On the cover of Ingrid Andress’ new album, Good Person, as well as in the videos for project, the singer-songwriter returns repeatedly to the calmness and introspective depths of water. The album cover features Andress floating in a swimming pool, while the video for “Pain” was filmed at a Nashville lake during cooler weather earlier this year, and the video for “Blue” also features a watery theme.
“Next album, I’m like, ‘Let’s make a Hawaii-themed album,’” Andress jokes during a Zoom call with Billboard, before musing, “Nature is healing and there are so many parallels to what we go through in humanity. The whole point of the album is the dark versus the light. To me, the visuals need to tell as much of a story as the song does.”
Good Person, out Friday via Atlantic/Warner Music Nashville, finds Andress turning her earthy-meets-ethereal voice to songs reckoning with life as it is and pondering how it could be.
In “Pain,” penned with Ellis and Laura Veltz, Andress offers reflection as a balm for life’s emotional hang-ups and breakups. “Without the pain/ How would you know what things to change/ And what stays the same?” she sings.
In 2020, Andress was flying high, with a top five Country Airplay hit (“More Hearts Than Mine”), multiple Grammy nominations and critical acclaim for her debut album Lady Like. But just as she was opening shows for pop-country duo Dan + Shay, the pandemic forced artists into a lengthy period away from the road. What that period stole in live performance, though, it gifted in terms of time to reflect and delve deeper into songwriting.
“I am very autobiographical,” says Andress, who is managed by Blythe Scokin of rogue and booked by WME. “I had time, and my life was changing. I started writing for this project maybe a week after Lady Like came out.”
Andress co-wrote every song and co-produced Good Person, reuniting with Lady Like collaborators Sam Ellis and Derrick Southerland, but also expanding her musical palette. “Issues” hitmaker Julia Michaels is a co-writer on “Feel Like This,” while Grammy-winning writer-producer Shane McAnally is a co-writer on “Blue” and “Yearbook.”
“I’ve always been dying to work with them, so it was really a beautiful thing to meet them, work with them, become friends with them,” Andress says. “I always try to be in rooms with people who are better than me. They took what I already have as a writer and amplified it.
“Her songs have always resonated with me,” Andress says of Michaels. “I appreciate how she stays true to her style of writing. I think that is the making of an icon, being able to identify, ‘Oh, that’s a Julia song.’” Meanwhile, she raves of McAnally that “so many songs I love have [his] name on it — ‘Space Cowboy’ from Kacey Musgraves, ‘Drinkin’ Problem’ from Midland, all very clever puns, which I enjoy doing.”
Andress had been writing with JP Saxe, who was dating Michaels at the time. Through that connection, Michaels made a trip to Nashville and met Andress for a writing session. “We both happened to be in the beginning stages of new relationships and we just channeled that falling-in-love feeling,” she explains. “We’ve been through the same stuff of coming from toxic exes to finding a healthy new relationship. Plus, we both write similarly, so it was like, ‘Love that line, love that line.’ It was a quick write.”
The idea for “Blue” came from watching videos of children, previously colorblind, who were seeing color for the first time in their lives.
“The videos are so emotional; you can’t not cry when you see those. I just felt like we take [seeing color] for granted, and I thought, ‘I guess it’s the same as love. When it’s going well, it’s easy to take it for granted.’ Love is like color. When you don’t have it, you don’t think you’re missing anything. But once you see it, you’re like, ‘Where have I been?’
This time around, Andress also employed a broader sonic theme, with a range of instruments that includes a vocoder on “Good Person.”
“I’m sure Sam was terrified in the beginning, because I came in like a tornado, wanting to try all these new things,” she says. “But what I love about him is he’s along for the ride. I was on a mission that day. I wanted to try vocoder on something. The song was written on guitar, no tracks used. Then we got into production mode and it just felt like it needed to be droney, vibey, because it is such an introspective song. I didn’t want a lot of things happening in the background distracting, but I wanted it to feel like you’re floating. It’s questioning the meaning of life and I wanted it to feel like it’s a higher concept, and sound like a cerebral space.”
“Good Person” was inspired by society’s heightened use of the internet during the early days of the pandemic — and the decline in civil exchanges.
“We couldn’t see people in person, and I just saw the intense increase of canceling and yelling in comments sections,” she recalls. “It was fascinating — and it made me wonder, like, ‘Am I a good person? And what does that mean?’ And that just sent my brain spiraling, like, ‘I guess people who are religious think they are good people, but they also don’t accept everybody.’ To me, at the end of a four-day, mentally exhausting spiral, I was like, ‘I don’t know what being a good person means — and maybe that’s what the song should be, just asking that question.”
She says the pandemic has made her “not as caught up in people’s bulls—t, because I think most of us are trying our best and that looks different for everyone. I want everyone to find happiness in their life and that looks different for everyone.”
She is also introducing audiences to her new collection of songs while opening for Keith Urban’s Speed of Now World Tour, which runs through November.
“It’s definitely on my bucket list to write with him while we are out there,” Andress says. “We have through November, so we’ll see.” Meanwhile, she says spending these months on the road observing Urban’s creative vision has helped her improve her own live shows.
“I’ve been able to pick up on details on how to tweak my own set, like, ‘Oh, maybe these visuals don’t quite fit this emotion in the song,’ or ‘I feel like I shouldn’t be belting three songs in a row because that’s exhausting,’” she says. “We changed the set a couple of times but I think we have it dialed in now. It was interesting to think of it like that, because he changes his set every night.”
Prior to moving to Nashville to pursue her career, Colorado native Andress had been set on pursuing comedy in Los Angeles, until one of her Berklee College of Music instructors, songwriter Kara DioGuardi, encouraged her to focus on songwriting, prompting Andress’ decision to move to Nashville instead. The move paid off, and she initially launched her career as a writer on songs, including Charli XCX’s “Boys.”
She still harbors comedic aspirations, through both music and acting.
“I would love to find other creative ways to use my songwriting in other formats,” she says, naming Yellowstone and Hacks as two series she would love to contribute to. “I don’t know if I could act in something like Yellowstone, because I’m more of a comedy person. Put me in something like Parks and Recreation and I would love it.”