Aubrie Sellers Doesn’t Want a Quick Fix
Aubrie Sellers doesn't mind being compared to her famous mother, but she doesn't seek out the connection, either. The dark-haired, rock-influenced country-soul singer admits growing up with not one, not two, but three professional musician parents left her hesitant to make music of her own.
So she buried herself in acting until one day in 2012, when she felt an overwhelming urge to create original art. The journey proved long and tedious, but ultimately successful.
"Then it took a long time to get it out when we finished it," Sellers says of New City Blues, a guitar heavy country album released on Carnival Records and Thirty Tigers earlier this year.
The struggle in distribution was choosing the right partner to release New City Blues with. Initially Sellers thought she'd record it, then shop it to record labels big and small. Her mother, Lee Ann Womack, was familiar with both, and through her eyes the young singer witnessed the benefits and drawbacks. It's artistic control versus expedited commercial success, and the latter doesn't steer Sellers' vision at this point.
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“I want a long-lasting career. I want to build up a fanbase that will come to my shows and love me no matter if I have a song on the radio or not," she says. "Steve Earle had a mainstream career. Dwight Yoakam had a mainstream career. Willie Nelson did. But they always made good music, they always stuck to who they were. They weren’t relying on radio like a lot of people are in Nashville.”
It's clear she's not totally convinced she can make the albums she wants to make with a label partner whose primary interests are commercial. Sellers says she watched her mom struggle with this, as well as friends. Womack, she says, can be more jaded than she is.
"The reason I didn’t go through a label and make it through a label is I knew exactly the kind of things they would be telling me," Sellers says. "‘We need a song for radio. We need the blah blah blah.’ And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to not have anybody in my ear."
New City Blues is truly an artist's album. No single was released prior to its arrival in January, so fans' first experiences with her music was through the 14 songs that make up this dynamic project. Classic Rock (Led Zeppelin), punk rock (the Kinks and more recently the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and bluegrass (Ralph Stanley is an all-time fave) seep into the personal arrangements. These influences and others derive from a mother steeped in traditional country, a father (singer Jason Sellers) influenced by pop and soul and a producer / stepfather (Frank Liddell) who shares her interests. The result is a remarkable album that in the end relies on her abilities as a storyteller and vocalist.
"I've had a lot of people that are pissed off by my record because the guitars are so intense, and my voice is very sweet, I guess," she shares. "And so I’ve heard, ‘Her voice doesn’t go with these songs!’ And I’m like ‘What does that even mean? I wrote these songs!'"
"Losing Ground" is perhaps the darkest song on the album. It's also one of the most traditional on the record, and it's a first-person account of what it's like to battle mental illness. There's no shine or filter to separate oneself from the reality.
“I don’t think it ever crossed my mind to not include it because it was too personal, as far as people are going to see the real me,” Sellers says, admitting the story is her story. “It was more, is anyone going to connect to this.”
"Doc called some new pills in / I won't pick 'em up again cause I know / That stuff's a joke," she sings as steel guitar swirls around her like smoke. "You can't just dope me up / When I'm down on my luck, I don't need / Mirrors and smoke / Guess you could say I'm getting used to it / One day I'm fine the next I'm in a ditch / But I'm not crazy / I'm just losing ground."
Garage-rock guitars quickly reemerge on the next song "Magazines," about the frivolity of pop life. The distortion is turned up from there — to dangerous levels on "Living Is Killing Me," the album's closer.
“If you listen to the record you can tell I’m heavily rock-inspired,” she says, “But I have a country voice and I feel that I’m a country artist even though I have these other influences.”
Ashley Monroe, Kacey Musgraves, the Black Keys and Alabama Shakes are among the artists Sellers draws comparisons to. Vocally she's similar to Womack — delicate, yet able to bite at the heart. The contrast between her voice and the fuzzy guitars is noticeable, comparable perhaps to the blue collar country sound of Jason Isbell, an artist known for performing in suits.
Aubrie Sellers Already Has One of the Best Albums of 2016