Courtney Marie Andrews returns with Old Flowers, an amazingly personal reflection that explores the end of one chapter and the discovery of the next. Crafted predominately in the wake of a nine-year relationship, the follow up to 2018’s lauded May Your Kindness Remain finds Andrews unwavering and as lyrically poignant as ever. You may chuckle uncomfortably when certain songs lean on your own memories– or unconsciously wipe errant tears away when that aching lilt echoes your present. Andrews has stated that the majority of the songs were written in minutes. A more accurate assertion might be that they took years to live. Old Flowers is a love story at its core– but it’s the chronicle of the end. The album balances that pain with honesty as Andrews chooses understanding over blame and truth over nostalgia.
AI- I didn’t know how I was gonna approach this interview because Old Flowers… An album like this is so deeply personal. How did you prepare yourself for the fact that, initially, you were going to have to live in these songs as a live performer?
CAM- I feel like when I’m writing a song, the song is mine, and then when I’m performing it, sometimes I just feel more like an orator. And obviously, in some moments I feel those personal stories, but I’ve been able over time to detach myself from the story. It doesn’t really affect me every time I sing it– if that makes any sense? I feel like it’s more of the world’s song once you put it out there than it is your own,
Did you feel like that during the process of making it in the studio? I know that you kept the personnel on the album light. Was that as much for your emotional attachment to those songs at the time of recording?
Certainly, during the writing and recording of them, I felt like, yeah, very attached and very emotionally stirred by them because they are such personal songs. But as soon as the record was done, you just sort of place it in another compartment in your mind.
I really appreciate the leanness of the album. I mean, there’s quite a bit of instrumentation, but it’s all kept very compartmentalized and focused on the song. Had there ever been any discussion of going big with it? Similar to what you had done previously with May Your Kindness Remain?
When I first started sending songs to my producer, him and I quickly realized that this album and these songs are personal conversations. They’re quiet conversations with somebody, and it didn’t really make sense in the context of the song to go big. That doesn’t mean that I won’t do that again in the future, but I just think with the space I was at and when I was writing, we really wanted a more subdued sonic vibe-type bed to put over the music, to reflect the intimacy of the songs.
You’ve written an album that at its heart is about the end of a nearly decade long relationship, which as you have noted was a third of your life. I was curious… We were listening to it, and my wife says, “Where’s the angry song?” Where is the rage and the yelling that she assumed was going to accompany some part of the album? And I can’t be the first person to wonder that too.
Well… (Laughs) I think that the tail of our relationship was that we both loved each other, but it just wasn’t working. I always go back to this Jack Gilbert poem [“Failing and Flying”]. It’s basically, in so many words, kind of like the end of a relationship can be triumphant. It doesn’t have to be this bitter, sad thing. And there certainly are bitter lines in there– especially in “Break the Spell” and “Carnival Dream”– but it feels more of like bitter that it just couldn’t work. I didn’t feel really any contention against my partner at the time. I just felt a deep sadness that it was coming to an end.
You bring up the poetry. Did I see that’s what you’ve been occupying your time with recently? Writing poetry?
Yeah. I’m working on my first collection of poems.
Was that something that you had considered doing before or did it come from being home with the pandemic?
I was working towards that since the beginning of last year. But the pandemic has certainly acted as a catalyst to finish the book and giving me more time to really focus on it.
I want to talk about that. It’s something that I’ve brought up with lots of folks that I’ve been talkin’ to lately because it is something that’s really occupying our entire world. How does it feel not to be able to get out and play this album yet?
It feels sad if I’m being 100% transparent. I built my life around touring and around performing, and so it feels different, it feels unique. It doesn’t feel like any other record release process. So, yeah, there’s a large part of me that feels kind of like in mourning. Especially not knowing when we will be able to, I think, is the hardest part. If there was a set date for when we were going to be on the road, it would feel a little bit more hopeful. But I think it’s scary for a lot of us not knowing when we’ll be back on the road.
I think that is the scariest part because, from everybody that I’ve spoken to, no one has a plan or an idea of when to put things back in motion. Are you still in Nashville?
I am, yeah.
What’s the vibe around there? I mean, is it like a ghost town without all the bars and the clubs and the music venues open?
Broadway kind of reopened for a few months, maybe… Or a month, I guess. There was certainly a large amount of people that were still going to bars and stuff, which is kind of crazy. But I will say a lot of my musician friends, a lot of people in the music industry that tour for a living, I think are all taking it pretty seriously because we know the effects of it and we all really want to be on the road again. I feel like there’s different groups– there’s people that are still just going out regardless and then there’s a large part of the music community that’s in their own way, like social distancing, quarantining, and locked down. It’s just different people to people.
The online streaming shows… You’ve done some of those and it’s really begun to evolve in a whole new way. It’s going from people sittin’ in their living rooms or bedrooms doing these shows to now, we’re beginning to see artists do full-on production for these online streaming shows, whether in theaters or rehearsal spaces or studios. What’s your take on that moving forward? And do you have something planned for the album’s release?
It’s been a really nice supplement, especially in the beginning of quarantine. I was doing quite a few live streams and it was a nice way to connect with people. But, yeah, I do have a more produced show that I’m going to release tickets for. I’ll play the album top to bottom, and that’s hopefully going to be announced pretty soon.
One of the songs on the album, “It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault”… Now that song sounds like it could have been on May Your Kindness Remain. And if I’m not mistaken, that was the only song on the album that predated the breakup.
Why did that one make it onto Old Flowers?
Because I kind of feel like it was a foreshadowing song. When I wrote it, I sort of foreshadowed the year ahead and sometimes in a songwriter’s career, you have those moments where you write a song, and you kind of predict your own future. And that was definitely that song. It felt like it kicked off a lot of what became of the album.
I don’t want to dive into your ex– but was he an artist? Was he a musician as well? Did he understand what you were doing with this record?
Yeah. Yeah. He was.
That make it easier or harder?
I think both, honestly! Sometimes it felt like the demise of us and sometimes it felt like the only way we could communicate (laughs)!