Building a reputation in the Australian roots music scene in the 90s was Tasmanian native Audrey Auld's initial goal. After she established Reckless Records in 1998 she released a series of albums beginning with Looking Back To See, a duet album with Bill Chambers, then the ARIA nominated The Fallen in 2000 and the 2003 album Losing Faith. The latter release found critical favour in the US and she made inroads there by extensive touring before moving there on a permanent. She has since married and become an American citizen and continued touring and recording. She currently resides in East Nashville with her husband and pets. There she grows food, writes songs and is recording and touring. Audrey has just released a career overview in Resurrection Moon, it features two new tracks with fellow Australian Anne McCue. It follows her Mark Hallman produced Come Find Me which was recorded in Austin, Texas.
The albums you made in New South Wales in Australia seemed to have their antecedents in a more classic traditional country, since then you have moved the US and have a developed a folkier/rootsy sound, with Losing Faith being a cross-over point. How has location influenced you in your music making?
My first two albums Looking Back To See and The Fallen were influenced by my love of traditional country music. In 2002 I made Losing Faith, hot on the heels of a horrible relationship breakdown. I found the songs I wrote reflected the range of moods I went through. Sometimes rock or punk lends itself to the expression of anger better than country music. I decided long ago to honor the song that came to me, not to confine myself by sticking to one specific genre. I prefer to use a broad musical palette to express the emotions and experiences I want to write about.
Moving to the US later in 2003 created a shift in my perspective. I was less concerned about the state of my heart and very aware of the state of the world, politically and environmentally. The US is such a huge presence influencing the global community. I couldn't help but find different things to write about. Also, in California there's a very healthy acoustic music scene which I became part of. I'd played with bands in Australia and shifted to solo and duo performances in the US. So, the song selection changes to suit an acoustic setting.
What would the other major influences and motivations on your writing be?
I'm always interested in discovering the universal aspect of what I'm feeling. I'm influenced by Buddhist texts, motivational and inspirational books and poetry, nature, human behaviour. I'm honored to receive songs as gifts. My motivation is to stay true to the muse. I meditate sitting and walking in order to keep the channels open, calm my mind, and let the words come through in a truly honest way, so that a song is created, not 'made-up'.
Is living in the US a scary time now with a more liberal outlook, the hopefulness of the Obama presidency seems to have dissipated somewhat with the reality of recession?
The media would have you believe it's a scary time, but as I travel all over I meet friendly, warm people who work to create community, help the needy and stay connected. Extremists are scary, religious maniacs are scary, reality TV shows are scary, the power of the media is scary. But face-to-face contact and connection through music balances it all out for me.
What role can the independent musician have at a time like this?
I feel my small but important purpose in this life is to provide a few hours during a live show where everyone in the room feels connected through music and laughter; that they feel their experiences and emotions are common and shared. Through writing and recording I can hopefully express for others what they feel and want to say, but may not have the tools to do so.
The economy and changing times has a direct effect on a musician's life, from a simple thing like travel right through the methods of delivering music. How have you been affected?
Yes the price of gas affects the bottom line of a tour and the weaker economy affects how many people turn up to a show. I hope more media and radio people accept mp3 delivery of my music as an alternative to the ever increasing cost of packaging and mailing a disc. The Indie musician's life has always been one of richness of life-style and experiences rather than huge riches in the bank. So a weak economy for everyone makes me think "welcome to my world!"
You are now a part of a roving band of singer/songwriters delivering their songs to small, but appreciative audiences. Is there a strong affinity between artists like your self and say, Anne McCue or Mary Gauthier whom you dedicated a songs on Come Find Me?
Anne McCue and I are neighbors, friends and we sometimes tour together. She's truly a road warrior. Amelia White is another East Nashville musician with whom we party and jam, when we're all in town at the same time. Nashville is full of indie artists, working alone or with a little help to tour, record and keep the wolf from the door. Mary Gauthier's a friend too, who's also out touring full-time. She's had the benefit of being on a major label and management so her story would be a little different to those of us who are the Underbelly. People like Anne and I will be playing music, with or without support for the rest of our lives. We know how to survive no matter what.
Speaking of which are you still feeling gorgeous as you say in that title song?
More than ever! Late last year I went to a 10 day meditation retreat called Vipassanna. It's a silent time of purification, giving time to one's higher self. It has a remarkable effect, like a spring clean of your psyche! I feel the most confident and alive I've ever felt. I've never had a drink or drug addiction problem but now live a sober life. I spent much of my life 'out of it' and now enjoy being 'in it'.
Forty, is a song about aging how do you come to terms with that in your writing and approach to life?
I love aging. Sure, there are times in front of the mirror where I wish some line would disappear, but I also look with amusement at the same lines. I see my mother's face and my father's face, I see the story of those lines. I love the wisdom I've gained, the certainty of some lessons. I reckon the 4th decade is truly great and really look forward to the revelations of the future. I'm very comfortable with who I am. As an artist and just plain human I strive to be truly me and surround myself with people who dig me.
There's a different, heavier sound, and an almost rap style vocal section on Petals, are you keen to explore new direction and have you ever considered doing a straight country style album again?
I love going with the song as it's being written. I've been taking djembe classes in Nashville so I guess it was natural that a rhythm-based rap song would emerge. It also suited the subject of the song, Jon Dee Graham. I do plan to record a hard-core country album whilst I live in Nashville. I hope that Kenny Vaughan will produce it. He is cool, talented and totally understands genuine country music.
You have just released a career overview album Resurrection Moon how has that encapsulated your feeling about the music you have made to date?
I chose the songs based on those that I continue to perform live and the songs that people request. I felt proud to look at the collection of 18 songs and recognise that they touch and connect with people. I included two new songs recorded with Anne McCue, which I love for their delicacy and femininity - a new sound for me.
Where will the muse and music (and life) take you next?
I'm working on finishing a bunch of songs for the country record I'd like to make next. I'm touring as much as possible. Australia in March then all over the US later this year. I've been playing with a band in Nashville, in a bar on Broadway which is great fun. They're the bass player and drummer from Paul Thorn's band and Anne McCue on guitar. It's great to play loud and rock it out a little. But I'm pretty much a country singer, despite my forays into different styles.
You haven't played in Europe and Ireland in particular in a while, any plans to come this side of the pond?
I'd love to return, but at this moment I don't have an agent or promoter in Europe or the UK to help me with a tour. I hope to tour there again, for sure!
Interview by Stephen Rapid. Photograph by Joseph Anthony Baker