Interview: Ingrid Andress Talks “More Hearts Than Mine” & Debut LP
After cutting her teeth as a songwriter in Los Angeles, Ingrid Andress moved to Nashville and dedicated herself to country music. It was a gamble, but the reward was immediate and immense. Last year, the 28-year-old caught lightning in a bottle with “More Hearts Than Mine” — a song about the emotional ties that bind when you have been accepted into someone’s family — and landed her first entry on the Billboard Hot 100. That song is still making gains at country radio and winning over new fans outside the genre.
I recently spoke to Ingrid about her breakout hit and imminent debut LP, Lady Like (out March 27). We talked about releasing an album in the middle of a global pandemic, her life-long attraction to country music and her willingness to shake the table with brutal honesty. Ingrid also opened up about her experiences in the music industry as a female artist, co-writing “Boys” for Charli XCX and the importance of storytelling. Get to know the rising country superstar a little better in our Q&A below.
What’s it like promoting an album while most of the country is in lockdown?
It’s definitely not ideal, but there’s obviously nothing we can do about it. I’m just glad that you can still listen to music while being quarantined. It will all be fine.
Congratulations on Lady Like. It’s such a strong album. The genre is definitely country but there’s also a distinct pop sensibility in the mix.
I know you dabbled in other genres before country. How did you end up deciding that this was your lane?
I think country is really the only genre that has a big canvas for you to paint a story and have people listen to it. I’ve always been drawn to that aspect of it. Even when I was young, I loved how well [country] painted a picture and created emotions. I didn’t really get that from pop. I feel like a lot of the time I was just writing about things that didn’t really matter. Country is where I settled because story-based songs are what I am drawn to. Country is not doing it as much now, but it used to. I feel like just bringing that back was something that meant a lot to me.
Speaking of storytelling, you captured something really universal with “More Hearts Than Mine.” Did you know that you had struck gold when you wrote that song?
Yes, definitely. [Laughs]. As a songwriter, I was like, “this could not be more perfect,” but it was also the hardest song to write because it required me to be so vulnerable. I feel like it really elevated how I write songs now because I realize how important it is just to be honest with your feelings and your real-life stories. It does require you to be vulnerable, which is scary, but I think it also opens the door for other people to be open with their experiences as well. I think we’re all a lot more alike than we think. Creating stories to start those conversations is the goal for me.
Are you at all surprised by how warmly embraced the song has been? Everyone has kind of adopted it as their own.
I know. It’s been really fun to see people reach out and tell me how they relate to it. I think the story, even though Country radio is really exposing it a lot, I feel like a lot of people outside the genre have been in this situation before. It’s more about the story than it is the genre.
I feel like the whole album is about matters of the heart and different stages of a relationship. Would you agree with that? A lot of the songs are about figuring out where you stand.
I just picked songs that were the most relevant to what I’ve experienced in my life and real thoughts that I’ve had and things that I have gone through recently. It really just encapsulates that. As a debut album, I really wanted to let people know all the different emotions that I have and that it’s not all one thing. You can express yourself in as many different emotions and still be the same person. That was important.
One of my other favorite songs on the album is “We’re Not Friends.” Could talk a little bit about that one?
Well, it’s a real-life story. I just needed a song to represent that in-between area because you don’t get a lot of songs about friends with benefits. It’s either you’re in love or you’re not, or you’re together or you’re not. It’s like, “What about all of us who don’t have our lives together?” For my generation, the whole dating world has completely changed. I just wanted to write about that instead of having to always either be with somebody or not, because that didn’t explain the situation I was in.
It’s not the kind of topic that would be covered in country music a few years ago.
For sure. People would be like, “You whore!” [Laughs]. Which I’m sure people think I am in some counties of the South, but I’m really not ever too worried about that. It’s more important to me to be honest than try to filter what’s really happening in my life.
I really relate to “Life Of The Party.” The whole idea of pretending to be doing great when you’re not. What inspired that song?
I wanted it to sound like a party song, but then really have it be sad because the irony of that is hilarious to me. Also, I feel like I wrote this song to basically identify why I was going out so much. A lot of my friends thought that I was completely over this person because I was always out. They were like, “Wow, she’s been back out there. Good for her!” When really it was just me trying to get over this person. I think there’s something refreshing about being honest about that situation, instead of being like, “I’m a badass. I’ll get over you quick.” Not all of us feel that way all the time. Even if we think we feel that way, we probably don’t.
Are most of the songs about the same relationship or was it multiple experiences knitted together?
It was multiple experiences. Some of them were just about one person, but then as time went on, it was multiple people and sometimes I would borrow from my friend’s lives. Like on the song “Both,” that was inspired by my friends getting Bumble accounts. They were getting so frustrated with the ghosting and all the shit that happens on that app. I feel like it’s a combination of my experiences and then real experiences of people that I’m close with.
Do you ever wonder what the person that you’re writing about thinks of the song?
Totally. Everyone knows which song is about them and that doesn’t bother me at all because it happened. I got to write about it. You shouldn’t have dated a songwriter. It never really worries me, but who knows if they really care or not, or really believe that they inspired it.
I would be flattered if someone wrote a song about me.
Right? Me too. I’m like, “Why doesn’t anybody write a song about me? I want to know what damage I’ve done to somebody else. I need to know.”
You called the album Lady Like. What was it about that song that stood out for you?
I think because it’s my first album, people still don’t really know who I am. I feel like when you listen to that song, you know exactly who I am. I just think that the statement of the song is very important during this time just for women in the music industry in general. I think it really represents how we are changing as a society as well as not needing to fit a certain stereotype. I hope it makes people feel free to express themselves for who they are and not have to apologize for it.
You mentioned the music industry. The obstacles facing women in country is a hot topic right now. What has your experience been like?
It’s been awkward for me to talk about it because I feel like I haven’t experienced any negative things yet. I’ve been in the industry as a songwriter for a lot longer than I have as an artist. “Lady Like” was actually inspired by the move I made from Colorado to Nashville because I thought Western and Southern would be the same things and they’re not. It turns out there is such a thing as a Southern belle. When I first moved to Nashville, I was mostly surrounded by male songwriters.
I would get a lot of shit for not being very feminine and not being a typical southern girl. That’s also a cultural thing in the South too. I feel like I was fighting against a lot of things. I think those issues are real. I just feel like I’m just so used to ignoring those issues because to me, it doesn’t really help me to focus on them. I just know that if I do good work, it doesn’t matter if I’m a guy or a girl. That song really came from that frustration, but it was also a liberating thing as well.
I’m a big fan of some of the pop songs you have written. How did you end up on Charli XCX’s “Boys”?
[Laughs]. That song actually started with me, Michael Pollock and LAUV. We’re all really good friends. A Swedish producer, who I guess worked in her camp, sent us a track that he wanted us to top-line over. We just got drunk in LAUV’s bedroom and wrote it. Then it got handed back to them and they were like, “Oh shit. This is great.” Then they added some other writers onto it. I think Emily Warren helped with the bridge, it was really random. To this day, I have no idea how it all got together.
Does it mean more to you releasing your debut album with all of these years of experience under your belt?
Totally. I am actually really happy that I waited because I feel like I had so much more control in how this album was made and how it was produced because I took the time to learn about what I really wanted. I feel like if I had released an album 10 years ago, it would not be the quality or caliber that I would really want just because I didn’t know what I was doing when I was 18. I was still figuring out who I was.
I don’t think anyone knows what they are doing at 18.
Exactly. I don’t think so either. To me, I’m really glad I waited until I was a little older because all the stories are so personal and exactly how I feel and I probably would not have been able to articulate that as well early on in my songwriting. Songwriting is something you work at and it’s not just something you’re born with. You have to learn how to write. I’m glad I took the time to do that so that this album actually meets all the standards that I have for myself.
Congratulations again on the album. It’s so good.
I appreciate that. Thank you.