Originally from Oklahoma, Audra Mae is best described as having a sound “with a hint of country twang and a twinkle of good humor”. She has had music appear on the hit series “Sons of Anarchy”, as well as writing the lyrics for a track from international artist Susan Boyle.
Clearly, this young lady can do it all. Our own Scott Feldman recently got a chance to sit down with her. One word to sum up Miss Audra Mae? Charming. Enjoy the interview.
An Exclusive Interview with Audra Mae (listen to the audio here)
Scott Feldman: Hello, this is Scott Feldman, with Earbits Online Radio; I have a very special guest with me today; talented songwriter, singer, artist, everything, Audra Mae. Audra, thanks for coming up.
Audra Mae: Thanks for having me.
Scott Feldman: As we were just saying, when I first met you, you were coming in to track a Bob Dylan record, for “Sons of Anarchy”, with Bob Thiele. Did you, first of all, how did that happen, how did that come about, how did they find you, how did you find them?
Audra Mae: They found me and I…, from what I understand, they were looking for someone to sing that specific track and they wanted somebody who sounded, like, a little bit country, but a little bit not. And so, my publishing company, Warner/Chappel, sent them my stuff and I guess they liked it and Bob had me come in and hang out with you guys for the day. And it was really fun, it was one of the first experiences I really had working with people I’d never met before, on the fly, going in and doing a good job and everyone being happy with it and all that.
Scott Feldman: And how was that as a studio experience? Did it help you for future recording sessions and things like that? Did it change you in any way?
Audra Mae: I mean, I think the coolest thing about it was like having him… it’s kind of hard to talk about, cause I feel like your listeners don’t know Bob…
Scott Feldman: That’s a good point…
Audra Mae: You know, but he’s a really good guy and he’s really, at least with me, he was very supportive in letting me, kind of, find my own way with it.
Scott Feldman: If I recall, you were something like a one-take wonder. I think,the genius of his production that day was letting you, kind of, do your thing, it just was happening very easily, it felt.
Audra Mae: Well, I appreciated it, it felt really good. And sometimes, you know, producers or engineers can … you know, they like to play, they like to play. And once they figure out that you can do it a million times, and do it however they want you to do it a million times, sometimes, they sort of, like, micro-manage the session and it becomes “Well, can you do it like this? And can you do it like this?” And you can, but as a performer and if you’re singing it, if you didn’t write it, as an interpreter…
Scott Feldman: You lose your creativity a little bit…
Audra Mae: You lose like the actual connection to the words, cause you’re not feeling them like you, you’re singing them like a character. You know what I mean?
Scott Feldman: That song kind of blew up… For everyone who doesn’t know, it was “Forever young” – it was in the first season of “Sons of Anarchy”, right?
Audra Mae: Yeah.
Scott Feldman: God, it did crazy on iTunes for a little while. Did that change you career in any way?
Audra Mae: Oh, yeah.
Scott Feldman: Did things change after that?
Audra Mae: For sure.
Scott Feldman: Did you have your label deal before that or did that come after?
Audra Mae: I can’t remember. I don’t think I had one yet. I mean, I honestly can’t remember, which it’s all sort of… in my mind, the last couple of years it’s just kind of like a…
Scott Feldman: It’s like a big blur?
Audra Mae: … beautiful…
Scott Feldman: … a wonderful big blur?
Audra Mae: … a beautiful, wonderful smelling stew.
Scott Feldman: How did your deal come about, because you’re with Side One Dummy, right?
Audra Mae: Right.
Scott Feldman: And I think of them and I think of, like, Flogging Molly, Gogol Bordello… punk and you’re, like, this hip, funky singer, song-writer chick…
Audra Mae: Thanks for calling me hip, I’m blushing…
Scott Feldman: I think you’re hip…
Audra Mae: I just wanna be cool, that’s all I want.
Scott Feldman: How do you fit in there, how does that work for you?
Audra Mae: The way the deal came about was… a fellow by the name of Chuck Regan, who’s a wonderful singer-songwriter – he was in a punk band for a long time – and he started doing his own thing, sort of like, country-punk-protest songs, like, cold miner songs, kind of stuff. And they’re beautiful, and he called his label, Side One Dummy, at the time, and said “I need a female presence on the Revival Tour”, which he was doing. And they sent him, they had been coming to my shows, and they said “Well, we know about this girl” and they sent him my stuff and he really wanted me to go. And, honestly, I credit Chuck every time anyone asks me how I get that deal. So, I didn’t have one before, and he called them and said he wanted me to go, they called my manager, my manager called me, and then, something like, not even 24 hours – they had a deal.
Scott Feldman: Tell me about your album “The Happiest Lamb”? Is that your… that’s you only full-length album.
Audra Mae: So far, we’re actually about to release a new one.
Scott Feldman: Oh really?
Audra Mae: So, “The Happiest Lamb” came out in May of last year, 2010…
Scott Feldman: Great record, by the way.
Audra Mae: Thank you very much.
Scott Feldman: I really do love it.
Audra Mae: Thank you.
Scott Feldman: Especially the title track.
Audra Mae: Thank you very much. It’s sort of, well, you’ve heard it, it’s sort of melancholy, and tragic, and dramatic and…
Scott Feldman: It’s dramatic while being stripped to, you know, a lot of artists accomplish drama by adding a ton of instrumentation.
Audra Mae: Well, Ted Hutt produced it, and he did a really great job at showing me how to focus and he… I will always give him credit for helping me on my way to finding my sound. And it’s… I love that record so much, but as I was touring it, I noticed that it’s kind of a bummer to play that record in bars, where people are trying to get drunk and have a good time, and I’m singing, like, songs about jumping into a river.
Scott Feldman: It’s not party-drinking music.
Audra Mae: No.
Scott Feldman: When you would go on tour with that would you play acoustic or did you have a band with you?
Audra Mae: No, it was just acoustic.
Scott Feldman: Wow, that’s tough.
Audra Mae: It’s tough, it was really tough, but it toughened me up and I had to learn how to deal with crap and all that stuff. But, still, as a performer, as a stage performer, cause I grew up in theaters, so I have that, like, fire in me, all that hunger to be in front of an audience. It didn’t… I wasn’t satisfied because I wasn’t… I was getting… it was depressing me people saying “That was so good, I cried, I just kept crying”. And I’m like… “No”, I want them to dance and forget about this stuff they’re crying about. So, the next record is, sort of like, try to describe it like.. like if Johnny Cash and Ray Charles had a baby…
Scott Feldman: A baby, sexy baby, that’s awesome.
Audra Mae: It would be a sexy-fucking baby, so…
Scott Feldman: When can we expect that record?
Audra Mae: Hopefully November 1st. We’re actually doing the shoot for the cover of it on Sunday, and it’s called “Audra Mae and the Almighty Sound”. We’re excited about it.
Scott Feldman: Cool. So, we’ve covered… you’re obviously an artist, you have a label, you’re going on tour. We also can’t slight your writing… you’ve had something of a hit, have you not, with Susan Boyle?
Audra Mae: Su-Bo.
Scott Feldman: Su-Bo, tell me about that.
Audra Mae: Su-Bo. I write with this Swedish trio called…
Scott Feldman: I’m sorry, I just used the word hit, and we just talked about how…
Audra Mae: It’s alright, you can use it in past tense. Just not future though.
Scott Feldman: Ok, cool. Not as “This is gonna be a hit”…
Audra Mae: “This is gonna be a hit man, it’s gonna be a hit”, yeah. Anyway, this Swedish trio play production… they do all kinds of, like, super pop, like, things like Susan Boyle or, sort of like, not… super pop… would be the wrong phrase to describe what I’m saying but … And I also don’t wanna be a bitch, I don’t wanna be, like, you know what I mean, because I love writing that music…
Scott Feldman: As long as you frame it in the way that you’re…
Audra Mae: Well, a lot of people, I feel like, you know, they judge…
Scott Feldman: Some people think ‘pop’ is a bad word, but I don’t think so at all.
Audra Mae: Or just because, like, it’s…you know… it’s kind of like… it’s kind of like, old lady pop…
Scott Feldman: Old lady pop school.
Audra Mae: You know what I’m saying? So…
Scott Feldman: A lot of people liked it, right?
Audra Mae: I liked writing it, I had a great time.
Scott Feldman: So, is it different writing for yourself as it is writing for someone else.
Audra Mae: Oh, yeah.
Scott Feldman: So, how did you…
Audra Mae: So, for her, it was like, she had just… I met with them in New York and they said listen “We’re writing this song and it’s for this woman, Susan Boyle, have you heard of her?” She just was like this YouTube phenomenon. And I said “Yeah, I love her, I love how she looks. Not like what people think she should sound like and the whole surprise and all that”. And, so, I was like “Great, let’s do it”. And they said “Well, you know, let’s talk about what you think, you know, you wanna write the words about”, cause they had the track already. And I was just thinking about her experience and what she’d been through. I went and, like, I goggled her and I did a lot of very important research on Google and just learned a little bit more about her from as many trusted sources as I could find. And I just was kind of touched by her story, she was kind of the ugly duckling. It’s the ultimate ugly duckling, that woman thought she had lived her whole life already.
Scott Feldman: Right.
Audra Mae: I mean, she thought that was it, there was nothing else that was gonna happen. And she became the most famous woman in the world for a talent she always, always wanted to be known for. I mean, it gives me goosebumps talking about it.
Scott Feldman: It’s a pretty incredible story.
Audra Mae: It’s a beautiful story. So, to be a part of it and to give her words to sing that are her words to sing, cause the rest of the record she did was covers. You know, old standards and stuff like that…
Scott Feldman: So is that the only original song that got on the album?
Audra Mae: Yeah.
Scott Feldman: It’s amazing.
Audra Mae: I was very honored, I think she’s really cool.
Scott Feldman: And were you introduced to that writing team through Warren/Chappel?
Audra Mae: Yeah, but we’d written before, you know, all kinds of stuff, just having fun. But that one was absolutely, I mean… who knew that it was ever gonna actually happen. I just tried to write her words that she could feel like they’re hers, that no one else had sung before, that were about her and her life, so that she could feel, like, as a performer like she had her song. You know what I mean?
Scott Feldman: Being the terrible interviewer that I am, I think I forgot to mention the name of the song. It was “Who I Was Born to Be”. So, now that you’re kind of focusing more on yourself as an artist, you’re putting out another record; is writing for other people something that doesn’t interest you or if it comes around you’re happy to do it, or what are you trying to focus on?
Audra Mae: I’m trying to focus on today.
Scott Feldman: Sure, it’s hard to do.
Audra Mae: I feel like I don’t ever, ever, see myself being one of those people that are like “I’m done with this part of my creative side”, you know? If people come around… it’s one thing if I’m really, really, busy and it feels like somebody’s just kind of like “Hey, you wanna with this person?” you know. But if I’m really, really busy and someone tells me “Hey, this person really wants to write with you, and they’re really, like, they’re calling and they’re trying to write with you” – that’s more inspiring to me than just like…
Scott Feldman: Let’s match these two together and we could make something up…
Audra Mae: Anyone who works with me can tell you that I will see it through to the end, but also I’m a stubborn brat, so they have to …
Scott Feldman: Most of you artists have sides like that.
Audra Mae: I just don’t like to feel like it’s, like, I don’t know…
Scott Feldman: Forced?
Audra Mae: Forced or like the other writer doesn’t want to be there; writer or writers, you know? It feels better and it’s a lot more fun to get together and hash out a song if you feel like everyone’s ready to do that. Instead of “I don’t know why I’m here. Why are you here?”
Scott Feldman: Sure. It’s a terrible feeling being in the room with someone who you don’t think also wants to be there.
Audra Mae: Sometimes you get good songs out of that though. It’s weird.
Scott Feldman: Have you had that experience?
Audra Mae: A couple of times… yeah, a couple of times…
Scott Feldman: Then I guess it’s… everything’s worth exploring.
Audra Mae: Exactly, it’s what kills me… “I’m just so busy and there’s so much crap going on”. I always sent that e-mail and then my next though is “Yeah, but what if it’s like this really cool thing and you don’t know it because you don’t have the balls to do it”. So then I usually do it.
Scott Feldman: I think you choose the right decision.
Audra Mae: It’s just… I have a little Woody Allen running.
Scott Feldman: I’m a neurotic Jew from New York, so I do, also… So, you’re going on tour again in the next couple of days, is it? How long are you going out for?
Audra Mae: Just about, like, 10 days, we’re going upper west coast, north-west coast. Seattle and stuff like that.
Scott Feldman: Are you going with other Side One Dummy-ers or not really?
Audra Mae: Not really… I don’t think so. Nick 13, yeah, that’s the dude that we’re going with.
Scott Feldman: I like Nick 13.
Audra Mae: Nick 13, shout out.
Scott Feldman: Everyone listen to Nick 13.
Audra Mae: Right now.
Scott Feldman: While you’re here you think you can play us a track or two?
Audra Mae: Mhm.
Scott Feldman: Can we get a glimpse of something off the new record maybe?
Audra Mae: D’oh, why would I not play that?
Scott Feldman: Awesome.
Audra Mae: This song is called “Smoking the Boys” and I wrote it with a wonderful lady named Deana Carter, who co-produced my new record with me. And she came over one day and we wrote this song and I thought she was so cool, I knew that I wanted her to produce my record. And so we wooed her, and she did and it’s been a beautiful, beautiful, friendship ever since. In any case, “Smoking the Boys”…
Scott Feldman: Awesome.
Audra Mae: Thanks.
Scott Feldman: I think you found your song that people can hang out and drink to.
Audra Mae: You know what I’m saying?
Scott Feldman: I look forward to hearing the rest of the record. Thank you so much for joining us here, I really appreciate it.
Audra Mae: Thank you for having me.
Scott Feldman: My pleasure.