Karen Lee Andrews is in possession of a unique sense of artistic purpose. Surrounded by music her entire life, Karen’s career to date has largely revolved around classic soul and rhythm and blues sounds. But in recent years, as her musicality has evolved, she’s been leaning more towards blues.
The influence of soul, gospel and Karen’s Polynesian background continues to inform what she does, but the blues has come to feel more like home. The beginnings of this shift were apparent on Karen’s 2018 EP, Far From Paradise, which served as a declaration of independence following several years appeasing the expectations of a major label.
Karen wrote every song on Far From Paradise and in the process she found not just a distinct songwriting voice, but also a vindicating artistic practice.
“Far From Paradise was all of me – it explains who I am and also some of the songs were written about certain people that I really love,” she says. “I felt like that was a true expression of who I am.”
The EP was led by the Sharon Jones-esque single, ‘Higher’, which sees Karen toting a guitar in a manner akin to the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, supported by a muscular rhythm section. The four-song sequence also features the soul-baring spiritual, ‘Troubled Mind’, replete with evangelic organ, and the mud-stained rocker, ‘Going Down’.
Karen’s guitar playing on the latter explains why she’s secured an endorsement from famed luthiers, Eastman Guitars, who also supply guitars for members of The Kinks, Sonic Youth and Wilco.
“Whenever I sing the songs from Far From Paradise, it still has the same impact as it did when I first recorded it,” says Karen. “That’s how I know it’s something honest from me.”
Karen’s also one of the country’s hardest working live performers. From the release of Far From Paradise up until the standstill of 2020, Karen and her band spent nearly every weekend travelling the east coast of Australia, appearing at Woodford Folk Festival, Queenscliff Music Festival and Bello Winter Music and supporting icons such as Jimmy Barnes and Gregory Porter.
Along the way, they were road-testing songs from Karen’s upcoming release, Edin, the title of which translates to “place of pleasure.”
“Audiences receive these new originals really well, which gives me even more confidence to know that it’s good,” Karen says.
Karen’s latest originals take a more comprehensive trip through the potentialities of blues music than Far From Paradise, while also providing a candid expression of her personal identity.
“The new music is more exposed and more vulnerable,” she says. “I felt like Far From Paradise gave me the confidence to tell people even more so who I am and what I’ve been through and what I like and things I don’t like.”
Karen Lee Andrews’ songcraft is built on a thorough knowledge of blues, gospel and soul music and motored by an undeniable hunger to connect. Yet the defining ingredient is Karen’s unshakeable artistic passion.
Andrews mostly tours as a formidable trio, teaming up with Yanya Boston on drums and Adam Ventoura on bass – two exceptional musicians. Each musician is outstanding in his or her own right, but the dynamic of the group is exhilarating to witness! The trio delivers a classic hard-hitting blues rock. On occasion, Andrews performs with a full band, which includes Shannon Stitt on keys and Rawhiti Turnbull on lead guitar.
REVIEWS / TESTIMONIALS
“One of the most original and dignified talents to emerge in Australian Entertainment in a long time. She manages to be both imperial yet vulnerable.”
Paul Sheehan, Sydney Morning Herald
“Andrews is on an inspiring and passionate musical journey. A must see.”
“Commanding and brilliant.”
“Soulful and bluesy, with so much heart and pain, delivered with so much class.”
Sound of Oz
“Karen Lee Andrews doesn’t need a band behind her to fill a room with music. Her voice is big enough on its own.”
“Karen Lee Andrews has a vocal tone that is undeniably powerful.”