Being in an intimate space can bring out something special in an artist. Unlike the amped-up verve found in arenas, playing in small rooms where every face in the audience can be clearly seen requires an artist to create their own energy.
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Magical would be an apt descriptor for Ingrid Andress’ performance at Live in the Vineyard 2022, a series of acoustic performances spread out over vineyards across Napa Valley. Joined by Benson Boone and Bebe Rexha in the barrel room of Chimney Rock Winery, Andress played a suite of country-pop song with her vocal chops unabashedly on display.
For the 31-year-old, playing shows in this form is ideal. Not only does she get to sing through her latest offerings, but she also gets to delve into the nitty-gritty of them with the audience. “That’s why I write,” she revealed to American Songwriter.
Andress exudes multiple shades of cool. In one way she is “The Girl Next Door” – never letting things like impromptu interviews in the middle of a field phase her – while in another she is unable to escape her star power. Both are welcomed energies as she chats with us after her set.
The songs she played at LITV come from her latest record, Good Person. The LP covers a wide breadth of topics, all of which come from a reflective place.
“It starts a little introspective – trying to figure out life decisions, moving on and ending up in a happier place,” she says of her sophomore project. “It’s turning out to be a very vulnerable album. It feels very practical to me, but everybody else says ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you said that.'”
Andress doesn’t like to play by the rules. Instead, she mulls over familiar topics – like breakups and makeups – and finds a way to approach them from a vantage point few have done in the past.
Upon first listen, “Seeing Someone Else” seems like a song about infidelity. When given a closer look, the song is actually an ode to self-growth.
“It requires you to listen to it multiple times,” she says of the song. “It comes from this moment in my life when I realized the person I was with didn’t see the person I was becoming. I really liked that person and didn’t want to stay the same.”
On “More Hearts Than Mine,” Andress takes a breakup song and elevates it through the lens of her family. She ran through the chorus with ease, singing, If I bring you home to mama / I guess I’d better warn ya / She falls in love a little faster than I do…Oh, if we breakup, I’ll be fine / But you’ll be breaking more hearts than mine.
That tact is something Andress said didn’t come naturally.
“No one’s born a songwriter,” she said. “You actually have to work at it and write some terrible songs. Just because you write a terrible song doesn’t mean you’re a bad songwriter. It’s all about the time, the place and the people that you write with. There’s no method to the madness. The people that do have a crazy method to the madness, I’m scared of them because all their songs sound the same.”
Before singing the Sam Hunt-assisted No. 1 song “Wishful Drinking,” the ever-candid Andress spoke about the inequality she feels exists in country music for female artists. “I’m going to legally change my name to Luke because that seems to be the only thing that works these days,” she joked on stage, referring to reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year Luke Combs and five-time Entertainer of the Year Luke Bryan.
“There are a lot of great perspectives coming from women in country,” she continued. “As a songwriter, you look to other artists and it doesn’t matter if they are male or female, but females seem to articulate things in a certain way.”
Despite her qualms, Andress joins a host of female hitmakers that are steadily breaking through the country airwaves. She recently joined CMA New Artist and Female Vocalist of the Year Lainey Wilson and singer-songwriter Caitlyn Smith for a performance benefiting the CMA Foundation. For Andress, Wilson and Smith display the kind of adroit lyricism and emotion that makes the female perspective so unique.
“I love working with people who have spent a lot of time learning how to make a song right,” she said. “That seems to be getting rarer and rarer these days. I don’t hear a lot of great music anymore and I can always count on them to put out something that’s smart.”
Photo Credit: Alec Savig