Audrey Auld – An outsider’s perspective
Audrey Auld was floored when her second solo LP, Losing Faith, was listed recently among the Americana radio chart’s top 5 most added records, debuting at #66. “Lucinda’s number one, y’know,” says Auld, laughing heartily. “This is the chart to be on!”
Making inroads into the U.S. market, Auld knows, is no easy feat for an independent musician. “They say it costs a million dollars to establish an artist,” she remarks, “but I’m not in that game. I’m very much at that grassroots level, where it’s about people responding to music, and playing it.”
Auld has worked steadfastly at the grassroots since commencing her musical career under the mentorship of Bill Chambers (Kasey’s father), with whom she recorded a set of traditional-styled country ballads under the moniker Bill & Audrey. The duet album, Looking Back To See, which Auld and Chambers released on their own label, Reckless Records, attracted unexpected acclaim in the U.S. and Europe.
“We got written up in Billboard by Chet Flippo, who wrote a column about this Australian duo bringing back traditional country music,” she recalls. “Americans do see something fresh and earthy coming out of Australia. When you go to somewhere like Austin, they have no idea of your profile, or how famous you are at home, or the hype, or anything like that — they just respond to the music. It’s genuine, and it makes you feel great.”
Growing up amidst the rugged wilderness of Tasmania, a remote island south of the Australian mainland, Auld had an austere and isolated musical upbringing. “When I was growing up, it was classical music and jazz that was playing in the house,” she says. “We weren’t allowed to listen to pop music or the radio, or to buy records. We lived in the bush, and we had very limited television; Dad would take us out, but it would be to concerts, orchestras, and ballet or opera.
“When I was a teen, Mum and Dad broke up, and that was when my Mum went to the supermarket and bought all this cheap vinyl — whatever was in the shop, there was no discrimination. I just absorbed it all, because I’d never heard this stuff, so I listened to it all.”
Moving in with her musician boyfriend in her teens, Auld listened to “some pretty dark stuff — Bauhaus, the Birthday Party, Suicide. The whole punk thing was happening.” She found, however, that her classical background — she had been a member of the Tasmanian Youth Orchestra — held influence over the way she heard things.
“We were taught to listen to music,” she says. “I think that playing classical music, you learn to appreciate all the layers that are involved to create this one beautiful thing. And I think that enables me to produce my own records, because I’m aware of all the layers. As a songwriter, I hear the songs in my head, as they should sound, and I love realizing what I hear in my head.”
Auld credits Chambers for her appreciation of classic country music. “He’s been a big influence; he grew up with the Carter Family and Bob Dylan and Buck Owens, and you can hear all of that in what he does, and obviously that’s been transferred to Kasey.”
Noting the impact of the Chambers family within Australian music, Auld says she believes Aussies bring something unique to American roots music. “It’s because we don’t grow up with it as a mainstream music form, so we don’t take it for granted,” she speculates. “We can see it with an outsider’s perspective. You’re still going to add something Australian to it, I guess, because we are different to Americans.”
Having observed Kasey Chambers’ spectacular career trajectory up close, Auld is wary of the big time and the pressures it brings. “I’ve watched Kasey’s whole path, and it’s a big job,” she observes. “And I don’t know if that’s for me, that level of fame. I’m very happy where I am; I feel very much in control of what I do and where I’m going, and I have a lot of faith in the music.”
Auld’s faith is reinforced by the support of fellow musicians such as Texan singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson, who e-mailed Auld to express her admiration for Losing Faith. “She wrote, ‘You’ve been through the fire,'” Auld relates, “and it was really nice because she’s obviously been through something like what I’ve been through; she knows.
“Losing Faith is about a couple of years of my life that was a really hard time, and brought about a fundamental change within,” says Auld. “And if, as a songwriter, you’re required to be honest, then that is going to come out in the songs.”