Singer-songwriter Jill Andrews has been here before, committing herself to a duo with a male artist whose harmonies lift up and showcase her delicate voice and emotional subject matter.
The difference between the everybodyfields and Hush Kids, however, is a stark one, she told The Daily Times this week.
“The everybodyfields is really where I learned how to play music and write music and how to sing,” said Andrews, who joins an all-star lineup on Friday night at The Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville to celebrate 20 years of roots radio station WDVX-FM.
“For my half of (Hush Kids), I’ve just grown so much since then,” she added. “I’ve been working by myself since 2009, and there’s beautiful freedom and independence in that, but it’s also hard, doing everything 100 percent on your own. It’s nice to have someone to bounce stuff off of. I’m still going to definitely be doing all of my solo stuff, just as much as I ever was, but this band is really nice.”
It’s also really new — Andrews announced that she and fellow singer-songwriter Peter Groenwald were starting Hush Kids only last month, although their friendship and musical collaboration dates back almost three years. It’s been almost six years since Andrews left East Tennessee to further her career in Nashville, and eight years since the everybodyfields broke up. Originating in Johnson City, the everybodyfields were a Gram-and-Emmylou-influenced Americana ensemble that featured Sam Quinn (now with the Black Lillies); together, they released three albums, toured around the country and signed a deal with the North Carolina-based boutique label Ramseur Records, home of the Avett Brothers before they went to the majors. The band broke up in 2009, not long after the duo moved to Knoxville, and while the everybodyfields have reunited on rare occasion for a one-off show, Andrews has struck out in new directions.
She released her debut solo album “The Mirror” in 2011, following it up with “The War Inside” two years ago; with each record, she’s polished her rootsy edges and embraced indie-pop elements that have landed her a number of television placements. She can currently be heard singing “Tell That Devil,” the opening theme to the Syfy series “Wynonna Earp.” In the wake of “The War Inside” — anchored by swirling melodies, rising crescendos and crashing choruses — she’s continued to write songs, and in June 2016, she had her second child — a daughter, Falcon. It was during a particular writing session with Groenwald that the two conceived of Hush Kids, she said.
“After she was born, I was sitting down with Peter for a writing session; I had brought Falcon with me, because she was 2 months old and was still sleeping a lot then,” Andrews said. “We were listening to a song we’d written together two years prior, and I said, ‘Wow! This is amazing! I love this!’ It just felt very emotional and good to me, and I really felt something, listening back to it.
“I was holding my guitar and feeding Falcon at the same time, and I said, ‘Peter! We should start a band!’ Afterwards, he was like, ‘Well, I couldn’t really say no! You were breastfeeding your child; what was I doing?’”
Other than a couple of holiday collaborations on Spotify, there’s little to give fans a taste of what Hush Kids will sound like, although on a video for the duo’s Pledge Music campaign, there’s a sample of their forthcoming album’s title track — “Morning Is Made,” a reverential combination of reverb, acoustic guitar and harmonies that simmers with a sweet ache.
“I guess we wrote for a year, probably, taking a few breaks here and there, and we got 15 or 20 songs that we were really excited about,” Andrews said. “We talked to a producer friend of ours, Ian Fitchuk, and got together with him, writing some more songs with him as well, and we decided to have him produce it for us. We came up with 10 songs that we feel very strongly about — every single one, which is kind of an amazing position to be in.”
They’re taking their time to complete the record; pressed to guess, Andrews offers a six month timeline until its release. In the meantime, she has a new track that will debut Dec. 8, one called “Safe.”
“It’s a response to all of the gun violence as of late,” she said. “I wasn’t saying anything to the public, because I just wasn’t sure what to say. I’ve just been very, very sad about everything that’s been going on, and I just feel a very certain way about it. As a parent, I feel like I can’t protect my children, and I feel like I can’t protect myself and my friends and my family, because it’s very much out of our control. And so I wrote a song about that.”
Friday, she’ll return to her old hometown to pay tribute to a radio station that helped launch her career; WDVX gave airplay to the everybodyfields in the band’s early days, she said, and while she’s moved away from the bluegrass and Old Time sounds that defined that band, she’s still very much connected to her roots.
“A lot of the music I write now, especially the stuff I write by myself, is very rootsy and feels very folky,” she said. “Even the stuff with Peter, that shines through with Hush Kids, and it feels natural. I grew up listening to a lot of roots music and started playing it in college, so it feels very good to be back in that spot.”