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Rising country star Ingrid Andress was preparing for her big break: a national tour with Dan + Shay and the release of her debut album Lady Like. Then, disaster struck. A deadly Nashville tornado wrecked her apartment building on March 3 (information on how to help those affected, here), and the spread of the novel coronavirus postponed the remaining tour dates (ways to help your community during the outbreak, here). Andress’s album is still scheduled for release, but the artist now finds herself social distancing instead of on the road.
I was in bed listening to “Comfortable” by John Mayer when the tornado hit. The lights suddenly flickered, and there was a deafening roar. I’d never heard a sound like that before in my life. I saw something explode outside my window or catch on fire. Then, things started flying around.
Eight seconds later it was quiet again. I hopped out of bed and opened the front door. The hallway was in total disarray. The lights were out, and the sprinkler system was going off. Tenants in my building were running around. The windows had shattered. There was glass everywhere. Debris littered the hallway. It was mass chaos.
My apartment was in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood, where many homes, apartments, and businesses were destroyed by the deadly tornado that killed 24 people.
Parts of my building were completely wrecked, but I feel extremely lucky to be alive. The first person I called after it hit was my manager. I was supposed to fly to Boston the next day for a radio show interview. “I don’t think I can make it,” I told her. “I need to take care of this.”
I’ve always loved putting on a show, whether that’s playing songs on the piano for people or, as a kid, recruiting my four siblings to put on plays in our Highlands Ranch, Colorado home. I was able to turn that love for performing into a career as a songwriter in Nashville for some pretty amazing artists.
My album Lady Like is scheduled to be released on March 27 and, this spring, I had plans to live out my dream: I was supposed to go on tour with Dan + Shay for their The (Arena) Tour. After that, I’m booked to help Thomas Rhett kick off his Center Point Road tour. And in July, I’ll join Tim McGraw’s 2020 Here on Earth stadium tour.
This was going to be my first time playing arenas, and I couldn’t wait to learn the ins and outs of tour life. I’d already played three sold out shows with Dan + Shay when the tour got postponed to stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s all good, of course, because we don’t want the virus to spread. But it’s been a weird mindset, because I went from being like, “Okay, this is going to be my life the next few months,” to, basically the total opposite. In a matter of days, my life has been totally flipped upside down.
It was almost like a tease of what life could have been, and the future feels so uncertain right now.
In a way, social distancing has been a kind-of blessing in disguise. I didn’t have much time last year to just sit by myself and write new music and sing. I missed that. I’ve been using my time alone in a Nashville hotel to come up with new song ideas. I usually write about things that have happened to me or to people close to me, so if something is going on in my life, I will definitely be writing about it.
I usually start with an idea or a concept before I start writing a song. It sets a road map for where you want to go lyrically, and I love writing about things I can actually relate to. I start working on the melody after I have a lyrical outline of verse and chorus ideas, so I’ll go to the piano and mess around with whatever is in my head at the time.
I’m looking forward to getting back out on the road and touring again. Performing for people is such a huge part of my creative fulfillment, so I can’t wait to see my fans and play them new music from the album.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.