Every decade or so, award-winning songwriter-singer Andrea England, founder of the popular songwriter circle concert series Four Chords and the Truth, becomes singer-songwriter Andrea England. The Toronto-based musician, whose songs have been recorded by everyone from Meghan Patrick and Don Amero to ex-Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, has released her long-awaited ambient Americana EP, Evidence of Love, produced by Juno Award winner Hill Kourkoutis (Aysanabee, Digging Roots).
Andrea’s last body of work, 2012’s Hope and Other Sins, produced by Grammy winner Colin Linden, spent several weeks on Cashbox Canada’s top 50 folk chart and hit No. 1 on Galaxy’s folk roots radio channel.
Her 2004 album, Lemonade, won a John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and her debut EP, 1999’s Heart Wide Open, included the very first song she wrote, “Eyes Wide Shut,” which hit No. 1 on the nationally syndicated East Coast Countdown.
“I’m always writing, and once in a while I put a record out as a reminder to myself that I have a message and I’m an artist as well,” says the Halifax-born singer, guitarist and pianist.
In 2022, she released an evergreen single, “Jolly Melancholy Christmas,” for the many people dealing with loss and loneliness at the holidays. “The way it was received made me believe that there’s an audience still for the kind of stuff that I write for myself — the unvarnished truth.”
The message of the 7-song Evidence of Love is to love in its various forms.
There’s the first single “Halifax,” about the conflicted emotions that come from living away from home; “My Parents’ House,” a nostalgic lyric about love of family and a literal home now up for sale; the title-track about the complicated nature of relationship-based love; “Cover To Cover,” about ideal love; and 2018’s “I Won’t Forget About You,” the EP’s only previously released song that has resonated particularly with pregnancy and infant loss awareness communities.
“I’ll write for other people, and then I’ll collect various songs that are for me because they’re super personal,” Andrea explains. “I’ll do two or three or four, and then there’ll be one that I’ll write and go, ‘Now, I have enough to make an album and fill it out with a few others.’ I just hope that the songs find the people who need to hear them.”
Andrea didn’t intend to have a career in music. She sang in school concerts in her youth. but had her sights on academia. She earned a BA in English Lit at St. Francis Xavier University (St. FX), then took time off to volunteer in Indian and Nepal with Canadian Crossroads International. Upon her return, she studied Gender & Women Studies at Dalhousie University. While there, she began dabbling in music again.
She next moved to Ottawa, where she received a full scholarship to Carlton University, but deferred to join a band. When the band broke up, she started writing her own songs. When she made another move, to Toronto, in 2000, those songs became Heart Wide Open.
It was shortly after that that she met an impressive kid, Hill Kourkoutis, a multitalented prodigy of 14, who had come into the recording studio while Andrea recorded Lemonade to soak in the process of making records. “And so here we are. We’ve been friends and co-writers for a long, long time, like 20 years,” says Andrea.
During the years-long pandemic, Andrea — who sits on the board of The Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) and is a member of the songwriters & composers wing for The Recording Academy, an advocacy arm and producer of the Grammy Awards in the U.S. — wasn’t able to continue Four Chords and the Truth live or do one of her many in-person speaking engagements on creator rights and metadata. She had already started recording “Halifax” with another producer, but when covid hit, the project stalled.
She returned to it in 2022 after a radio host from her native Nova Scotia asked her if she had any Christmas songs for their annual special. She didn’t, but was scheduled to go into a session with Liz Rodrigues (Eminem, Celine Dion) and James Bryan (of the Philosopher Kings), so they co-wrote “Jolly Melancholy Christmas,” with James producing.
“I had just lost someone very close to me,” says Andrea. “The song was meant to only go to the radio station back home for the Christmas country countdown, but then CBC picked it up and all of the Maritimes news outlets, so it had a little bit of a life.
“So, I called up Hill and said, ‘I have these songs that I wrote over the pandemic. I want to do another EP.’ She had done the original demo for ‘Halifax’ with me and it was great. She just understands me. We have similar musical roots. We started with four songs, and each was about a different experience or expressions of love, but it felt incomplete, so we added three more.”
As a whole, Evidence of Love — the chosen EP title — is love in all its many complicated forms. It’s a lifetime of love. It ends with the deep reflection “Nothing But Your Love,” which sums up the message of whole album: to love fully and without regret.
“I don’t regret any of the hurt I’ve gone through because I’ve loved too much,” says Andrea. “If I was on my deathbed, would I have any regrets? Maybe a few, but I wouldn’t regret loving.”
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