Entertainment & Arts

Courtney Marie Andrews an overnight success after six albums

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Media captionUS singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews released her first album at the age of 16

US singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews released her first album at the age of 16 and, at the age of 26, has just released Honest Life, her self-produced sixth album.

In short, it has taken six albums for the wider music press to sit up and take notice of her.

Hands up, how many people would have given up before then?

"I never imagined stopping because it was such a part of me and my life that it would feel like a big blow to just quit," she says backstage at the Union Chapel in London where she supported The Handsome Family.

"I took up bartending for a little bit to save up for the next record and I did a bunch of side jobs but it was only to save up for music and so as much as I can romanticise about being a bartender in a small town, it's not the life I was meant for."

The native of Phoenix, Arizona started out at the age of 16 touring the bars and taverns of America's west coast.

Not easy when people under the age of 21 are generally barred from places selling alcohol.

"Sometimes they'd make you wait outside until you played and then leave as soon as you were done but at that age I'm not sure I would call it work, I was barely breaking even."

Image copyright Tiffany Edgbert
Image caption Andrews self-produced her new album Honest Life, her sixth in 10 years

She recorded her first album at the age of 16 and, by the time she was 19, she'd added another two largely self-funded and produced records.

It was then that she was asked by fellow Arizona band Jimmy Eat World to join them on tour as a backing singer and she began to figure out that she could scrape together a living.

"I was shocked that you could get paid. Any time I got more than 50 bucks at a show, I would just be astounded, like I got some actual money."

She supplemented her living working as a barmaid to pay for recording sessions and performing Patsy Cline songs on the bar's karaoke machine when she wasn't on the night's line-up.

"I grew up with that DIY-punk mindset, where the bad stuff is more exciting than boring day to day, club, sleep, venue. So I'm very grateful I had those experiences because they made me able to endure the bad things on tour."

Her confessional new album Honest Life - which she wrote and produced - has been shaped by those experiences. Her songs speak of of heartbreak and alienation, with titles like How Quickly Your Heart Mends and Table for One.

But there is hope on tracks like Rookie Dreaming and Put the Fire Out.

The album has been well received and she has been showered with plaudits, seeing her named by Rolling Stone as one of the "10 country artists that people need to know".

It has also led to comparisons with the likes of Emmylou Harris and Joni Mitchell.

"I started listening to Joni in my early 20s so she wasn't a big influence on me," insists Andrews. "It's easy to draw comparisons between female singers and her because she is the most ionic female singer-songwriter. And the bangs [fringe] don't help!"

Image copyright Press
Image caption The singer got her break touring as a backing singer and guitarist with artists like Jimmy Eat World

Andrews is mid-way through a European tour and has these words of advice for young artists.

"I think a lot of people get afraid of it, the scary parts, the unknown but that's always been my mentality and motto - just to go full steam ahead go for it. I was talking about it earlier with some band mates about putting yourself out there as much as possible and playing as many gigs as you can and constantly pushing yourself.

"If your song isn't good enough, then get better. challenge yourself and your intuitions."

Honest Life is out now

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