Audrey Auld wasn't raised in a white-bread Australian home. She was raised in the bush, in Tasmania, with no TV and no Pop radio, in a house filled with animals, siblings, books and live music; her own classical violin, dance classes, her dad’s jazz piano and her step-dad's Dixieland trumpet. Ayn Rand, Brahms, Satchmo and Peggy Lee were more at home than Jesus or the Beatles.
“Mum and Dad didn’t want us to perceive music as wallpaper. They taught us to listen and enjoy, with an open heart and enquiring mind, to the layers of colour, emotion and dynamics in music.”
At age 10 came the family breakdown, the move to town and the indiscriminate assimilation of 1970’s supermarket vinyl records: Elvis, Smash Hits, Helen Reddy, ELO, Jackson 5, Slade, AC/DC, Suzi Quattro.
“The first time I ever heard country music was when my recently divorced mother and her girlfriends were having a party and were belting out “Stand By Your Man”. Even at ten years of age I sensed some kind of irony.”
Then came the teen years, which collided with the punk explosion, spearheaded so colourfully by the Sex Pistols whilst the true angst was captured by Suicide, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party. Pogo and parties.
Small towns like Hobart encourage individuality. Though an Art School teacher offered a cassette tape of great Country and Texas Music (Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Bob Wills, Patsy Cline, John Prine, Dwight Yoakam) Art School itself encouraged conformity and creative repression. So waitressing, hanging out with musicians and staying up all night offered the greater education.
Sydney, on the other hand, was filled with actors. So followed Audrey's study of Grotowski, Peter Brook and that special bond between artist and audience, without device or artifice.
That path led to Audrey’s involvement in the “Get Real” project – a project initiated by the excess income of Dire Straits after a successful Australian tour, aimed at educating 14 to 24 year-old people on AIDS and recreational poly-drug use. It gathered together a bunch of Australian pop-stars (eg, Sean Kelly, Kate Ceberano, Mark Hunter) to record a Neil Finn composition “We Are Young With Everything To Live For” accompanied by a music video with 4 directors including Stephen Hopkins (who later directed “Nightmare on Elm Street”) and Alex Proyas (“The Crow"). The project attracted national media and government attention and was deemed a success. Audrey’s role was to be part of the working group who formulated the gist of the campaign (and to dance like a fool in the video).
Live action film production work followed (music clips, feature films and commercials), then a six-year stint in animation – from traditional 2D cels to digital animation; from cel painting and colour styling to running studios, from small studios to Walt Disney and MGM.
Somewhere in there Audrey took a trip to the Kimberleys, in the North West of Australia, which stirred a longing in her blood. So she packed up her ute (pick-up) and took a one-way trip to Alice Springs in Central Australia. Though always an avid poet and prose writer, this is when the words and music came together in song. Sitting by a waterhole trying to write a Slim Dusty song. Along the way she raided the record collections of farmhouses, roadhouses and stations - taping and pillaging. Most of this music was new and strange to Audrey. It was honest and plaintive, upbeat and cornball-funny, so harrowed the bones showed through. It was country music. She dug out that old tape from Art School and re-listened.
Returning to Sydney from the Outback, in search of like-minded musicians, Audrey found her voice and learnt the uplifting harmony of singing Acappella in a small group, led by Tony Backhouse.
As the music of Gram Parsons, the Carter Family, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton unfolded in her life, it influenced her writing and singing. Audrey formed ‘The Cowbelles’, an ‘a-cow-pella’ trio.
Subsequent Sydney-based bands were the Harmony Grits and Audrey & the Rhythm Wranglers, both with a focus on swing music and tight harmonies. As a performing songwriter, Audrey realised it was time to record - to invest in her faith.
Searching for a producer proved difficult as the popular focus was on creating radio friendly, positive up-beat songs. There seemed to be no one in the Australian country scene who appreciated and understood the traditional country music, like that of Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, Patsy Cline or Jimmie Rodgers. September 17th is Hank Williams’ birthday. It was at a party celebrating his birth and music that Audrey met Bill Chambers, of the Dead Ringer Band and Kasey Chambers’ father.
“I sang ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ that night. I remember the Dead Ringer Band walking into the bar. They had an aura about them, although I had no idea who they were.”
Audrey met Bill again, a few months later, during the Tamworth country music festival. She quickly realised that he was the person to produce her music. He knew the artists she listened to and he was passionate about traditional country music. She also discovered he was also one of Australia’s finest musicians.
Bill offered inspiration and refinement to Audrey’s singing, playing and writing that only the honesty of a trusted collaborator can bring. He credits Audrey with doing the same for him. Her debut EP was released in 1997. It offered 4 tracks of hillbilly, swing, torch and honky-tonk unlike anything released in Australia before.
“Audrey Auld is one of my favourite Songwriters. Not only does she have a way of telling it straight with passion, she’s totally fearless. She reminds me of Steve Earle. Scary! Audrey’s the real deal.” ~ Bill Chambers
Realising there was a lot more music to explore between them, Bill and Audrey recorded “Looking Back To See”, an album of traditional country duets and close harmonies inspired by the Louvin Brothers, Loretta Lynn & Ernest Tubb and Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris. They soon realised there was no record label in Australia who’d want to release such an old-time record. So, they created their own label – Reckless Records - in 1998. They quickly discovered there was an audience eager for the music they created together. The album garnered rave reviews, won Best Independent Australian Album of 1999 and scored a story in the US Billboard magazine.
Bill & Audrey have subsequently been credited for introducing a new wave of interest in traditional country music amongst Australian audiences and musicians. Their weekly “Hillbilly Jam” sessions in Sydney and Tamworth encouraged the hillbillies and roots musicians out of the woodwork and gave them an avid audience.
As she was learning the ropes of running a record label, Audrey decided to write, record and produce a solo album. “The Fallen” was released in 2000 and received an ARIA nomination for Best Country Album, plus Gold Guitar nominations for New Talent and Female Vocal. It includes a duet with Texan singer/songwriter Dale Watson. The album is a departure from the old-time feel of the Bill & Audrey album, with a more contemporary, though still very country, feel.
“Traditional yet cool, it should appeal right across the age divide”
~ Country Music People, UK
Australian and U.S. distribution and airplay ensued for Reckless.
Audrey's first U.S. tour was in 2001, playing solo in Nashville and Austin.
Canadian singer/songwriter, Fred Eaglesmith, was the next Reckless release, who now has a fast-growing audience of ‘Fred heads’ in Australia. Audrey has subsequently toured with Fred in Australia & the U.S., playing support and singing harmonies with him.
Bill Chambers released his debut solo album “Sleeping With The Blues” on Reckless Records in 2002, garnering an ARIA nomination for Best Country Album.
Audrey’s second solo album “Losing Faith” was released in 2003. It reached #13 on the Americana Music Association chart in the United States, based on airplay. The album features duets with Kieran Kane, Mary Gauthier and Fred Eaglesmith. With a diverse range of styles and it's more a Roots music album than strictly country.
“I consciously decided not to be restricted by genre when choosing the songs for “Losing Faith”, says Audrey. "The songs were written during a tumultuous passage of my life, and the album reflects that."
“Those investigating the non-mainstream fringes of country will find much to enjoy here. An easy-flowing mix of dark alt-country – out on the fringes with Lucinda Williams and Neko Case – and more traditional sounds… a combination of ancient and modern.”
~ Courier Mail, Aust.
“The beauty of Audrey's work is that she understands the power of simplicity. Whether it be in a traditional country setting or on the more edgy tracks her voice stays honest and true."
~ Kieran Kane
With Audrey’s marriage and relocation to the US in 2003 it seemed fitting to close a chapter with the release of ‘Reckless Records Garage Sale : 1997 – 2003” a sampler of unreleased and deleted tracks from Audrey and Bill Chambers with special guests Camille Te Nahu and Rick Carey, plus bonus tracks from Fred Eaglesmith, Mary Gauthier and The Yearlings.
A tour of Texas in 2004 resulted in the recording of a live studio album "Texas". Her third solo album and the first release from Audrey since becoming a U.S. resident and adopting her married name. Recorded live in the studio with Texan greats Carrie Rodriguez, Gabe & Kimmie Rhodes and Darcie Deaville, along with members of Jimmy La Fave’s band and Audrey’s Aussie mate Bill Chambers. “Texas” is about people – Woody Guthrie, Harlan Howard, Billy Joe Shaver, Karla Faye Tucker, Dead Ringer Band, father, husband, and the universal family. It’s also about people gathering in the studio to capture the magic moment when, united by music, the here and now is transcended.
'Texas' received an Australian Recording Industry Assn. (ARIA) Nomination for Best Country album in 2005.
"her cracked-earth vocals that gleam here and there like broken glass"
~ No Depression
After settling in Southern California in '03 it was only a matter of time before Audrey crossed paths with one of the greatest accompanists in the world, Nina Gerber. The magic created by the two was evident from the start and after hearing the recording of their second show together they realized they had something special. ‘In The House’ (2006) a live double CD is the result.
"Second to her songwriting is her expressionistic phrasing, something that Lucinda Williams and Patty Griffin share. When she sins that "you'd leave me stra-a-nded," it feels as if her entire body were supported by tiny twigs, each slowly starting to crack. When this delicacy is augmented by Gerber's sprawling atmosphere of arpeggios, absolute chemistry is at play."
~ Gabe Meline, North Bay Bohemian
In January 2005 during a tour home to Australia, Audrey went into the studio, with Bill Chambers as Producer.
"I let Bill choose the songs, and for the first time just let him be the boss in the studio! I know how he works best, so I told him to just take his time with the album."
The lesson in patience paid off with the 2007 release of "Lost Men and Angry Girls" Audrey's fourth solo album. With special guests Bill Chambers, Nina Gerber, Karl Broadie and Raechel Lee, the album chronicles the first three years spent living and readjusting to her new life in America.
"...her strongest album yet... Audrey's new maturity and confidence is to the fore taking on Celtic, Appalachian and very Australian themes. The singer/songwriter comes fully to grips with her sea-change. Audrey wears her heart on her sleeve and gets it out in tales of small towns, musical heroes and as the title says 'lost men and angry girls.'"
~ Keith Glass
In 2005 Audrey joined the 'Bread and Roses' organisation (www.breadandroses.org). 'Bread and Roses' motto - "fresh art delivered daily" comes to life via their work bringing musicians into institutions - rehab centers, homeless shelters, hospitals and prisons. Audrey performed in San Quentin Prison which lead to her regular songwriting workshops with 15 inmates.
"Working with these guys is one of the most fulfilling and meaningful things I've ever done. Their writing is truthful, poetic and heartfelt. I hope we can write enough for an album one day."
In 2007 Audrey relocated to Nashville.
"I miss the California music community very much and look forward to returning often. In Nashville we have our own home, 5 chooks, 2 dogs and a million musicians. We all speak the same language so I feel at home (ie, cluck, woof, let's get together and write a song!)"
In 2008 made an acoustic recording of new songs 'Music With The Dirt Left On', reflecting her live sound of acoustic guitar, vocals and acoustic lead guitar. She also began performing with Andrew Hardin (Wimberley, TX), a guitar virtuoso known to Tom Russell fans from his many years of international touring with Tom.
MOMENTS OF NOTE:
Extensive touring with Fred Eaglesmith 2008
"Lost Men and Angry Girls" #1 FAR Chart January 2007
Finalist - North Carolina Songwriting competition 2007
Audrey's song "Next Big Nothing" recorded by Big Machine recording artist Sunny Sweeney 2007
Winner Chris Austin Song Contest 2006 Merlefest ("Losing Faith")
Nominated - ARIA Best Country Album 2005 (Texas) Australia's equivalent of the Grammys.
Nominated - Reckless Records Independant Label of the year 2004 CMAA
Nominated - Independant Entertainer of the Year 2003 CMAA Achiever Awards
Nominated - ARIA Best Country Album 2001 (The Fallen) -
Nominated - Australian Independent Country Music Awards (The Fallen) - Best Album & Female Vocal 2001
Nominated - CMAA Gold Guitar Awards - Female Vocal and Best New Talent in 2001
Video clip for 'I'd Leave Me Too' won Flickerfest Awards in NSW 2001
UK magazine 'Country Music People' included 'The Fallen' in their 'Best Of 2000' list.
Nominated - Independent Entertainer of the Year 2000 CMAA Achiever Awards
Kasey Chambers included Audrey's "Song For Clax" from 'The Fallen' amongst her Top Ten Favorite Songs in a House Of Blues radio interview.
Won Best Duo 1998 ‘Bill & Audrey’ Victorian Country Music Awards
Nominated CMAA Gold Guitar (Vocal Group/Duo) in 2000 ‘Bill & Audrey’
Won Best Album in the Australian Independent Country Music Awards “Looking Back To See” ‘Bill & Audrey’
Won Best Band & Best Traditional Album - Independent Country Music Awards of Germany “Looking Back To See” ‘Bill & Audrey’
Featured in the US trade magazine Billboard. “Looking Back To See” ‘Bill & Audrey’
"honey voice, pure country" ~ Rolling Stone Australia
“I just finished listening to “Losing Faith” and it levelled me - I had to crawl to the computer to let you know how much it moved me, even after only one listen. - I’m hooked.”
~ Eliza Gilkyson, singer/songwriter
“Losing Faith is a fine body of work that I am proud to have been a part of. The songwriting is very good, and the cast of characters that Audrey has chosen to work with truly helps bring these great songs to life. I love this CD.”
~ Mary Gauthier, singer/songwriter
“Audrey Auld is an adventurous and open-minded performer. 'Losing Faith' sees her explore the spiritual dimension of her life and relationships, while moving into new areas in her music. Her courage has produced Audrey’s ‘Slow Train Coming’ and the best Australian roots music release of the past twelve months.”
~ Craig Wilson, www.cow-punk-quarterly.com
“ Three of Americana's leading lights drop by to sing with her, and other big names abound. There's songs here that'll sound every bit as good on radio as any of Kasey's. And she looks damn sexy on the cover, (in a slightly gothic fashion).Both Audrey's voice and songwriting have rocketed into a whole new league since her 2000 solo debut, The Fallen, and its big hit, `I'd Leave Me Too'. She joins with Canadian star Fred Eaglesmith to produce the magnificent Iris Dement & John Prine-like `B-Grade Affair', while the Eaglesmith composed `You Did' is another standout. Fittingly, `Harmony', the Kieran Kane duet that closes Losing Faith, is, quite simply, beautiful."
~ Kim Porter, Forte Magazine
“Auld has a roughly hewn tone to her voice, which ironically gives a sweetness to her songs. She has created a following and persona which is quite unique. Fortunately she steers away from the boring quotient of mainstream country, coming closer to Kasey Chambers and Gillian Welch. She sounds like a female Richard Buckner. The album is beautifully produced. The lilting title track makes for a deep and well-considered album. Losing Faith does just the opposite to the listener.”
~ Sebastian Skeet, Drum Media, Aust.
“You do your thing so well. It seems to me you have had a big influence, & continue to do so, on Oz music. There are quite a few artists who owe a lot to you.”
~ Garth Porter, Producer