James Dean Essay, Research Paper
“As far back as I can remember, the one constant in my life has been music,” says Jessica Andrews. “I was raised around it. My mom was in some bands, and her whole family had a talent for singing. We’d all get together and play music — everyone would sing a cappella. Those sing-alongs were my favorite pastime. To be able to make a record and perform all over the country is just a dream come true!”
With her debut DreamWorks release, Heart Shaped World, Jessica Andrews is seeing the end result of the evolution of a very musical family. “I’ve been given a chance a lot of my relatives would have liked, but for whatever reason, never had,” she remarks. “It’s nice that we have this history together because everyone really understands my need to pursue music. They love it as much as I do.”
Armed with powerhouse vocals and songs ranging from the poignant “Unbreakable Heart” to the tragic modern love tale “James Dean in Tennessee,” Andrews does the family proud, proving their jam sessions were time well spent.
Although she’s only fifteen, Jessica’s voice encompasses the soulful expression of a woman twice her age. The emotion she pours into each and every song is born from experience and pain. What most of her fans do not know is that Andrews was faced with a catastrophic illness at the age of seven.
When she was very young, her parents noticed a patch of skin on her back that appeared to be connected to a bone. Her pediatrician dismissed their concerns, however, advising them to bring her in for a checkup each year to make sure she wasn’t developing scoliosis, a severe curvature of the spine. In 1990, Andrews saw another physician who immediately sent her to Memphis’ Campbell Clinic for tests, x-rays and eventually an MRI.
“They found that a bone was growing through my spine,” Andrews explains. “I was really young and didn’t understand what was going on at the time, but I knew it was very serious. I was about to have a growth spurt, and the doctors said that if I didn’t have an operation, the bone would grow more quickly than my spinal cord, which would leave me paralyzed.”
The surgery was a complete success, and through it all, Andrews found comfort and strength in music. “I love all kinds of music,” she asserts. “I listen to everything, and I just can’t get enough of it. I like to hear the differences among the styles–country, rock, pop, all of it.”
She credits a fourth grade talent show with pointing the way to her current career path: “I was supposed to dance, but my sister told me I should sing. She heard me singing Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ and talked me into doing it. Can you believe, I won? So I started thinking, ‘Maybe this is what I should be doing.’”
From then on Andrews sang every chance she could — at fairs and carnivals around her hometown of Huntingdon, Tennessee, and even the smallest, most casual family gatherings. It wasn’t long before word of her precocious talent spread. Soon, friends of producer Byron Gallimore (Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Jo Dee Messina) insisted he make the two-hour drive from Nashville to Huntingdon to see if Andrews was as accomplished as everyone said. His first impression? “I was overwhelmed by Jessica’s vocals — the tone, the control, the range,” he remembers. “I knew I had to be a part of her music.”
The two immediately began considering songs and getting acquainted in the studio. Once they had a lead on the kind of material Andrews was looking for, Gallimore invited DreamWorks Records Nashville head James Stroud to a showcase in Paris, Tennessee. Stroud offered Andrews a deal on the spot. Of his instantaneous decision to sign her, he says simply: “I just broke the rules. It was not about contracts — it was about one truly gifted singer.” Responds Andrews: “The confidence Byron and James have shown in me has been incredible. I could never have made this album without it.”
Work quickly resumed on what would become Heart Shaped World, with Andrews and Gallimore pouring over the best songs Nashville’s top writers had to offer. “When Byron and I started looking for songs for the album, we didn’t put any restrictions on what we wanted people to pitch us,” Andrews says. “We just wanted great songs, with wonderful melodies and lyrics that were true to life — things I could believe.”
While she was working on Heart Shaped World, Andrews was invited to participate in The Prince of Egypt – Nashville. “When they asked if I wanted to record a song for the album, I was overjoyed,” she reports. “The movie is incredible, and to be involved in a project like that before I even had my first album out is a real honor.”
Andrews’ contribution to The Prince of Egypt – Nashville, “I Will Be There for You,” is also the first single from Heart Shaped World. She was the only artist to premiere on Nashville, which found the teenager taking her place alongside the likes of Vince Gill, Reba, Randy Travis and Wynonna. “That is just the most amazing thing,” Andrews exclaims. “I would never have believed something like this could happen.”
Nor could she have imagined she’d be supporting Faith Hill, another alumnus of The Prince of Egypt – Nashville, on the road. Indeed, after Gallimore played some of Andrews’ music for Hill, the established star asked the young singer to open for her on her recent tour. “That was so much fun,” Jessica enthuses. “It was awesome — I loved it. Every night after I finished my show, I would sit and watch Faith. She’s just unbelievable.” Hill didn’t offer a lot of business guidance, but she did give Andrews some advice — and a wonderful gift. “She gave me a camera and a scrapbook,” Andrews recollects, “and she wrote me a note that said, ‘Here’s a little gift to keep your memories.’ She wanted me to record these early days. She said, ‘You’ll want to remember your first couple of years because everything’s new and exciting and it all goes by so fast.’”
Andrews took this wisdom to heart. Home schooling–courtesy of her mother–also helps her maintain perspective on the hectic life she’s carving out for herself. But it’s a life she wouldn’t trade for anything. “This is the happiest time,” she says. “I’ve worked so long on this album and I love the songs so much — I can’t wait for people to hear them. I keep saying all this is a dream come true, and that’s exactly what it is. Who knows, maybe I’m still dreaming. If I am — don’t wake me up!”