Jessica Andrews: Beginning a New Chapter
It’s easy to forget that Jessica Andrews hasn’t even turned 30 yet. Andrews made her debut back on DreamWorks Records back in 1999 and did so as an up-and-coming 15-year old with “I Will Be There For You” on Prince of Egypt movie soundtrack. Since then, she’s released three albums, charted eleven singles on the country charts and even had a Number One hit with “Who I Am.”
In 2005, DreamWorks Records was shut down and Andrews moved over to Disney’s Carolwood Records imprint, a subsidiary of Lyric Street Records. She recorded a full fourth album, but that label closed before its release in 2008 and it went unheard. Since Carolwood’s closing, Andrews has focused on her personal life. She married fellow singer/songwriter/filmographer Marcel Chagnon on November 11, 2011 in a private ceremony. Andrews has also kept busy playing Nashville clubs and writing songs for the next chapter of her career.
That chapter starts now. Andrews has signed to a new (yet to be revealed) indie music label and is busy writing and recording a new project scheduled for release later in 2012. As she shares with Engine 145, it’s revitalized her creativity and allowed her to stretch her talents far more than any previous work she’s done thus far.
Ken Morton, Jr.: First of all, let me congratulate you on your nuptials.
Jessica Andrews: Thank you. It was a really special day. We got married on 11/11/11. It was actually a very private ceremony. So private that it was only the two of us and our dear friend who married us. His name’s John. And we had a witness who was kind of my planner. She really didn’t have anything to plan, but she was our witness. We also had four cameramen who videoed it and captured every moment of it. We wanted to make sure we had an amazing video of it that we could share with family and friends. It was amazing. It was a really perfect day.
KMJ: The four guys doing video has to be part of Marcel’s influence there, doesn’t it?
JA: (Laughter) Absolutely. He does that for a living. When we got engaged last year, we started planning a big wedding and that’s what we were planning to do. But it just go so overwhelming fast. We had like 400 guests and that got us thinking what we really wanted. Did we want a big wedding or did we want to elope and do something with just the two of us. We pretty much did that. But we didn’t elope, we did it here inNashville about three miles from our house in this location we both love. We did it that way. We eloped here at home basically. When we did that, we wanted to make sure we had all the bases covered for family and friends. So he brought in four different cameramen–all guys that Marcel works with that did us a favor–and had four different angles. It kind of looked like we were shooting a movie.
KMJ: For most couples, when they get married, there’s a certain song that is the soundtrack to their marriage. It might be the song played at the ceremony or the first dance. With a ceremony with just the two of you, was there such a thing?
JA: We didn’t have any music, actually. It was just a low-key ceremony. It was just us doing our vows. We wrote our own vows and kept it very simple. But in the video, when Marcel edits it all, we will have a song that will play during the whole video. We haven’t really figured out what that song is going to be yet, however.
We do have a really special song that he wrote when he proposed to me for our engagement. He wrote a song and had it played on the radio and proposed to me while it was playing. We’re thinking of using that song, but we haven’t really gotten that far yet. He’s been so busy with working and editing other projects, he hasn’t had time to do our wedding video. It’s been on the back-burner for a little while. He has to make sure that when he finally sits down to edit it, it’s going to be the best video he’s ever worked on. He wants to put the time in and make sure it’s everything we want it to be. But that song is probably the one we’ll use for the video.
KMJ: While Marcel is probably more recently well-known for his work shooting music videos, he got his start as a singer, songwriter and musician. How involved are you in each other’s music?
JA: He’s a songwriter. These days, he’s more of a songwriter than an artist himself. He’s had a couple different record deals and released a couple different record deals. But his success has been on the songwriting side of things. We used to write a lot together, but when you’re a couple and together all the time, it gets tricky sometimes, especially when they’re your spouse. We try to treat it like any other co-write. We basically say, “We’re not a couple and we’re not married, we’re going to treat this as any other co-write.” We like to work together but sometimes it’s tricky. We have a tremendous amount of respect for one-another and admire each other’s talents. But we’re very very different musically. Our processes and how we write are very different. We do work together and collaborate but I wouldn’t say a whole lot. We like to keep things separate sometimes. It can be nice and fresh to keep that separate.
KMJ: You are in the brand new stages of a new project, I understand.
JA: I am. I am. I’m really excited. I’m going to be signing with a new label. It’s an indie label. It’s in the very early stages of discussing our game plan at this point. I haven’t even signed my contract yet. But I will shortly. It’s taken me a few years to decide what I wanted to do next in my career. My last record I made was in 2009. I was signed to Lyric Street Records’ imprint Carolwood Records. We recorded a whole record with Jay DeMarcus from Rascal Flatts. He produced it. We made an amazing record that I was very proud of and then the label fell apart. It shut down. And then a few months later, the parent company shut down as well. That record got pushed to the side and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. I didn’t know if I wanted to find another home for it with another label. I didn’t know if I just wanted to start over since it had been a couple years. I had written a lot of new songs. I feel like I’ve grown a lot just in those couple of years. I’m different. I’m married now and a lot of things have happened over those few years.
It’s taken me awhile to figure out that next step and figure out what I wanted to do. I started talking to this label. Marcel does a lot of videos for the guys on their label. We just sort of building the relationship and talking. I didn’t even know that they were fans of mine. They knew I was a singer and the wife of Marcel. And they loved working with Marcel. But they came to me one day and wanted to know what I was doing and what my plans were. “What do you want to do?” I was just doing my thing. My thought was that if someone came along and liked what I was doing, was inspired by it and wanted to join up, then great! I said, “Let’s do this.”
So that’s kind of where we’re at, right now. We’re in the early stages of mapping out what kind of record I’m going to do. We’re figuring out what I’m going to record. That’s it, right now.
KMJ: Do you have a collection of songs that you’re going to pull from for the album or do you anticipate writing and/or finding some as you go forward?
JA: I think that I have a specific record in mind. For the first time in my career, although I have a lot of songs written right now, I want to start down a path that I’ve never done before. I told the label that they’re going to need to be patient with me and trust me on this. I’m going to create this as we go along. I have a bunch of songs that are written right now, but I don’t know if that’s what I’m going to do. I have a very specific album in mind. I’m booking writing appointments and writing with some very specific people that I want to make this music with. It’s just starting to come into a shape and form right now. They’re very understanding of my process right now. They trust me. I have a record that I want to make and I’ve never made before. It’s very challenging. I’ve never done this before. But I’m very excited to take on that challenge and do something that I’ve never done before.
KMJ: Are those changes sonically or lyrically? How would you describe your vision?
JA: These are the same things that I talk with the label about. They ask me about the same kinds of things. What I tell them is that I don’t know how to put it into words until I start making the music. I don’t want to plan too much. I want to create. I feel like that’s when the music will unveil itself. It will be able to reveal itself as we take this collection of specific songs and put them down. Then we’ll know what it is. I don’t know until I’m in a room. I’m challenging myself to do something I’ve never done before. I’m definitely out on a limb and branching out. Musically and lyrically, I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I’m challenging myself vocally and doing something different from what I’ve done before or recorded.
At this stage, all I’m doing is writing it. I haven’t even started the pre-production yet. It’s very different for me.
KMJ: You’ve got a solid network of friends in Nashville who are writers and/or musicians. Do you anticipate bringing any of them in on this process down the road?
JA: I’m trying to not to label it that way yet. I’m trying not to pick writers because they’ve written this or that. I’m not choosing writers that have hits on the radio right now. I’m very open-minded to write with anyone because you just never know what’s going to happen when you sit down and write with someone. But I will say that there are a handful of people that I’m very comfortable with that know me and get me and where I am with my career right now. So I’m kind of leaning towards that handful of people that know where I’ve been and where I want to go with this record.
But I’m open-minded to writing with all kinds of people too. You just never know when you’re going to find that great person who you love to write with. We could have a great chemistry.
KMJ: If you look into your crystal ball, when do you think fans will have an opportunity to hear some of the new work?
JA: By the end of this year. I don’t want to spend forever on this project. I don’t want to lose my focus or get sidetracked. I don’t normally like to put a time-frame on something because when you’re creating, you should just let it happen. But with this, with where I am in my life right now, I’d like to have some timelines and work like that. It keeps me focused. It gives me a goal. I want to be recording this summer and have a record finished and launched this year. I want to get moving and get ready to go.
KMJ: I’ve got one last question for you and it’s as open-ended as you want to answer it. What is country music to you?
JA: Wow. Good question. I was watching the ACM Awards and on my piano in my house is my ACM that I won years ago was sitting there on the piano. And it was just one of those moments. I was watching the ACMs just last night and I have one of my own sitting on my piano. I was just thinking of just how grateful I am to be part of a family and be part of an industry that is so loyal to its artists. And from the fans, too. It’s just one big family that you can be part of forever. You really can’t say that about other formats like you can say that about country music. And that’s the part of it that I love so much. I feel a part of that family. And that’s a nice feeling.
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