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The Lonely Road Songbird

Courtney Marie Andrews
Courtney Marie Andrews

Now and then, in order to make ends meet, a musician picks up an odd job. For some, that means waiting tables. And for others, like Phoenix-born songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews, it means singing backup for the Belgian pop star known as Milow. 

Those familiar with Andrews’ folk and alternative-country music might think singing backup for a Euro-pop star an unlikely gig for the musician. But she made the most of it — penning the majority of her hit 2016 release, Honest Life, while on the road.

And Honest Life has received rave reviews, landing in NPR’s Heavy Rotation. Andrews tells EW she’s grateful for the success, calling it “a long time coming.” 

“As I was writing these songs, I had been on the road for so long,” she admits. “All I was thinking about was being home and back in America. I was very homesick, going through a heartbreak. It was a very self-reflective time.” 

Words like homesick, heartbreak and self-reflective capture Honest Life’s open-road tempos, acoustic and slide guitars and barroom piano. All this joins together behind Andrews’ rich, Joni Mitchell-like voice — the kind of lonely American sound that makes you cry in your beer, just cry or wish you had a beer late at night while all alone in some desolate truck stop in the heartland.

And although Andrews has a successful career as a touring backup singer, writing her own material is a priority. “I’ve always written my own songs along the way,” she recalls, explaining that while growing up she listened to a lot of Texas songwriters (like Townes Van Zandt or Lyle Lovett), but also “soul music, Motown music, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan.” 

Andrews says musical inspiration comes to her in different ways, but typically she likes to have a guitar in her hand when she’s writing. “Even if I’m not using it,” she says. “Kind of as a reference. Sometimes ideas come when you don’t have a guitar with you — just driving in the car, you hear a melody or think of an idea.” 

Coming through the Eugene area this time, Andrews will definitely have her guitar — playing a solo acoustic set at a house concert in Cottage Grove. She plays several house shows a year. “I like the intimacy of a house show," she says, "but also full-band shows as well. I like `em all. I just like to perform.”

Courtney Marie Andrews plays the inaugural event at Cottage Grove’s Boundary House 7 pm Thursday, Jan. 19; $15. For tickets and more information go to liveatboundaryhouse.brownpapertickets.com.