Welcome to Emerging Country Artist Spotlight, a Billboard series where we highlight an up-and-coming musician who is making a splash in the genre. This week’s pick is singer-songwriter Ingrid Andress, who got her start writing for other artists before branching out on her own.
Ingrid Andress sharpened her songwriting skills while attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. It was there that the burgeoning singer-songwriter penned a song that impressed her professor, Kara DioGuardi, who encouraged her to seriously consider the craft as a career and later signed her to a publishing deal. When DioGuardi could no longer make the trip to Nashville to work on Andress’ song with country producer Frank Rogers, Andress asked if she could go in her stead.
“This was an in to do what I wanted as a songwriter, so I packed up all my stuff and moved to Nashville to write with this one person who may or may not have wanted to write with me,” Andress tells Billboard over the phone of relocating to Music City in 2013.
Lucky for Andress, who has since written for artists like Charli XCX, Rogers did want to co-write with her, but it took a few months as he was in the midst of producing a project for Darius Rucker.
Nearly six years later, Andress is now signed to Warner Music Nashville and has released her second song, “More Hearts Than Mine.” A poignant ballad she penned with Sam Ellis and Derrick Southerland, the accompanying music video was directed by Sam Siske, premiering exclusively on Billboard below.
When was the moment you knew you wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always liked performing and putting on shows. I’d make my siblings do musicals for my parents. No one ever really told me that music was an option as a career. I grew up playing piano and singing and loving it, but it was more of a hobby. Once I found out that you could actually do music as a career, I was like, “Oh, well then, what am I doing? Let’s just do that.”
I was probably 16. The Colorado Rockies, which my dad was coaching at the time, were playing the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. We all went out to Boston and were walking to Fenway [Park] and we passed Berklee College of Music. I had never heard of it before. We walked by and I was like, “Let’s go in there! There’s so much music coming from there.” Then we went in and I was like, “Oh my God, there’s a college for music, are you kidding me? I have to go here!”
When was your first public appearance?
I dropped all sports and signed up for every musical in order to get into Berklee. When I first started singing by myself, I think I was Sally in Charlie Brown. That was embarrassing.
Whose career do you admire most and would like to pattern your own after?
I really love how Ed Sheeran has grown as an artist and as a songwriter. He started with more indie stuff and then really learned how to craft a good pop song, which takes time. He’s grown a lot as a writer and performer and the songs that he doesn’t want for himself, he gives to whoever he wants. That would be a really cool career to have, where I could still write and not feel like I have to record everything that I write but still be able to perform and write what I want. He’s a big role model for me.
What is the first album you remember buying?
I think it was a Metallica album because I was playing drums. That was back in my punk rock days. I had to sneak it because my parents were super strict, so I didn’t actually buy albums. My friends would burn me CDs because my parents were like, “You can only listen to Christian music.”
Who is your dream collaborator?
I love Chris Stapleton and I love that he’s a writer and his voice is incredible. I would just love singing with him. I don’t even care what song it is. It could be a Cardi B cover with Chris Stapleton. He’s so good!
What’s the story behind “More Hearts Than Mine?”
I had the concept in my notes for a while and I wasn’t sure how I wanted to write it. The initial thought was, “Don’t introduce me to your parents because I’m not a big relationship person so I’ll probably be breaking more hearts than just yours.” Then I was like, “It’s probably time to be more vulnerable because my family means the world to me and I should probably write it from my perspective.”
I rarely bring anybody I’m dating home to meet my family because they’re just such a sacred part of my life. It came about from a real place of, “Just so you know, if you meet my family they’re very special people.” Luckily, my co-writers that I wrote it with, we’re all really good friends so I was able to be vulnerable with them. It actually took me a few tries at recording it because I kept tearing up and needed to take breaks because I hate crying in front of people. I’d have to step out and gather myself and they’d be like, “No, Ingrid. Come on and just cry. It’s fine.”
What is the most autobiographical song you’ve released?
“Lady Like.” That’s why I released it first, because when you listen to that song you know who I am as a person, whereas “More Hearts Than Mine” is more my story. “Lady Like” is more of me [saying], “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.”
They complement each other really well because I am very sassy and very comfortable with who I am, which I think “Lady Like” taps into really well. My family is like my kryptonite, so if you mess with them, I’m coming after you. [“More Hearts Than Mine”] is also an emotional song where I actually do feel that deeply about them. You can be both confident and sassy but also on the verge of tears at any moment. I think it’s good to have an emotional range.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given about the music industry?
A lot of success comes from you knowing that you’re going to get more no’s than you are yeses, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re doing is bad. You just have to keep your head down and work really hard and eventually you’re going to get a yes and it’s going to be the yes that’s right for you. If you listen to all the nos, then you’re probably not going to make it as far as you want to.
Taking critique well is also really important because if something’s not working, it is good to assess, “Well, why isn’t this working and what can I do better?” If you’re giving it all you’ve got and you like what you’re doing, then it’s just usually a matter of time before other people catch up with how awesome you are.