Longform

By the Time I Get to Phoenix: Courtney Marie Andrews Is the Biggest Star in the Valley's Blooming Pop-Folk Scene

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As far as local indie labels, Phoenix's closest comparison to River Jones Music in terms of size and resources, Modern Art Records, did get out of town last year. (The Tempe-formed label moved part of its operations to New York City.) Modern Art founder Ben Collins says it's easier for him to push music-industry buttons in New York than in Phoenix.

On the other hand, Collins says his label wouldn't exist without the legwork he did in the Valley.

"If it wasn't for Phoenix, there would be no place for me in New York. True, it can look attractive to move, but if I hadn't stuck to the Phoenix scene for all of those years, I wouldn't be able to connect [in New York]," says Collins, who believes that indie labels like Modern Art and River Jones Music can place their fingers on the pulse of a smaller town's music scene where big labels, such as Sony and Warner, cannot.


On a Sunday afternoon, Andrews sits inside Mama Java's coffeehouse. Her spiral-bound notebook rests on a table alongside a hot cup of coffee. Inside the notebook are lyrics to her soon-to-be-recorded songs on River Jones Music.

Since the release of her latest CD months ago, she's written enough material to fill two albums. It's not because she's tied down to a recording contract, but rather that she loves creating new music instead of entering the "real world," even if that means drinking coffee for lunch instead of eating a solid meal, which she's doing at the moment.

Andrews takes another sip of java and starts flipping through the pages of the notebook. She's pensive and melancholy. According to her, she's having a "Cancer day," which refers to the astrological sign where her moon (in astrology-speak) is located. However, she's happy and hopeful overall with writing songs and recording albums in Phoenix.

She comes upon a page with words scribbled outside of the margins in black ink. It's a tune that she had written just days before, a song that she plans to play during her upcoming summer tour with The Pioneers of Prime Time TV and Asher Deaver.

Along with getting her music out there, she hopes to hip more people to the pop-folk sounds created in Phoenix, even if it means losing money on tour. "We don't want to be rock stars — we all just want to play music," says Andrews, who pauses for a moment before resting her chin in her right palm and gazing out the window into the Phoenix sky.

Moments later, she turns her attention back to the notebook, looks at the words on the page, and says, "I have so much faith in what we're doing in Phoenix. With all of the positive energy and how hard we work, it should pay off. I mean, why wouldn't it?"

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Steve Jansen
Contact: Steve Jansen