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Chartbreaker: Ingrid Andress Learned To Write Songs In Any Style Before Her Country Breakthrough

Chartbreaker is Billboard's monthly series highlighting an artist's first-ever Billboard chart appearance. This month, our Chartbreaker is Ingrid Andress, who is currently scaling Billboard's Country Airplay chart — entering the top 20 for the first time on charts dated Nov. 30 — thanks to her breakout hit, "More Hearts Than Mine."

Growing up in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Ingrid Andress treated music as a hobby instead of a potential career; she and her siblings would perform impromptu at-home musicals for their parents (to rave reviews, of course). 

Then in 2007, when Andress was 16, her family was in Boston — her father, a major league baseball trainer, was coaching the Colorado Rockies, who were playing the Red Sox in the World Series. While on her way to Fenway Park one day, Andress passed Berklee College of Music. “I had never heard of it before,” she recalls. “We went in and I was like, ‘Oh my God, there’s a college for music? I have to go here!'”

After graduating from Berklee in 2013, her songwriting professor, songwriter Kara DioGuardi (Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away,” Carrie Underwood’s “Undo It”), urged Andress to move to Nashville. “At the time, I wasn’t ready to be an artist,” Andress, now 28, tells Billboard. “When you’re in your early twenties, you’re still figuring things out.”

A year after the move, though, Andress signed her first publishing deal with DioGuardi’s Arthouse Entertainment/Sea Gayle Music/Universal Music Publishing, through which she formed her circle of songwriting friends, including Michael Pollack (Maroon 5’s “Memories”). “I was sticking with people on my level], instead of feeling like I had to write with Max Martin to get a hit,” says Andress. Soon she was flying out to Los Angeles for sessions, and expanding her roster of collaborators. “Even though Nashville is primarily country, it's still a songwriting town,” she says. “Learning how to write here helped me to be able to go into a room with Akon, or a boy band, or anyone.”

Being a songwriting chameleon has benefitted Andress in more ways than one — she says that working with such a wide range of talent taught her the do’s and don’ts of being an artist herself. “There was a huge difference in working with artists who knew who they were, versus the ones who are told what to do,” she says. “That really helped me keep a north star in what I'm doing. I'd never want to be in a situation where I'm just like, ‘I don't know who I am.’ I feel like a lot of artists have a tendency to get caught up and just say yes to anything their label wants, but there's so much value in keeping your own perspective and being able to write about it.”

By 2016, Andress’ publishing deal became solely through Arthouse/UMPG, and by 2017 she had co-written songs later recorded by Charli XCX (“Boys”) and Fletcher (“About You”) — both of which put her on Warner Music Nashville’s radar, which signed her to a recording contract in 2018. Less than a year later, her debut single, “More Hearts Than Mine” — a cautionary tale about bringing a boyfriend home for the first time — arrived. 

“It was around this time last year that I wrote it,” she recalls. “The holidays have a tendency of making you question your relationship with your significant other, because you're like, ‘Okay, is this at a place where I'd want to introduce them to my family?’” Turns out, “No, I didn’t,” she says, laughing.

“More Hearts Than Mine” has been climbing Billboard’s Country Airplay chart for 22 weeks and recently entered the top 20, with a 5% gain to 11.6 million audience impressions, according to Nielsen Music. It’s the only debut song by a solo female artist to crack the Country Airplay top 20 this year. At a time where women continually struggle to get airplay on country radio — something that Miranda Lambert and The Highwomen have been outspoken about — Andress is an anomaly. 

Even so, the track becoming a radio hit was never even a goal. "It’s not up-tempo and doesn't have any beer or trucks in the lyrics]," she says. "It's hard for me to write for radio. I can do that for other people, but when it comes to me, I just need it to be as truthful as possible.”

She plans to do just that on her upcoming debut album, which she’s co-producing and is due out in March 2020; following its release, she’ll head out on tour with a high-profile country act. And while much of her focus is shifting to herself, at least for the time being, that’s not to say she’s done writing for others. 

“Sometimes I get sick of talking about myself,” she says. “I want to help] other people tell] stories.”

A version of this article will appear in the Dec. 14 issue of Billboard.

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