COURTNEY Marie Andrews will play Pocklington Arts Centre on June 17 on the back of being crowned International Artist of the Year at the 2021 UK Americana Awards.
The Phoenix singer-songwriter also saw off competition from American Aquarium, Margo Price and Katie Pruitt to win Best International Album for Old Flowers at the January 28 virtual ceremony presented by Bob Harris, host of The Country Show on BBC Radio 2.
Elvis Costello, Steve Earle and Gillian Welch all performed at the awards, run by the Americana Music Association, to celebrate the very best in country from Britain and internationally.
This summer, Courtney, 30, will perform the Grammy-nominated Old Flowers, her break-up album released last July on Loose/Fat Possum Records, on her return to Pocklington.
She last played a sold-out PAC in December 2018, at the end of a week when she was felled by a viral infection the morning after her London gig and had to call off her Birmingham, Bristol and Oxford gigs.
Rested and recuperated, she was still nursing a cough, but found the energy for a solo set of songs and stories, introducing Ships In The Night and It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault, two new compositions that would end up on Old Flowers.
Courtney had been booked to play PAC on June 17 last year, but Covid restrictions forced the postponement of her six-date tour. In the quietude of an emptied diary, she completed her debut poetry collection, Old Monarch, set for release in the UK on May 13 (preceded by April 6 in the United States) through Simon & Schuster.
“It’s been hard to contain my excitement about this news…my first poetry collection,” Courtney said on Instagram, introducing a book that “reads like a transformation, me, the narrator, being the figurative Old Monarch”.
“Some people are like monarch butterflies – solitary by nature, on a passionate search for somewhere,” the publicity explains for a collection divided into three sections, Sonoran Milkweed, Longing In Flight and Eucalyptus Tree (My Arrival to Rest).
Centred on themes of longing and a desire to belong, while excavating scenes from her childhood in the American Southwest, the poems address Courtney’s childhood in Arizona, family and the naive assumptions of youth; leaving home; falling in love for the first time and becoming an adult as the Old Monarch butterfly arrives in a figurative garden.
“Last summer, while on an island out at sea, I decided to finish some poems I started years ago. Pondering metaphysical transformation, I collected these questions and instilled them onto these pages,” Courtney’s Instagram post said.
“From my childhood in Arizona to allegorical gardens of rest, you can follow my journey as an Old Monarch. Between its pages, I hope you find patterns of your own path reflected.”
Summing up the third section in the book’s press release, Courtney concludes: “There are a lot of metaphysical and philosophical poems in this section. I arrive at the figurative garden, and I finally understand the journey at the edge of my life.
“There are a lot of poems in the context of a garden here, accepting mortality and the ever-changing world. These are meant to be wise old woman poems.”
You will have to wait until June 17 to discover if Courtney will include any of Old Monarch’s poems in her Pocklington set, when she will be accompanied by a full band.
Looking forward to Courtney’s return, PAC director Janet Farmer says: “We would like to congratulate Courtney on her impressive, but not surprising, UK Americana Awards wins, as well as the publication of her debut collection of poetry.
“We can’t wait to welcome Courtney back to Pocklington this June when we’ll get the chance to hear her perform her stunning album Old Flowers live.
“If you don’t want to miss this incredible opportunity, I would urge you to buy your tickets now to avoid disappointment.”
Old Flowers was created in the aftermath of a long-term relationship ending, leading to her most vulnerable writing on ten songs that chronicle her journey through heartbreak, loneliness and finding herself again.
“There are a million records and songs about heartbreak, but I did not lie when writing these songs,” Courtney says. “This album is about loving and caring for the person you know you can’t be with.
“It’s about being afraid to be vulnerable after you’ve been hurt. It’s about a woman who is alone, but OK with that, if it means truth. This was my truth: my nine-year relationship ended and I’m a woman alone in the world, but happy to know herself.”
Truth hurts, love hurts, but Courtney found writing Old Flowers “a safe place, a place of comfort”. “I didn’t lie in what I wrote because it was a very cathartic process,” she says.
“It was the only way I could channel what I was going through but I think sometimes people do lie in these situations because vulnerability is scary – and when you’re vulnerable you show your weakest emotions, and people are uncomfortable with that.”
By way of contrast, Courtney benefited from the confessional self-analysis. “Songs can predict your future or look back at what’s happened, and I didn’t realise that I felt the way I did until I started writing them,” she says.
“I definitely learned a lot about vulnerability: not hiding behind a character I learned so much about my relationship and goodbyes. Everything has a reason and we’re always searching for ourselves and for joy in our lives. This record is no different: when you reach the end of the tunnel, you reach the light and life goes on.”
Produced by Bon Iver and Big Thief producer Andrew Sarlo, Old Flowers was recorded at Sound Space Studio, a private studio in Los Angeles, with only three musicians: Andrews on vocals, acoustic guitar and piano, Twain’s Matthew Davidson, on bass, celeste, mellotron, pedal steel, piano, pump organ, Wurlitzer and background vocals, and Big Thief’s James Krivcheniaon drums and percussion.
“I think it may be only the third or fourth album to have been made there. Andrew had made a connection with the owner, and it’s just an amazing downtown space in the arts district of LA with giant windows and so many cool instruments in there,” says Courtney.
“Andrew and I had both decided the album needed to be made in a very intimate space with the fewer cooks in the kitchen, the better, and this place was perfect.
“A lot of the record was just Matt and me and I guess it was like a musical dance of communication between the two of us, and then James added those small moments of magic between our ‘dancing’.”
Old Flowers is Courtney’s seventh album, following on from 2018’s May Your Kindness Remain; 2016’s Honest Life; 2013’s On My Page; 2010’s No One’s Slate Is Clean; 2009’s Painters Hands And A Seventh Son and 2008’s Urban Myths.
“I definitely look at albums in their own right. I’m with Neil Young on that,” says Courtney. “Every album has its own journey. It would be a disservice and an injustice if I were to try to make the same record over and over again. The best artists are constantly re-born with each album.”
Old Flowers finds Courtney in full bloom. “The title means lots of things to me, one of them being that you can’t revive old flowers, but they remain beautiful even when they’ve died and they’re preserved.
“A friend of mine once said to me that flowers are timeless, and I can agree with that sentiment.”
Tickets for Courtney Marie Andrews’ 8pm concert at Pocklington Arts Centre on June 17 cost £20 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
Did you know?
Courtney Marie Andrews recorded a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s America with Liz Cooper and Molly Sarlé in 2020.