Courtney Marie Andrews
“Put the Fire Out”
“Sum Bunny Gun Love Me”
The Rayo Brothers
“So You’re Sick”
Sofar New York
“No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread”
from The Trundle Sessions
Courtney Marie Andrews
Live on KEXP
from The Crypt Sessions
“Six Feet Under”
from Sofar New York
by Carly Schorman
Singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews has desert roots but a wanderlust spirit so she left her Sonoran home to explore other locales. Every once in a while, however, she’ll breeze through town to share some of the songs she’s composed on her journey. This month, Andrews will be popping into Valley Bar in downtown Phoenix to play some road-tested tunes and unveils her new album, Honest Life, for her hometown fans.
Now, I’ve been following Andrews ever since I found myself enamored with “It’s Okay, I Understand” and listened to it a million and a half times. Such an early introduction has allowed me to witness the development of this songwriter over the subsequent years and Honest Life demonstrates the culmination of the years she has devoted to honing her craft.
From the start of “Rookie Dreaming”, the opening track, I knew I was in for something special. Courtney Marie Andrews pairs a pensive songwriting with an adventurous soul and that spirit can be felt on every track. From the country bar ballad “How Quickly Your Heart Mends” to the travel weary “15 Highway Lines”, Honest Life presents the sincere observations of a wide-eyed watcher.
I had the opportunity to ask Courtney Marie Andrews a few questions about life on the road, songwriting, and what it means to live an “honest life.”
Read our Q&A here and make plans to head to Valley Bar on August 21st for Andrews’ live show with Dylan Pratt and Jesse Teer. More about the show here.
YabYum: What new horizons have you seen since you were last in town?
CMA: It’s been an interesting few years. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road singing backup and playing guitar for some great artists. In between that time on the road I bartended at a small town tavern, wrote songs, and recorded Honest Life with my band. I feel as if I’ve lived 10 different lives since my last time in town.
You grew up in Phoenix, but you’ve lived in some “weird spots” since leaving our dusty desert. I’m very interested to know where some of your favorite spots are..?
A majority of my time has been spent on the road; spent a few months in Belgium while singing for a songwriter over there; lived for a few months in Los Angeles in between tours; but I’ve been spending a lot of my time in a few different small towns outside of Seattle. Right now I’m staying in a house 7 miles from any town or gas station. I like it in contrast to the crazy touring lifestyle.
The new album is simply breathtaking. It is aptly named for the emotional honesty that resonates in every track, although I’m fairly certain that wasn’t why the name was chosen. What does “Honest Life” mean to you?
“Honest Life” means coming of age, and realizing how hard it is to remain true to yourself, but truly believing it is within you, and the ones you love, to do so. “Honest Life” is every stranger you meet no matter what background they come from. It’s the idea that everyone in the end, at least tried, to live their most honest life.
I’d like to know a little more about the album’s creation. Where did you record it? Did you write it during a respite from your travels or during you pen the tracks in different locales?
My band and I focused on the songs, and rehearsed them for a month before heading into the studio. The players on the record are great friends of mine, so it felt more personal, which was perfect for the songs and theme of the album. We recorded it at Litho in Seattle, with a true gem of a human, Floyd Reitsma.
Most of the songs were written in a hotel room in Belgium. I was singing backup for Milow, a songwriter from there. While essentially living in this hotel room, I was going through a major heartbreak, and Honest Life flooded out of me in nearly one piece. I was far from my loved ones, and America. I pined for anything familiar, anything that attached me to myself again. Once I finally did get back to the states, I did the opposite of tour for a while, bartended in a small town, and wrote the rest of the songs about finally arriving to the place that I deeply wished for all those months overseas.
I see that you’ve performed with some other musicians of note. Would you mind sharing some of your favorite artists that you’ve performed with?
I recently got off tour singing backup and playing lead guitar for Damien Jurado. He’s become one of my dear friends, and he’s such an incredible songwriter.
A lot of musicians are eager to leave behind their hometowns to explore new regions. Do you ever get homesick for Phoenix? What, if anything, do you miss about living here?
Most of all I miss my family and friends who still live there. I get homesick for them, more than I do for the place itself. I miss good Mexican food, the purple and pink sunsets that fade into the beautiful wide open desert, and the great music community. All of my childhood and adolescent memories are attached to Phoenix so I will always miss the familiarity of that as well. I wear an Arizonan quarter ring to remind me of where I came from. It’s important to remember.
What’s next for you? Will you be taking a break from songwriting to focus on promoting the new album or do you usually throw yourself writing back into the creation process once you’ve locked down tracks on a recording?
I am always writing. It’s a weekly ritual for the most part.
Listen to “How Quickly Your Heart Mends”, the first single from Honest Life below.
Courtney Marie Andrews released Leuven Letters back in November and I have to admit I’m a little bummed I only recently came across it. All those cold, winter months that could have been spent enveloped in Leuven Letters were instead passed with other, lesser albums. Andrews established herself at a very early age as a songwriter of note and, in the years to follow, she has continued to cultivate those talents. Leuven Letters opens with “How Quickly Your Heart Mends”. Fans will hear the natural progression of Andrews toward a more rustic sound that has advanced since we heard her 2014 album, On My Page. I, for one, couldn’t be happier with the alt-country core winding through the tracks on Leuven Letters. Andrews has the voice to see it through. Each song is a jewel meant for frequent admiring replays. You’ll find mature reflections on love and life on songs like “They Say” as well as moments of sorrowful reflection on tracks like “Near You”. “Lifetime Company” is a personal favorite. Leuven Letters closes with a touching tribute to Amy Ross of Nowhere Man & a Whisky Girl. Though Courtney Marie Andrews now holds a Washington state address, these songs were actually recorded live at a studio in Belgium. Hopefully, the musical globetrotter will make her way back home to Phoenix for some shows this year. We’ll keep you posted. Until then, enjoy Leuven Letters here.
The Tucson act known as The Wanda Junes serves up some stellar Americana. You can hear a smattering on this live collection of tracks recorded at 513 Analog in Tempe by the one-and-only Catherine Vericolli over a weekend back in September. Vocal duties are shared in The Wanda Junes by Bobby Carlson, Karima Walker, and Adam Frumhoff with Jeff Henderson and Thom Plasse completing the group. Walker adds an earthy innocence to her songs while the fellas share an air of quiet desparation I usually associate with David Berman of The Silver Jews or maybe Mark Oliver Everett of Eels fame. All are well-placed amid the musicality of The Wanda Junes. The album opens with “Pallet”, a homespun number than will have you tapping your foot (preferably on a wooden porch), before moving into the livelier, but still down-home, “Bottles & Cans”. I love the blues-tinged country heard on “DFW”, but it’s a toss-up between “Bucket” and “Miner” for personal favorite. Expect an LP from The Wanda Junes from Emotional Response Records sometime this summer. Until then, enjoy LIVE at Tempe Stallion Ranch here.
Grizzly Goat out of Provo, UT combine bluegrass and indierock in proper Mumford fashion to create a warm, agrarian sound. They open their six-track EP with “I Will Not Lay Down on Your Grave”, a salt-of-the-earth folk number. This is an album you want to listen to with a glass on sweet tea on a hot day. Two songs named for states follow, but I find “Nevada” far more somber than the spirited “Georgia”. The three players that comprise Grizzly Goat are all multi-instrumentalists and you can hear the proficiency of that musicianship on Boring Conversations Anyway. “Bear Claw Tracks” kicks up the energy (and the harmonica participation) before closing with a solemn number, “Before My Brother”. There are some religious undertones on Boring Conversations Anyway which is certainly not an unfamiliar theme in the alt-country/americana tradition, especially when you take into account that all three members of Grizzly Goat have served as LDS missionaries to other countries. Boring Conversations Anyway is worth the listen for all you folk fans out there. Give it a spin right here.
by Frank Ippolito
So, I get this email from the wonderful and lovely editors filled with a bunch of new stuff to listen to – made my day, actually.
But I thought that instead of taking each album one by one and listening to them in their entirety, I decided to generally take the first song (sans Sumiko Sprinkle, I chose her original), that the artist had on their page and make me a little “mixtape” and listen to them like that.
Why, you ask? Thanks for asking.
Here’s why: Because that’s the way people listen to records these days. Gone are the days when people will actually invest the time into an entire album (sans the wonderful Mr. Mitchell Hillman, a writer I admire). Our music players are all on shuffle, amirite? Or we are all too busy or haven’t taken our ADHD meds. I bet you you’re already scanning down to find out what I thought about the music (It’s OK, I get it, but hey, hold up for a second).
Additionally, I wanted to find out how each artist represented themselves on their music pages. What was the very first thing they wanted me to hear? And overall, my ears were delighted.
Why should I listen?
Each one of these artists has their own unique style and their own sense of self. From Brian Lopez, who is a wonderful storyteller (especially on the track “Persephone”), to Courtney Marie Andrews who transported me back to the Grand Ol’ Opry with her track, “They Say”. Owl and Penny, a favorite of mine, combines layers and textures and creates, well, basically a ghost story on “Wild Woods”. Sumiko Sprinkle jazzes it up on their track, “Sleepin’ In” – great smokey vocals and some terrific horns that add just the right amount of texture to the track (but when they say “Sleepin’ In” they uh, don’t mean it…) The Wanda Junes track, “Pallet”, has this great little banjo part that puts the mood smack dab in the middle of the Ozark Mountains but with a contemporary spin. And I guess my favorite, Saw Fox with “Honey Lover Sky Watcher”. Its delicate guitar, airy vocals and really great lyrics totally won me over. Maybe because I’m a junkie for the Cowboy Junkies, because that’s what it reminded of.
What you should listen for:
Listen closely how every artist above commits to their music. Fully and wholly. I mean whether its acoustic, folk, blues-y jazz, or ghost folk, it doesn’t nearly get heads bobbing up and down like rock or dare I say, pop, but these cats sound like they believe in what they’re doing and, in turn, I believe it.
One more thing:
While this genre doesn’t instantly translate to a must-see live performance, each and every one of these musicians/bands deserve your attention at the club. Yeah, you’re not gonna rock out, dance and spin until you vomit, but you will be privy to really wonderful musicianship and music. IMO.
(BTW, my experiment was a success in my book.)
Perfect listening for:
A rainy day. Reading “The Stranger” by Camus. Or during the time you’re thinking of changing your relationship status on Facebook.
Here’s where you can find the entire albums:
Female singer-songwriters don’t seem to get quite the same attention that the fellas do around town. When I head out for an acoustic set or open mic night, I find the boys tend to hold the stage but Arizona has some fabulous females hashing it out with a voice and a guitar. Courtney Marie Andrews’ recent release got me thinking about some of the talented songbirds to grace Valley stages (although Andrews herself recently relocated to the Pacific Northwest she still heads to home turf to celebrate her album release). Here are some of the gifted lady tigers that have recently crossed my electronic path…
Light and airy pop doesn’t have to be trite as Ashley Creighton goes on to demonstrate on her four track EP. Contained within are four tracks toward a better day: upbeat, empowering, yet contemplative. Make sure you head out this coming Saturday (Cinco de Mayo) to catch Ashley opening for Spirit Cave at Last Exit Live (more details here). In the meantime, spend some time with her recordings here.
Pianist and songwriter, April Anne released the provocative single “Piano Strings” just a couple weeks ago and marked the occasion with a show at Lawn Gnome Publishing. The location seemed particularly apropos given April Anne poetry-fueled lyrics a la Jewel. If the single isn’t enough to fulfill your April Anne listening needs, check out her Reverbnation page for additional tracks.
In 2012, Amber Hunter released a very personal collection of songs on the album Freedom Steps. Approaching songwriting from the angle of personal journaling rather than from the safe distance of abstraction, Amber Hunter really puts herself into her music. Distinctly spiritual undertones are woven through the album while Amber’s agile voice nimbly spills out honest lyrics in pure pop. Listen to Freedom Steps here.
Courtney Marie Andrews
The first single from her soon-to-be-released new album, “Woman of Many Colors” confirms Courtney Marie Andrews’ ardent talents as a songwriter. She is something truly remarkable. Although she recently moved to Washington, Andrews is returning to Phoenix for the April 23rd release of On My Page at Modified Arts. More info on the event here.
Tierra Firme (formerly Terra Firma) is gearing up for the summer release of their forthcoming album Eons. The first single from the album titled “Empires” is now within reach for eager fans seeking just a taste of what’s to come: psychedelic space rock for the masses. In fact, you’ll probably love the single so much you’ll want to get on board with the band’s Indiegogo Campaign and score some cool swag in addition to securing your own early copy of the full album.
Everyone’s favorite sex party riot, Treasure Mammal, makes an appearance on Folktale Records comp Smashed 40: Slummer Jams with a stellar cover of Britney Spears. Yes, Brittney Spears. The album is a collection of mainstream covers by not-quite-mainstream acts. Make sure you also check out Stephen Steinbrink’s cover of Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is“, also featured on the collection.
Hey Phoenix, do you ever feel like Tucson is keeping secrets from us? Like this kid, Clay Dudash? I just heard him for the first time and I’m totally enthralled with his latest single “Pretty Please”. Melodic discontent mixed well with uplifting musicality always soothes my world weary soul. Now, we just have to pressure him into a full LP. And, Tucson, you better work a little harder to keep your friendly neighbors to the north informed on the haps down south…
Like many Yellow Minute fans, I’ve been patiently awaiting the follow-up to their 2009 album you+you+you+you=me. Since its release, the band has undergone some lineup changes but a couple sneak peeks are available to reassure listeners that Yellow Minute still holds all the effervescent liveliness we came to love about their sound all those years ago. Check out “White People Ideas” but don’t shut of the player before hearing “Gods in the Mud” (the single the band released last summer).