Name: Courtney Marie Andrews
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, poet
Current release: Courtney Marie Andrews's Loose Future is out October 7th 2022 via Fat Possum.
If you enjoyed this interview with Courtney Marie Andrews, visit her official website for more music, release news and current tour dates. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
We also recommend our earlier interview with Courtney, in which she talks in depth about her process for writing poetry and lyrics.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
Impulses to create are as natural as impulses to eat or drink water. It’s essential for my mental health and survival. It’s how I cognitively process the world around me.
Life is art— all its dreams, relationships, and politics. These things are all different strokes from the brush.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
The most planning that goes into my work is purely the decision to start— everything else is a response to whatever line or chord I’ve written or played.
Periods of deep focus are very essential to my work, so carving those times out involves a bit of planning.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Walking is a big ritual for me. For the most part I love to do my work in the mornings. The perfect setup for a song is a long meditative walk. That preps my mind for ideas to flow.
After the walk, I’ll make a French press of coffee, then write until I have a song. My song ‘Satellite’ came after one of these days.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Every song starts a different way. Some start with a melody, others start with a lyric, and others with a guitar part.
I try to not be too judgmental on how I arrive at the starting line.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
Lyrics are often my first thought, or very early on in the process. Ideas for words are a constant, and when I’m writing I often draw from my little notebook of lyric ideas. Although sometimes words and melodies arise at the same time, and I find that's usually a special occasion, because they tend to speak a little more to one another.
‘If I Told’ was what I call a word vomit song. The chords, words, and melody all came out in ten minutes.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
Simple and true. It’s the hardest to do, but when you do it, it’s the most effective. I want to write lyrics that make people realize truths in their own life, and give people a sense of belonging.
My own ambitions are always pointing me in that direction. My song ‘Loose Future’ tries to get to the heart of something we’ve all dealt with — hesitance in love due to past heartbreaks and hurts.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
Following songs where they lead you is essential. As soon as you try to over-control or over-complicate the process, the quicker the song fights back.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
Songwriting has to be an intuitive process. If a song is fighting back, you have to open your mind to different paths, and try not to resist. When something isn’t sitting quite right, it’s imperative we listen to that as writers.
The world will know if you are playing something that you’re unsatisfied with, or even worse, something you’ve forced into existence. Flow is everything.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
Songwriting is incredibly spiritual to me. It is sacred and mystical. It reveals, conceals, echos, announces, and transforms all in one.
When I am unsure of how I feel about something, I turn to the songs. They are my greatest teachers.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
Choice is something a lot of artists battle with. It all comes down to a gut feeling.
Everything must come to an end, and it’s up to us to follow our instincts of when that end comes.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
If I am fighting a song long enough I will put it down for at least a week, and try to return with fresh ears.
Personally, I think it’s bad practice to fight a song too long without taking a break from it. I have edited certain songs pretty much right up until they’ve been recorded.
At a certain point you have to trust what you’ve made. There’s a level of self-love and confidence that comes into play in order to let it through the door.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
Production is as important as the song. Production can even be a non-production in terms of just letting a performance happen with a vibe. Getting the right take is imperative, and choosing what to socially create around the performance means as much as the song.
I’m very involved in all the production of my record. Even if someone is in the producer seat, I am always offering my own ideas and imprint to the process. I like the care to be spread across all things I create.
In my song “These Are the Good Old Days,” I was absolutely sure I wanted lots of harmonies and a wide range of percussion.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
When I was in my 20s I would feel like this, but now the thrill derives so much from the creative process, that I get excited when it's out, purely so I can see what else the muse has to say.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I once heard a buddhist say, “do even mundane tasks as if you are sculpting the David.”
Though I haven’t reached that level of presence, I find that living a life that is creative in all aspects makes for a better world—both internally and externally.