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The Songs That Changed My Life: Courtney Marie Andrews

By Deborah Crooks

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“Loose future, if you wanna ride with me / No big picture, just the way it ought to be” Courtney Marie Andrews sings on the title track of Loose Future, her 10-song consideration of love in a time of uncertainty.

Having plumbed the depths of a break-up on her Grammy-nominated 2020 effort, Old Flowers, Andrews often sounds hopeful, almost buoyant on Loose Future. But she wasn’t recovered from heartbreak when she started writing another cycle of songs in 2020. Due to the pandemic, her non-stop touring schedule had come to a grinding halt and inspiration was hard to come by.

“I was living alone in my house in Nashville for four months, processing a lot of things that you’re not able to process when you’re out on the road,” Andrews recalled, a week after Loose Future’s release. A friend invited her up to Cape Cod for a change of scene, where Andrews found the new environment so welcoming, she didn't want to go home. When her manager reminded her she’d been invited to an arts colony in Massachusetts prior to the pandemic, Andrews placed a call and found they were more than happy to make good on their offer of two months of time and space.

“As soon as I went to Nantucket”, Andrews notes, “it was like a well had broken open”.

During the first month of her residency, she finished the manuscript for her poetry collection Old Monarch; during the second month, she wrote a song every day for 30 days. “It was kind of like a dream. I dedicated my whole world to creating. In the morning, I would write a song. Then I would paint something after that.” (Andrews also painted the cover for Loose Future).

A year later, she returned to the residency for another 30-day songwriting immersion.“It’s important to my process to take a step back and not listen to a song I just made. I would record and then put [it] away. At the end of 30 days, I listened, and whichever ones I thought were awesome - that was an indicator that I should edit it or write another verse.”

She took a similarly intuitive approach when it came time to start recording. Working with producer Sam Evian (Big Thief, Cass McCombs) at his studio in upstate New York, they let the songs lead the way. “Every day we asked: ‘what do we feel like doing?’ That showed us what songs would be on the record.”

Time and deep feeling are recurring motifs throughout Loose Future.“People like me think feelings are facts,” Andrews sings on ‘These Are the Good Old Days', a self-aware song about learning to savor the present moment.

“I love songs that transcend time,” she said, when asked what songs have changed her life, “songs that make you think of something new every time you listen to them, that have layers and depths, that can be thought about in many different ways.”

Below, Andrews selects six songs that have been influential to her life and artistry.

Nico - 'These Days'

When I heard this as a teenager, it was so raw and cool. I know it's written by Jackson Browne, but it was the Nico version that I heard, and it completely changed my world. When you feel like you’re a part of the story, those kinds of songs always get me, even if not something you’ve exactly experienced.

Leonard Cohen - 'Bird on a Wire'

When I heard Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Hallelujah’, I was like, ‘oh my god, this is amazing!’ Then someone told me, “Well Jeff didn’t write that song, Leonard Cohen wrote it.” I went and looked at his video singing kind of schmaltzy… and I did not get it.

A couple years later, I heard ‘Bird on a Wire’, and that is an all-time song in so many ways. “Like a bird on the wire / Drunk in a midnight choir / I have tried in my way to be free.” That’s so universal. Everyone has felt like they’ve tried in their way to be free.

Tom Waits - 'Come On Up to the House'

Some people think of ‘Come Up on to the House’ as a gospel song, but for me, it was the idea of coming up to those places. I have a few people in my life who have these safe-haven houses where you go when you’re broken and bent, when you just need a place to rest and think about your life that's led up to the point you’re at now. When you feel you're a part of the story - those kinds of songs always get me.

Joni Mitchell - 'Both Sides Now'

That woman wrote about life, love and the world in the wisest way any young person could. ‘Both Sides Now’ is a song that encapsulates living in its entirety, the mystery and confusion and beauty that comes with being alive. And she said it all in three verses… which is crazy.

Lucinda Williams - 'Drunken Angel'

The Car Wheels on a Gravel Road CD was given to me by a friend’s family member and I didn’t take it out of my station wagon for years. I think I wore it thin. I like songs that can be about a very specific person, but anyone can listen and feel like they know that person. A character who's gone too far — “drunken angel you’re on the other side” — the person who you can’t get back because they’re so far gone with their addiction or disillusionment.

Randy Newman - 'Marie'

To write a song about a very messed up narrator who is not a good partner, not a good lover, and make them loveable is one of the hardest things to do in a song. It's really brilliant the way he does that.

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