One of CMT’s Next Women of Country, Ingrid Andress is reliving the experience of introducing a new boyfriend to her family in the poignant single, “More Hearts Than Mine.” She’ll embark on a European tour in September, but first she dropped by CMT.com to visit about the path that led her to Nashville.
CMT: I understand that you lived in Denver and went to college in Boston, and now you live in Nashville. I’m curious, what do you consider your hometown?
I’d say Highlands Ranch, Colorado, is still home because I spent the majority of growing up there. It’s a suburb of Denver, so it’s not tiny, but it’s really beautiful out there, lots of open rolling hills. Still a part of me loves Boston, too, because I feel like wherever you go to college you discover yourself.
Do you consider yourself pretty comfortable wherever you are, and able to blend in?
Yeah, I feel like I learned that at a young age because my parents took us around everywhere for my dad’s job. So I feel like that’s ingrained, to just be OK with whatever situation you’re in and learn from whatever culture you’re in.
I think it makes life more fun because you get to experience so many different things and you’re not trapped in your own bubble of what you think is happening, and it reminds you that there are so many different things happening out there that have nothing to do with you. It’s relieving in a way, almost, that not everything is about you, and you’re just a part of the whole thing.
How did you discover country music?
I discovered it when I was younger. My parents didn’t really let me listen to anything that wasn’t Christian music. So my friends would burn me CDs of stuff that they were listening to. I think the first country song I heard was “The Dance” and I played that song on piano so many times. My parents probably hate that song now but I was obsessed with it.
“Whiskey Lullaby” was the next song that I heard that made me cry and I didn’t know why. I was still young enough where I was like, “I don’t really know what’s happening in the story — did they die, what’s happening?” And I know people are like, “John Denver is not country,” but he is. So, I loved him and yeah, I got into it by accident. Just my friends sharing their music with me.
Do you find it odd that you loved the sad songs?
I think I like those the best because they make you feel all these feelings. And I like happy songs but I’m trying to listen to something that gets me to feel something when I listen to music. I want to feel understood. If I’m happy, I don’t need to listen to a happy song to stay happy, you know?
You’ve got some power in your voice. How did you develop your delivery?
My favorite singer when I was younger was Whitney Houston, so I would sing her songs over and over and over again on the karaoke machine. And she hit really high notes sometimes, and she makes it sound so effortless and I always wanted to have that. So honestly, it was from me trying to sound like different artists and then all of a sudden it molds over time into your own voice.
Was there a Whitney song you kept coming back to?
I think… it’s hard to pick a favorite, honestly.
If it’s karaoke, it’s got to be “I Want to Dance With Somebody.”
Yes it is!! (laughs) That is my karaoke song!! (laughs) Oh my God, it is the worst! It’s so hard to sing and I don’t know why I pick it, but drunk me is like, “Let’s do this thing.” Yeah, without fail. I feel so bad for anybody in the bar when that song comes on.
How did you get an interest in writing songs?
When I would practice piano, I would get really bored, so I would make up stuff to sing along with whatever I was practicing. I always liked it, I just didn’t really know it was a career until I met Kara DioGuardi. I loved poetry and words but I never really put the two together until I realized that it was a thing. I thought that every artist wrote their own stuff and it just happened.
Did she tell you this? Or did you just absorb it by paying attention?
I think I got there eventually because I took poetry classes and I would still write on my own. I just didn’t think that my songs were good. I didn’t really know how to gauge if it was a good song or not, because you have Pink Floyd songs where you’re like, “I have no idea what you’re saying.” And then you had pop songs where you hear every single word.
So I was like, “Where’s the in-between?” But I met Kara and she obviously wrote a bunch of pop hits. She was the one that picked me out and was like, “You know, it sounds like your songs are naturally more storyteller and you should really pursue that.”
Were you at Berklee for singing or piano or…
Singing, but I took some piano classes and guitar and drums and I really did everything. I was just having fun being there. I wasn’t really going after a degree or anything. I was like, “Sure I’ll take conducting, why not? It’ll be fun.”
Did you get a degree?
How many years were you at Berklee then?
Three. I wanted to leave every year but my parents were like, “Come on, you’ve got this.” I’m like, “Nah.”
What was the conversation when you decided to move here? Did you just say, “I’m out”?
Yeah, I waited tables for an entire summer to save money and then I rented a car and drove down here. Didn’t really know anybody. Kara had sent Frank Rogers some of my songs and they were going to work on them together and pitch them to artists, but she didn’t get to do that because she had a kid.
And so I was like, “Well, can I go work with him?” She was like, “Yeah, sure.” So I literally moved to Nashville just with that one connection, and I was determined to make it work. I remember being like, “Am I an idiot for driving by myself from Boston to Nashville?” Probably.
Did you come from a large family?
Yes, there was seven of us total, five kids — and a dog at all times.
That’s a big household. I read that your dad was a baseball coach, right?
Yes he was, he was a strength and conditioning coach.
Do you think you picked up on any life lessons from having a coach in the house?
Oh for sure. Sports and entertainment are actually not too far off. Everything athletes need to do to prepare or perform is the same thing musicians need to do, and performers in general.
I feel like having him know the ups and downs of sports, and how that goes, prepared me for the ups and downs in the music industry and how to take care of yourself. When to go real hard and when to ease up, because it’s a marathon, not a sprint. So there’s a ton that I learned from being in sports in general.
Especially work ethic and showing up and putting in the time.
That is the biggest thing, I think for me. I always say that to people. If there’s anything that I’m the most grateful for, it is that my parents instilled a very intense work ethic in all of us.
So did they push you to learn piano?
They did. I wasn’t allowed to quit. (laughs) Until I got to a certain level. They were like, “No, practice piano every day for 30 minutes.” And if we didn’t pass the piano tests, then we would be grounded or something. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is so intense! None of my friends have to do this!” But now I’m very, very glad.