Analogue Music | Jill Andrews

Jill Andrews

By Matt Conner

These are everyday songs.

Meaningful art is often created in response to the most memorable moments we'll face—our greatest traumas and joys. Yet just as often, resonant responses are also inspired by what Jill Andrews defines as "everyday" stories and songs. Beauty in the ordinary, as they say.

Thirties is Jill's latest release, a book/album package that documents the last decade of her life. It's motherhood and maturity, duties and dreams. It's hopeful and nostalgic. It also asks as much as it answers.

If you're remotely familiar with Jill's music, then you already know that any release is a real gift, but this one feels even more special. It's a set of songs lovingly and thoughtfully crafted, infused with a tender heart and real vulnerability. These are personal snapshots and she's handed us the photo album. It's in the commonplace nature of these subjects that we find our ability to identify with them.

Analogue: I want to start with the overall packaging for the new album because I was surprised to find a book that comes along with it. Was that the idea all along?

Jill Andrews: I was in the middle of finishing the music for it and I just had a vision, honestly. The very first thing that I saw was when we were listening to "The Party" in the studio and I was editing. I saw the image of me that is now the photograph of that particular song and story. I saw myself sitting in a room holding a baby with a party going on around me, and that became the catalyst for everything. That felt like a really strong, impactful image. I knew I could pull that off.

I wanted to have a picture for every song. That's how it got started. I got together with my friend Fairlight Hubbard, who is an amazing photographer. We decided we'd work together on this and we've worked together on several subjects. She was on board. Then I decided very soon after that, once she was on board, that I would sit down and write a story for that particular picture and that's the first one that I did. Then after that, I was like, 'Wow, I'm doing this.'

"I saw myself sitting in a room holding a baby with a party going on around me, and that became the catalyst for everything. That felt like a really strong, impactful image."

I felt like there was such a story to tell because these songs are just so personal to me. This part of my life is not different from many other people's lives. Nothing is super dramatic as in nobody died or nothing crazy or supernatural happened. It's an everyday story, but I felt like it was a story that everyone could connect with. It's so common and so important with very sensitive topics. But honestly it wasn't even about it feeling important. I just put my whole self into this project because it just came so naturally to me. I didn't have a grand scheme necessarily. I just wanted to write.

Analogue: A book is a tangible artifact in a digital culture. Were you nervous to put something out that's almost counter-cultural to the way most musical releases are released these days or did you not think about it?

Jill: It wasn't even a thought. [Laughs] I guess if that's counter-cultural, that's totally who I am. I have a hard time keeping up with everybody and technology and I just live in my own era with it all. So no, it didn't feel that way to me or even that crazy of an idea. I know some people were like, 'This is insane. How did you do this?' At times I felt the weight of that, but I just wanted to make something people could hold in their hands.

I'm one of those people who listens to a song and assume that I know what the writer wrote it about. I have a whole story going on in my brain. So I just wanted to say to the listener, 'Hey, you wanna know more? Here are the answers.' You can assume more about it when the story is over, but here's the real deal.

Analogue: Compared to your other outlets and albums, how easy did the music come on this one?

Jill: It was over a span. "River Swimming" was a song I wrote in my early thirties and I'm 39 now. Then a lot of the other ones were more like 35 or 37 or 38. So it wasn't like I just wrote these in no time. It was a very progressive story, but songs like this are easier for me to write in the way that it wasn't just me writing a song for Toby Keith or something like that. [Laughs] I'm just sharing my story, so that's a very natural experience.

Analogue: When you put the songs all together in a way to be packaged out, do you find yourself learning some things you didn't already know when you put these personal snapshots all together?

Jill: Absolutely. It takes me a while to work things out in my head in regards to what's going on in my personal life. I give people a lot of grace and I give myself very little of it. So I worked a lot of things out in writing the songs and the book. It was a very cathartic experience for me. I would just sit on my bed with my laptop on my lap and just remember, 'Okay, what happened in this scene?'

I wrote it looking back on a lot of it and it was interesting to see where I had been, to see where I had gotten. Meanwhile, during this whole thing, I'm in therapy. My therapist didn't even know I was writing a book until the very end. So that was extremely helpful. I was working a lot of stuff out with her.

'Thirties' album cover
'Thirties' album cover

For instance, for "The Way to Go," I wrote a story about my younger self. That's one of my favorite stories from the book and it's one of those things I was working out in therapy. I was sitting there holding a picture of my four-year-old self and she's asking me, 'If she's standing in front of you righ tnow, what would you say to her?' That was cool. I'd never even considered doing that before. It was good, not that I had a messed up childhood or everything, but everyone has little traumas that add up.

Analogue: Given the personal nature of the songs, I was surprised to see so many co-writes. Is that helpful for you to have a third party involved?

Jill: It really depends but on most of those songs, the people I was writing with are very, very close friends of mine. Songwriting to me is a very personal thing anyway to sit in a room with someone and create something from nowhere. Oftentimes when I'm writing something deemed good in my mind, I'm writing it with someone I really trust and have a deep personal bond with.

A lot of times I'll get in a room with someone and before we play any notes, we'll just sit and talk about what's going on in our lives. During that period of time, that's what was going on with me. I guess that's an example of me bogarting a songwriting session, but I've written a lot of stories for other people, too. [Laughs]

VISIT: Jill Andrews