Audrey Auld is a singer/songwriter with Australian roots and an “Americ-kinda” style. With seven albums and eleven years of international touring to her credit, she is a winner of the Chris Austin Song Contest (MerleFest 2006).
Audrey formed Reckless Records with Bill Chambers in 1998. Bill and Audrey have often been cited as an inspiration to singers, songwriters and musicians keen to discover the roots of Australian and American music, and to find their voice within it. They’ve also reaffirmed the independent path to many artists.
Growing up in Australia — and as a classically-trained violinist — how did you become interested in Americana/Roots music and begin writing original songs in that genre?
I became interested in country music in my early 20s in Hobart. I heard a friend singing Patsy Cline-style songs with her band and loved it. My art school teacher gave me a wonderful cassette of songs from Dwight, John Prine, Bob Wills, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, etc. It was a great mix of Texas swing and good songwriters.
As I traveled and lived in the Outback, I would raid people’s record collections. There’s a lot of country music in the country so I gradually discovered Slim Dusty (Australian), the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Loretta Lynn. I love the heart-on-the-sleeve aspect of the genre, the pathos and humor, the simplicit, the stories, and the way the instrumentation augments the emotional dynamics — particularly the steel guitar and fiddle.
You’ve described your songwriting as “music with the dirt left on” — what do you mean by that?
Organic as opposed to processed. As close to the earth as possible. Organic goods look imperfect but they taste better, are more nutritious and cause no harm. With my music, I want the human print to remain. In the studio, I prefer to record one good take and leave it alone, rather than compile six average takes created into one “perfect” take. I like grit and truth in sound and subject matter.
As the winner of the Chris Austin Song Contest in 2006, what affect has this recognition had for you as a songwriter over the past two years?
It was a wonderful experience to be so acknowledged, especially by such esteemed judges. It was an honor to perform at such a great festival, and to be accompanied by Rich Brotherton (producer/guitar/harmonies for Robert Earl Keen). How it has impacted my career, I can’t specifically say, but it sure is cool to have that in my press kit!
With over a decade of international touring and seven albums to your credit, what have you observed about the craft of songwriting that might benefit other songwriters?
The process of creation is a mysterious and profound experience. I have discovered the joy of not getting in the way when a song is coming through. There’s a Zen aspect to writing. It’s about being in the moment, quieting the mind, not judging what is coming through. There’s nothing I love more than to be lost in the process, which is only realized afterward. It’s then I can craft, edit, re-arrange, etc. My best songs are those I look at and can’t believe I wrote. I don’t recall ‘thinking up’ the lines.
It’s confronting for me living in Nashville now as I’m surrounded by writers, many of whom ‘make up stuff’ in hopes of cashing in. The state of commercial radio is a reflection of that motivation.
I am inspired by the poet-writers who are obviously following their muse and channelling that mystical-something we are blessed to receive. I believe when a song comes to a writer through true unconscious inspiration it touches the listener in the same powerful way.
I happened to listen to the last few minutes of City Arts and Lectures on NPR over the weekend. Andre Dubus (a writer best known for his novel House of Sand and Fog) was saying something similar about his own work… that the bane of creativity is self consciousness.
Getting out of the way when the muse is coming through… true that.
Check out Audrey’s music: