While she may seem like the new kid on the block, Ingrid Andress is no stranger to the music world. Andress began her career as a songwriter and became well-known for her songwriting prowess, writing singles for artists like Alicia Keys, Bebe Rexha, and Dove Cameron. The ACM New Female Artist of the Year nominee releases her debut album, Lady Like, today, featuring songs she wrote to reflect her real life and the lives of those closest to her.
With the title track, “Lady Like,” taking on gender stereotypes and what defines femininity, it’s clear Andress has no qualms being herself, exactly as she is, and encouraging others to do the same. Her country-pop songs not only challenge those gender roles, but the stereotypes surrounding what defines country music, pop music, and who is allowed to sing it. We got the chance to chat with Andress as she releases her debut album, learning more about this talented rising artist.
I usually like to start off these interviews by asking for a bit of a rundown on yourself, anything you want to share about what you do, who you are, etc.
Well, I’m currently a quarantined musician who writes songs. I write all my own stuff; they’re all real stories from things that have happened in my life or my friends’ lives. I just keep it pretty raw when it comes to lyrics and emotion.
So you started off as a songwriter. What made you decide to take the leap into singing your own songs?
I mean, I’ve always wanted to be an artist and a performer since I was young, but I really wanted to learn how to tell my own stories first before I just jumped into being an artist. I had a lot of things to say, but I just didn’t really know the craft of songwriting that well. So I wanted to take the time to learn how to do that first. So after a few years of writing, I feel like I started writing those story songs that were about my life and I finally was like, “Okay I can’t give these songs away. These are too personal.”
Is there a song on your album that you consider the most personal for you?
I think all of them are extremely personal, but “More Hearts Than Mine” was probably the most vulnerable because my family is a very personal, private thing for me. Telling a story about that experience was a pretty big step for me as far as really opening up.
I love that song and I love the music video for it! Did you have a hand in figuring out how that was going to play out?
Yeah! We kind of had the idea together. The director had the idea of putting it in the real setting and then we kind of tweaked it as far as having it be something that had already happened rather than doing the play-by-play as it goes.
So as far as the other songs on your album—your song “Lady Like” addresses the ideas of gender stereotypes and challenging them. What inspired you to write something like that?
When I was a kid, my parents always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. I played sports growing up; I never stuck to the typical “girl” things. When I moved to Nashville, I realized there was a big difference between the West and the South and that southern belles really do exist. I got a lot of feedback from people in Nashville saying I wasn’t “feminine” enough and didn’t have the right girly vibe. I didn’t really understand what was happening. I wrote “Lady Like” in response to say girls don’t have to just do “girly” things and can do [whatever they want] and be anything they want to be.
You write a lot about the intricacies of falling in and out of love, especially a love you can’t seem to shake. What inspires those kinds of songs for you? (“The Stranger,” “More Hearts Than Mine,” “Life of the Party”)
These songs have a lot to do with my own real experiences. They’re things I’ve gone through in my own life. I love really pulling out those emotions and telling my stories. These songs really explain my heartbreak and my experiences with love, loss, and how those things all influenced my life.
What was the first song you wrote that you really loved and realized you needed to sing?
“The Stranger.” That was the first song that felt so personal and so mine that I realized I didn’t want to give it up and let anyone else sing it. I had to sing it.
What and when was the first song you ever wrote?
I’ve been writing songs forever. When I was little, I remember always making up songs about chores to make the time go by faster. I always made my family come to my concerts and listen to my songs. The first real song I think I ever wrote was in high school, but at the time I didn’t really know how to write songs. It wasn’t until later on that I really learned how to write songs and input my life experiences and my emotions.
You’re the first-ever country star to be featured on Apple’s Up Next. How does that feel?
It feels really, really cool. I feel like country music has a certain set of ideas about how it can sound and what it can be about. I love that people are starting to expand their idea of what can fall into the country music category, and I think it’s great that Apple is helping to share that idea.
I wrote “Lady Like” in response to say girls don’t have to just do “girly” things and can do [whatever they want] and be anything they want to be.
What was it like to go from watching stars who you wrote songs for singing on the Today show and Late Night with Seth Meyers, to being one of those singers, singing your own song?
You know, I thought it was going to be this huge, scary thing, but it actually felt like it was always where I was supposed to be. It felt like I was meant to write songs and sing those songs and share them with the world. I really felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be.
Do you have a favorite moment of your career so far? If so, what is it?
There are so many. My whole career has been amazing so far. I think my favorite moment so far was when I was on tour and the crowd was singing “More Hearts Than Mine” back to me. That was an amazing feeling and pretty surreal.
What made you choose this collection of songs for your first album release?
I wanted my first album to cover all the bases of who I am as a person so people can start getting to know me. Every song tells a real story about emotions and thoughts I’ve had the past couple years of my life, and the hope is that people can relate to them. I definitely get emotionally deep in most of the songs, but being vulnerable is important when you’re telling a story, and I wanted this album to be as honest as possible.
Do you have a favorite song on your album? Or one that means the most to you? Is there one you’re most excited for fans to hear?
Damn, that’s like picking your favorite child! I chose to put eight songs on the album because I’m more of a “quality over quantity” kinda girl, so I truly love all of them because so much time was spent making every single song perfect. I will say “Lady Like” means a lot to me because it’s the first song I ever put out, and I really think the message of that song needs to be heard. It’s about not apologizing for who you are, and that gender stereotypes are a thing of the past.
What was your favorite song when you were a kid? Did you have a favorite artist?
I had a lot of favorite songs, but I think my first favorite song was “Baby Baby” by Amy Grant. I loved her, John Denver, and Whitney Houston and would ask my mom to play them on repeat. Luckily she liked them too so it worked out for both of us.
What was the first concert you ever went to?
Do you remember the band Metro Station? Yeah… well, that was my first concert. I loved their song “Shake It” but couldn’t tell you any of their other songs. I was hoping they would just play that song for an hour, to be honest.
If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Continuum by John Mayer. I love his lyrics and melodic instincts, and it’s one of those albums that float seamlessly in and out of different storylines without sounding scattered. He’s also super hot.
Do you have any dream collaborations?
Oh yeah, so many. Dixie Chicks, John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, Adele, Faith Hill, maybe even a K-pop band? I don’t know, I just love creating with other artists.
Anything else you’d like to add or share? Funny stories, fun facts about yourself, info about your album?
There aren’t any songs about beer or trucks on this album, and that is only because I don’t like beer and I drive a Mini Cooper. I’m sure it’s country music sacrilege to not like beer, but I promise you’ll like the album, so don’t hate me.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
PHOTOS JESS WILLIAMS
STORY GINA DECICCO