For singer-songwriter Jill Andrews, Asheville is pleasantly familiar. “I’ve played there so many times, it feels like another home to me,” she says. She’s particularly comfortable at The Grey Eagle, having performed there on numerous occasions over the years. It’s there that she’ll debut her newest album, The War Inside, Friday, Sept. 25.
Born an hour away in Johnson City, Tenn., and now based in Nashville, Andrews got her start as part of alt-country band the everybodyfields. She formed that group with fellow singer-songwriter Sam Quinn; they met as teens while working at summer camp. Andrews’ unique pop-folk sensibility and warm, soulful sound — apparent early on — have helped her steadily grow as a solo artist since striking out on her own in 2009. Her songs have appeared on shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Nashville” and MTV’s “Scream.” She’s shared stages with The Avett Brothers, Willie Nelson, Joan Osborne and others.
The tracks of The War Inside are windows into the singer’s personal journey. “Get Up, Get On,” for instance, was written after she’d lost two cousins. She had attended a funeral, and the emotions started to pour out of her. “I’m really close with my aunt, and I wanted to write a song for her to kind of lift her spirits up,” she says. With lines like, “Take each day as it comes, hold onto the ones you love,” the song strikes a balance between heartache and hope.
The album’s title is a line from the same song, and Andrews says it’s a tribute to the struggles of daily life. “Just like everybody else, I’m constantly trying to work and be a mom and not go totally insane,” she says. (Andrews’ son, Niko, is 6.) Her challenges include “dealing with even just the mundane battles like coming home to mounds of laundry every day and not [going] crazy.”
A lot has happened since Andrews first started strumming a guitar. The War Inside suggests that those early years as an artist are long behind her. “The stuff in the everybodyfields that I did — you can hear in my voice that I wasn’t confident. It’s so obvious,” she says. Fans are likely to say the everybodyfields’ artful melancholy has stood the test of time. But as a singer-songwriter in 2015, Andrews is more mature and experienced, and self-assured enough to release her new record independently.
Such a strategy involved hefty upfront production fees, which Andrews funded in part through a successful Kickstarter campaign. “It’s a pretty insane financial risk, but totally worth it as far as I’m concerned,” she says of working without a label.
The album’s production took three years, far longer than Andrews expected. She was writing throughout the process, so she ended up with an entire library of material to choose from. “It was hard narrowing songs down,” she says. “But that was a really good problem to have.” The resulting 12 tracks range from the lilting sweetness of “I’m So In Love With You” to the pulsing passion of “Cannibal.”
Andrews’ records don’t revolve around any particular topic. Instead, she follows her heart when it comes to selecting songs. “I tend to think that if you’re writing [an album] in a certain period of time, a theme will kind of emerge. … I just pick the songs that I like the most.”
With a total of six albums under her belt (including the everybodyfields catalog), Andrews’ music is almost a written record of her maturation. “It really does show growth — personal growth and growth as a musician and in writing. It’s really cool to see that and for it to be seen,” Andrews says. She hopes her work will reveal to her son how much effort and emotion she’s invested in her career. Already, he’s learned to sing with his mother.
At first Niko wasn’t interested in the spotlight, but now every time he’s going to be at a show, he asks if he can go onstage, Andrews says. In Knoxville, where Niko was born and spent the first years of his life, audiences know him. One night, after taking the stage with his mother, he got a chorus of cheers.
“He was with a baby sitter that night,” Andrews says. “He turned to her and said, ‘Well I guess I’m kind of a star now.’”
WHO: Jill Andrews with Humming House
WHERE: The Grey Eagle, thegreyeagle.com
WHEN: Friday, Sept. 25, 9 p.m. $12 advance / $15 day of show