‘I wanted it to sound like that sensation of possibility': Courtney Marie Andrews' wild new albumPosted by Mike Schuck
‘I wanted it to sound like that feeling of possibility,’ … Courtney Marie Andrews. Photograph: Alexa Viscius
Loose Future, the Arizonan's most recent album, sees the end of a "dark time" in her life and rebalances her longtime ties with songwriting and isolation
Listen to Courtney Marie Andrews' soul-searching alt-folk and country songs about breakups, breakdowns, poisonous relationships, and breezy affairs, and it's clear that the poet is willing to put everything on the line for a sincere song. She acknowledges that her honesty contrasts with how she presents herself the rest of the time.
“You know what’s really funny,” Andrews says via video from her home in Nashville, “in my personal life, I’m not very revealing at all. At some point, in my childhood, I clicked that I didn’t have to burden anybody with my stuff, and I could just put it in a song, or put it in art, and that would be enough.”
But Andrews' latest album, Loose Future, is a change of direction: a quick-paced, carefree collection of songs about independence, rebirth, self-love, and putting dedication aside for the future. Its expansive, somewhat psychedelic soundscapes perfectly complement its rambunctious themes. According to Andrews, "I wanted it to sound like that sense of potential you get when driving down a coastal highway with the sun setting and simply thinking: things can be fantastic.
Courtney Marie Andrews: These Are the Good Old Days – video
Andrews didn't always welcome freedom with such joy. She was raised by a single mother who worked two jobs in Phoenix, Arizona; as a latchkey child, she had to become used to being by herself. Andrews admits, "I was extremely theatrical and felt a lot. Because I didn't know where to put my many strong, irrational feelings, I would project them onto everyone around me. Poetry evolved into a form of personal expression (Andrews published her debut poetry collection, Old Monarch, last year). "I used to sing and compose these poems while I walked home from school if I didn't have a friend to chat to. And I found that to be quite beneficial.
Andrews was exposed to country music growing up. She used to be driven about by her "cowboy grandpa," who lived out in the desert, while listening to country music in his vehicle. I used to perform country karaoke at Mr. Lucky's Woodchip Saloon with the help of my mum. In the middle of the 2000s, when she was a teenager, she took up a guitar and rebelled into feminist punk, busting out versions of Bikini Kill and the Violent Femmes with pals in a high school band. We needed tunes, I realized, says Andrews. When I realized it, I was unable to stop writing.
The moment she heard Lucinda Williams' album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road in 1998, she had an insight that brought her back to Americana, and the decision was made. At the age of 17, Andrews published her first album in 2008. Andrews had her first real experience of traveling life during a year-long stint as the backup singer for fellow Arizonan emo-punk band Jimmy Eat World ("it was my college," she says), but she was determined to keep her attention on her songs. In the next eight years, she released four additional albums, including the highly acclaimed breakthrough Honest Life in 2016.
Courtney Marie Andrews performing at the Union Chapel, London, 1 November 2021. Photograph: Lorne Thomson/Redferns
Old Flowers, Andrews' sixth album, was a Grammy nominee for best Americana album in 2020. She was forced to watch the event online in her Nashville yard due to Covid limitations. She recalls, "I had a few pals come out. "We had a small bonfire and were all dressed up." (Although Sarah Jarosz's World on the Ground won that evening, Andrews' moment will undoubtedly come again.) Loose Future is in many respects the spiritual and musical antithesis to Old Flowers, which detailed the breakup of a nine-year romance by leaning into sadness as hard and slowly as only a great country artist on their downers can. It was created by Sam Evian, whose previous work includes Big Thief's Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, and it features Chris Bear of Grizzly Bear on drums as well as Josh Kaufman of Bonnie Light Horseman.
At the summer of 2021, Andrews penned it in a Cape Cod beach hut. It was like a weight had lifted. I was finally processing the end of a relationship that had spanned the majority of my 20s, and the period leading up to that was really dark for me, she recalls. "I felt like I was shedding when I at last arrived on Cape Cod. For the first time in a very long time, I was feeling in my body and in my zone.
She is no longer as lonely as she was when she was a child. Andrews' most dependable friend and confidant is still songwriting. She declares with the utmost certainty: "It has been my greatest friend."
The Fat Possum label will release Loose Future on October 7.
Thanks to Malcolm Jack at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.
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