EXCLUSIVE: Ingrid Andress Breaks Pop’s Rules to Achieve Country Stardom

Country music's Best New Artist Grammy nominee discusses her songwriting habits, The Chicks and more

Ingrid Andress has joined an emerging generation of female singer-songwriters in country music for whom releasing plain songs about good feelings denies them the scope and impact of their creative potential. The 29-year old performer’s two-year run of frank, candid creations that continue a recent challenge to conventional expectations of country music’s mainstream sound has culminated in her 2021 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.

In this conversation, CMT discusses with Andress her successful songwriting techniques, including the influence of human psychology on her lyricism. Moreover, her single “More Hearts Than Mine,” album Lady Like, and The Chicks’ inspiration upon her career are explored.

CMT: As far as your evolution, you started as a songwriter for performers like Sam Hunt, Alicia Keys, and Charli XCX. Now, you’re in space as an artist that feels like a very natural evolution. Is it fair to say that this development is in reality as comfortable as it appears from afar?

Ingrid Andress: I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I was intrigued by live performance, but I took more time to figure out how to write and craft songs that were special to me. Once I wrote songs that I believed in, then everything else came pretty naturally.

CMT: To me, your greatest strength as a performer lies in your ability to create universally understandable songs. What aids your songwriting to achieve this goal?

IA: The more literal you can be [in your songwriting], the more people can see themselves in that situation [that you’re describing]. Even if they’ve never experienced it before, there’s something about describing that moment by painting a picture that allows people to step into the world of that song.

CMT: Country’s growth, and your songs having a role in the genre’s recent boom, is impressive. What are your thoughts about the genre’s recent seeming expansion of sorts?

IA: Country’s expanding and people are finding what country looks like to them, in their branch of the genre. People once thought Johnny Cash wasn’t country, and now he’s a country legend. This is a natural progression for a genre to continue to develop different branches growing with more unique stories. It will allow for country to become a more powerful genre moving forward. These perspectives will enable people beyond those interested in the “hot white male” viewpoint to relate [to it].

CMT: You — like many country artists experiencing success right now — are quick to name The Chicks as huge inspirations. What is it about them that has been instrumental in your career, especially of late?

IA: I appreciated [The Chicks’] instrumentation. They’re great at that. Also, how they approached songwriting was special and iconic for me. It was one of the first times I’d heard women in country paint vivid stories that were open to a broader population in a widely relatable manner. Especially on the song “Wide Open Spaces.” Even though not everyone comes from a small town, the feeling of leaving a small town — taking a risk and branching out — is universal. Hearing songs like those got my mind working and made me ask myself, “how can I get my stories to not just apply to me, but to connect with everyone?”

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