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7/8/19

by Holly Gleason

When The New York Times’ notoriously finicky Jon Caramanica opines that your single is “an elegantly written song about a love that lets you down that sounds like a tragedy even at the beginning, when there’s still hope,” before it even goes to radio, it’s a big deal. For Colorado’s Ingrid Andress, the rave marked the emergence of a formidable songwriter/artist who eschews much of the glamour in the name of letting her artistry do the work.

Andress, the home-schooled daughter of a conditioning trainer for the Colorado Rockies, shifts in the chair in a Warner Nashville corner office. Equal parts composure and curiosity, she understands that genuine vulnerability is counterintuitive in today’s realm of staged Instagram perfection.

The disciplined 27-year-old is not afraid of the work. With Lady Gaga’s chameleonic skills, she’s delivered hits for Charli XCX (“Boys”) and Vice f/Jasmine Thompson & Skizzy Mars (“Steady1234”), but it’s her provocative study of her own young womanhood that makes her interesting. That NYT-heralded song—“More Hearts Than Mine”—offers an honesty and vulnerability virtually absent on Country radio.

“I worked with so many artists,” she explains of how her time as a writer shaped her as an artist. “Some actually loved music; some just wanted to be famous. It was such a broad spectrum, it helped me figure out what I wanted to be. I learned how labels worked, sometimes the artist doesn’t have any creative inspiration—or input. Sometimes you’d have an artist driving the whole session, but that was rare.”

Rare is what Andress does best. She jokes that things have “gotten messed up with social media, where it’s more important to look like an artist than to be one.” But it was someone else singing her very personal song that gave the Berklee-educated voice major the nudge.

“Hearing it just tore me up,” she remembers. “The artists I’d worked with were all about the show, and less about the song. That’s why I thought I wasn’t an artist, because to me, it was all about the song.”

With three songs released—“Hearts,” the ironic reality embrace of “Ladylike” and truth-telling “Both”—Andress merges Mary Chapin Carpenter’s personal introspection with a minimalist Shania Twain empowerment approach for what amounts to “a journal of a woman trying to figure out what she’s doing.”

Raised on the road with her four siblings, Andress dropped the façade so she could actually connect with people. Not much for small talk, she now looks to the heart of situations, doesn’t waste time on things that don’t matter—and knows that good songs take time.

“Social media is great in some regards,” she offers. “I use it all the time. But I’m finding more and more, people are trying so hard to be perceived a certain way instead of being confident in who they are. In music, you can tell it’s just calculated to get in your head. Having the patience to tell a real story is a dying art.”

For “Both,” written after surfing her friends’ Bumble profiles, she marvels, “It showed where we as a society are right now: being so shallow and forgetting there’s another actual human being on the other side of the screen, because we aren’t getting as much human interaction. The song is to remind people that you’re allowed to have some self-respect.

“You know,” Andress continues, “it’s not crazy to want something deep and meaningful. I don’t believe people when they say, ‘It’s not a big deal.’ I think they’re lying, saying what the other person wants to hear. I’ve seen it evolve over the last five years—and I wish I would’ve had a song like ‘Both’ earlier in my life. It’s okay to say, ‘No, I’ll just find somebody else,’ or ‘Fuck you.’ You’re not high-maintenance or difficult, it just makes you a human being.”

Plain language. Simple melodies that move and lift. Andress’ power comes from her willingness to reach inside her own solar plexus to offer up her failings, her desires, her own scary places as a mirror for listeners needing the courage to remove their own masks.

She knows mask removal is far more dangerous than it sounds. “I’m just gonna tell you. Socially, and in general, people are kind of afraid of that. But I think there’s a lot of freedom in saying what I think. When I write, it’s not hard to be real, especially if I’m into the music. I’m not gonna lie about the way I feel; that just wastes people’s time.

“It seems like people think they have to say something really outrageous or controversial or crazy to make a splash. And I’m finding, at least for me, that’s not true. Just being honest makes a bigger splash than anything, because people aren’t expecting it.”