Jessica Andrews: Who She Is

Teen Singer Prepares for Stardom With Second Album, Billy Gilman Tour

Every artist tries to grow between albums. For an

established star, a two-year span between works

sometimes can bring major changes and a new


For 17-year-old Jessica Andrews, the period

between her first, Heart Shaped World, recorded

when she was 14, and her second, Who I Am, due

Tuesday (Feb. 27) brought a total overhaul of her

outlook on music and life.

"Everything I'm doing now is new, from the types of

songs I'm singing, to the musicians I'm working

with, to the way I see the world," says the

Huntingdon, Tenn., native during a recent interview.

"This album is a reflection of all that change."

Heart Shaped World yielded three impressive hits: "Unbreakable Heart," "I Will

Be There for You" and "You Go First." It also earned Andrews critical accolades

and the Academy of Country Music's 2000 title as Top New Female Vocalist.

Produced by Byron Gallimore (Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina), the new

album sticks with the radio-friendly, country-pop sound of the first. Who I Am still

exhibits some of the innocence and youth of Andrews' debut, but it also focuses

on growing up and the emotions that come with it.

The title track -- which sits at No. 6 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks

chart and at No. 7 on the CMT Top 12 Countdown -- sets the tone for the rest of

the album. When she heard the demo, Andrews felt the song -- written by Brett

James and Troy Verges -- was created especially for her.

"I should have written that song myself," she says, "because it's so much like

my life. Everything is so true in that song, except that my grandmother's name is

not Rosemary. It's about believing in yourself and being supported by those

around you. No matter how many mistakes you make, your friends and family

will be there for you.

"I'm telling you, I have the most supportive family and friends in the world. You

don't come by that very often, because there can be a lot of jealousy in a family

when someone is successful. In my case, that's not true at all."

No longer a starry-eyed ingenue, Andrews has not become a jaded star child

either. Calling herself "experienced and optimistic," the teenager has avoided the

kinds of pitfalls that 18-year-old LeAnn Rimes is going through, with lawsuits

against her manager-and-producer father and her record company.

"I'm very fortunate that I have a team of people

around me that I trust," Andrews says. "They

respect me as an artist and as a person. It's all

about having good relationships. We're having the

time of our lives right now. I know bad things

could come along in the future, but we'll work itout."

Andrews makes her first outing as a writer on

"Good Friend to Me," a track on the new album.

Co-composed with Annie Roboff ("This Kiss") and

Bekka Bramlett, the groove-driven tune was

inspired in part by Andrews' reaction to young love that didn't work out.

Who I Am closes with a sultry midtempo tune, "Show Me Heaven," from ex-Lone

Justice vocalist Maria McKee. "Show me heaven/Cover me/Leave me

breathless/Show me heaven, please," Andrews sings, sounding like the older,

passionate teenager she has become.

Indeed, Andrews will be the senior member of the summer tour package she'll

undertake to support Who I Am. Partnering with 12-year-old Billy Gilman, they

will play 30 to 40 dates together after Fan Fair in June. Andrews promises a fun

concert experience, while making it clear it won't be "some kiddie show."

"It's going to be total energy," she promises, "with two young people coming

together who are both so full of life. It's going to be a very well-put-together, fun

show, and I hope people take it seriously."

Andrews had some early reservations about touring with Gilman -- the youngest

artist ever to place a song on the country singles chart -- fearing that fans and

the industry might regard their youthful combination as "a Sesame Street show."

She has worked hard to be taken seriously on an adult level and to be set apart

from country music's other talented female teens: Rimes, Lila McCann and

Amanda Wilkinson.

Andrews has opened national tours for Hill and Trisha Yearwood, among others,

standing in the wings to watch and learn. Now, major stardom seems to be

within her reach. On Valentine's Day, nearly 1,000 fans turned out at a

Manassas, Va., mall, outside Washington, D.C., to hear her do songs from the

new album. Fans sang with her, word-for-word, on her new hit, "Who I Am."

"It's amazing how quick the transition has been from people not knowing who I

am to people knowing who I am," she says, subconsciously echoing her CD title.

"That let me know the ball is rolling and people are learning about me.

"That's what I've been waiting years for," she continues. "I started singing when I

was 10, and from then on I've wanted to be a big, huge star and sell millions of

records. So, I'm having fun. Now, I'm not saying 10 years from now I won't be

totally exhausted from it all and tired of people recognizing me. That's something

I don't know, but right now it's wonderful."

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