.
Remarkably, for Ingrid Andress, music wasn’t always the plan.
“I am a nomad who stumbled into songwriting and really just found it not on purpose – it was more of an accident,” she tells me frankly. But, thank god she did, given the huge waves she’s made on the country-pop scene since cropping up only last year with a handful of steady releases in preparation for her debut album to drop on March 27th.
To describe the sound of Ingrid Andress is to hark back to some of the great female storytellers of old and new – think in the realms of a grand crossover of Dolly Parton, Kacey Musgraves and old-school Taylor Swift. Andress composes tender odes, informed by neat pop melodies with country lilts. It’s the kind of music that soars in immense emotional crescendos and waves, ebbing and flowing between states of melancholy and uninhibited abandon.
Despite all the country-pop comparisons, though, for Andress, it’s always been so much more about the lyrics and so much less about restrictive genre categorisations and labels. “I feel like, for me, it’s more like singer-songwriter that can take on any genre,” she says of the kind of musical canon that she resides in. “So, that’s why I kind of don’t want to keep it in a box because, at the end of the day, it’s just about the lyrics and the story that you’re telling.”
Through the written word and her linguistic wizardry, Andress extends a gentle hand to the listener, telling us that it’s all alright and that we’re all going through the same thing after all. She wields her words as a means by which she can hone in on the humanity and compassion that lies at the very core of the human condition – a call to arms for us all to focus on what unites us, as opposed to what divides us.
Hailing from Denver, Colorado, there was always music in her life – particularly in the form of the great influence of her mum. “My mom teaching me how to play the piano was a really big part of it,” Andress recalls, describing some of her most formative musical memories. “I think most people stop playing after they’re forced to learn an instrument. But, I feel like because my mom was so insistent on all of my siblings and I learning, that’s how it all started really because then I grew to love it and music in general.”
“My mom was the one who like sang in church choir and exposed us all to different types of music. She just loved it and I was always singing when I was little,” she continues. “So, I think she saw that and wanted to help nurture that as well.”
It was powerful lyricists and wordsmiths like John Denver, though, that piqued her interest in the immense craft that lies at the very heart of the songwriting practice. Andress explains: “I feel like his whole vibe of songwriter and artist was something that was really interesting to me. Even though, at the time, I had no idea how to write songs. But, I would just sit at the piano and sing random things over little melodies that I would come up with.”
But, it was only when she happened – by pure chance – to discover the existence of Berklee College of Music that things really began to fall into place. Initially planning on going to college for sports (is there anything this woman can’t do?!), when she realised that there was a space for her to exclusively study and devote herself to honing her musical skills, she couldn’t resist the pull. Fast forward to her graduation in music composition, at loose ends with what she wanted to do, she took the deep dive and moved to the home of many a songwriting colossus: Nashville.
“I got into music knowing that I wanted to be an artist and a performer,” Andress explains. “But, I also discovered that I really enjoy singing songs about real stories and real feelings. But, obviously, I was very new to songwriting and hadn’t really given it a shot. So, that’s why I moved to Nashville because I wanted to get better at songwriting and learn how to write for myself.”
It’s no overstatement to say that Nashville is the holy grail of country music. It’s the kind of city that lives and breathes melodies and rhythms, whilst placing a particularly special emphasis on the songwriters that make up the very heart and soul of the music industry. “Nashville really taught me how to start a song from just a guitar or just a piano without noises or the track playing. So, it was really important that I moved there, otherwise, I don’t think I would have formulated the sounds that I really wanted,” Andress tells me.
Living in and amongst a buzzing hub of fellow music and songwriting aficionados, it’s no wonder that she’s stayed in the city, despite rising to new musical heights. The musical craft in Nashville centres the power of the lyrics and teaches you how to tell a story in a song that really resonates with people on a mass scale.
“The best part of this experience is having people reach out and tell me their stories of how my song made them feel or how my song helped them get through something. Or how they’re like ‘oh, you just explained this so perfectly – you’re writing about my life.’ I just think it reminds people that we’re more alike than we think,” she says speaking on the emotional relationships that can be nurtured through effective songwriting. “I think people just want to be able to relate to other people because I don’t think anybody ever wants to feel like they’re the only ones going through something. That’s why I think storytelling in music is so powerful because it just opens up a conversation for people to be like ‘oh yeah that happened to me too’ or ‘oh my gosh, I’m going through the same thing now.’”
It’s this humanity and focus on the commonalities of the human experience that underscore every Andress lyric which has attracted legions of fans to her side – consider ‘Lady Like,’ as a prime example of this in action. The lead track from her eponymous debut album has been hailed as girl power and feminist anthem – a brazen call to arms and an ode to the multifaceted nature of what it is to be a woman in this modern day and age.
“It doesn’t always have to be beautiful flowers and dresses. I feel like we as women are painting a very different picture for our generation which is hopefully empowering the next generation,” Andress smiles. “I mean I’ve had men treat me like I’m lesser than them, but as long as you’re like ‘no, I’m really not. I’m just as dope as you are’… the only time that I’ve got frustrated about it, which is where ‘Lady Like’ came from, was moving to a part of America, the south, that is still behind in as far as how they treat women. For me, I was just calling that out and being like ‘come on, are you serious? Do you really still think that women are this only one thing.’ So, that’s really where that song came from.”
“I don’t think that being a girl is a disadvantage,” she says with conviction. “My parents never made me feel that way – like, I’ve always felt that I can do whatever I want as long as I put in the work to do it.”
That’s something that really impressed me about Andress: her straight-talking, frank way of speaking about the things that lie on her mind. It’s no wonder that she puts her whole self into the songs that she pens, laying bare before the listener all the peculiarities and nuances that litter the human experience when she herself is so open and transparent about her opinions of the world and the state of play. Not one to shy away from the truth, she spins together sagas of amour and enjoyment, heartbreak and healing in a way which cuts to the very core of what it is to live and love in this day and age.
When I finish up by asking her to summarise the overall message that she wants her music to inspire in her listeners, Andress is resolute and quick to answer: “As long as you just own who you are and are okay with it, that’s a very empowering thing.” – a perfect summary of the charm and disarming honesty of the songstress.