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.