When Jill Andrews released her debut solo EP in 2009, it sounded like a complete artistic statement. The six-song disc marked a departure for Andrews; unlike the fuzzy, reverb-heavy, mountain Gothic alt-country of the everybodyfields, the band she had performed with for the previous years, the quickly recorded self-titled EP showcased Andrews' rich, clear voice in clean, spare folk-pop that recalled the West Coast sounds of the early 1970s.
Two years later, though, Andrews' new full-length CD, The Mirror, makes that EP sound like just one step in her evolution toward a more expansive sound. The new disc features bouncy piano pop ("Another Man," "Sound of the Bells," "Blue Sky") alongside well-crafted acoustic ballads ("Blue Eyes") and a lullaby to Andrews' son ("Wake Up Nico").
"It's different in some ways, for sure," Andrews says. "The EP was very lo-fi, it was mostly live, and a lot of the songs on it were just me getting a whole lot of stuff out emotionally. The new album is, as well, in some ways—in a lot of ways. But I think there's more hope in the lyrics and the melodies."
The Mirror, which will be released with national distribution on June 7, was recorded in North Carolina and Nashville with producers Scott Solter and Neilson Hubbard. Andrews features the same band that backed her on her 2009 EP—keyboardist/guitarist Josh Oliver, bassist Vine Ilegan, and drummer Chad Melton. Working with Solter, who co-produced Superchunk's 2010 comeback album Majesty Shredding, and Hubbard, who has worked with Garrison Starr and Toad the Wet Sprocket's Glen Phillips, helped shape the disc's poppy accessibility.
"We all basically played together and got the rhythm tracks, the bass and the drums, and that's what we did on the EP, too," Andrews says. "From the live performance of it we saved whatever we could, and if it wasn't good we overdubbed it. It was different in the sense it was in a different place and we had a producer—we actually had two producers who worked on it, individually. That was cool, having a little more direction. We spent many weeks recording it."
But an even more important factor in The Mirror's broader range is Andrews' songwriting.
"I guess one of the first songs that moved directions was the first song on the new album, ‘Sound of the Bells,'" she says. "I was very surprised when I wrote that. I was surprised and very excited. I always had written songs that people would come up to me and say, ‘Your songs are so sad. They're good, but they're so sad.' I love sad songs, so that's always what I wrote. It's how I got things out. So I was surprised when I started writing in a more indie rock/pop direction. I like it. I think it's actually more like my personality in real life."
To support The Mirror, Andrews will play a handful of headlining regional shows, followed by a spot opening for singer/songwriter J.D. Souther, who co-wrote some of the biggest hits for the Eagles, including "Heartache Tonight" and "New Kid in Town." While Andrews played in front of big audiences with the everybodyfields, she expects these will be her biggest solo shows yet. "I think his audiences are going to be pretty big," she says. "We're playing in a lot of big venues. So yeah, they should be pretty big."
Her next local show is an in-store appearance at Disc Exchange the day The Mirror is released; she has also scheduled an official album-release show for July 8 at Relix Variety Theatre. In the meantime, she will play a surprising everybodyfields reunion show at the Rhythm and Roots Reunion Music Festival in Bristol in mid-September. It will be the first time she's played live with former bandmate Sam Quinn since 2009.
"That happened because we were asked to play at Rhythm and Roots, and I called Sam and the rest of the band and asked if they wanted to do it, and they all said yeah," Andrews says. "I think it'll be a good thing for us to do for a lot of reasons. It'll be fun to relearn those songs. I still play some of them, for sure, and I know Sam does, too. It'll be fun to play together and just do that thing again."
CORRECTION: Nico, the subject of Andrews' song "Wake Up Nico," is Andrews' son, not her daughter.