Eleven years after her debut solo album, Washington, D.C.-based songwriter Maureen Andary returned to the studio to record “Big Girl Pants.” Andary is a multi-instrumentalist, blending her stellar vocal harmonies with guitar, ukulele and flute on the recordings. Her new songs range from lighthearted tunes about marriage to heavier subjects, like loss and grief.
Maureen took a break from recording at Echo Mountain Recording Studios to chat with us about the album, the inspiration behind the name, and her longtime connection with NewSong, which started when she was a finalist in 2008. “Gar has always helped me out,” says Andary. “And the whole contest kind of shaped who I was. So I thought, it’s been 11 years — time to get back to my solo roots. I thought it was perfect to collaborate with Gar to do that.”
Well, the last time I came out with a record was 11 years ago in 2008, and I was 25. All of the songs on that album were about romance, and falling in love, and breaking up because that was what was going on in my life. But now, I’m 36, I’m married, and I have twin daughters that are 14 months. My father also passed away in 2015, which was a really challenging loss.
Losing a parent, getting married, giving birth to twin daughters — it was a lot of change. Now the things that have inspired me in the last six years are the things I’m working on to grow up.
It’s called Big Girl Pants because I feel like that’s a kind of brusque euphemism for “grow up,” … Like, “it’s time for me to put on my big girl pants.”
Every day I have new challenges, and I have to pause and think: what is the adult way to deal with this, rather than just reacting. It’s really about pausing, being intentional, and grappling with challenges like mortality, parenting, marriage. It’s about putting on your big girl pants and moving forward. It’s also about being able to be happy and confident through it all.
There are songs in here about loss and grief, but there are also songs about choosing to laugh, choosing to move away from fear and towards acceptance. The song “My Intention” is about that. Some of them are silly, like I have a song about marriage called “You Fix Broken Stuff,” and it’s really a trivial look into what our lives are like and the balance that we strike.
There’s this song “Good Luck,” that I thought was really important for this album because I’m in recovery, and I’ve been sober for 11 years. I have a really great life right now in large part because of [my recovery], but I really can’t take credit. … I just had good luck. Luck is a big factor in people’s lives because it’s scary and you can’t control it, but it’s important to recognize that and have some humility.
When I was newly sober as a 24 year old, I got a grant from the DC government to finish this album I was working on. … Once I was finished with album, I didn’t know what to do with it. … My mom actually took the album and submitted it to various contests. … She submitted it to NewSong, and I got an email and a phone call from Gar saying that I was an Early Bird Finalist. It was super validating, and most importantly, the contest had a live performance component in Charleston, WV where Mountain Stage is located, and so the plan was to go there and perform.
… [My accompanist Sara and I] loved all the other finalists, we jammed with them, and we had a blast. We didn’t win, but we just had a great time, and Gar kept in touch with us. We started a band after that, and we called it Sweater Set … It’s been an amazing project, but what really sparked it all was that weekend getaway at the NewSong contest.
Over the years, Gar has given us various performance opportunities. I’ve performed at Lincoln Center with NewSong. I’ve performed at Bryant Park, the Performing Arts Center of North Carolina. … Gar has always helped me out, and the whole contest kind of shaped who I was. So I thought, it’s been 11 years — time to get back to my solo roots. I thought it was perfect to collaborate with Gar to do that.
Learn more about Maureen Andary on her website.