We caught up with the lovely and talented upcoming artist Aubrie Sellers ahead of her Album Release show in NYC to talk about her unique brand of country music, famous family and upcoming debut album.
NYC Country Music: I promise after this first question I won’t ask anything else about your mom, but your mom is Lee Ann Womack, your dad is songwriter Jason Sellers and your step father is Frank Liddell. Would you say music is in your blood from an early age? Did they encourage you in the direction of music?
Aubrie Sellers: They always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do. When I was younger, I wasn’t always sure that I was going to do music because it was so familiar to me and I was around it all the time. But, I always loved music and I always sang. When I was in high school, I started writing, and I think that’s when I decided I was actually going to do something with music and they were encouraging from the beginning. The greatest thing about my family is that they always focus 100% on the music.
NYC Country Music: You’ve described your own music in interviews as “garage country.” Country has been influenced by other genres, for better or for worse, but punk hasn’t necessarily had such an influence aside from Dwight Yoakam years ago. What does the “garage country” term mean to you in both describing your own music and other artists that influence it?
Aubrie Sellers: For me, I obviously have a background in bluegrass and traditional country, and rock has been a huge influence on me. That’s why the record is all electric. “Garage country” encompasses a sound that’s raw, has trashy drums and electric guitar.
NYC Country Music: Who would you say some of your main influences are on the country and non-country side of the spectrum?
Aubrie Sellers: Ralph Stanley is my favorite singer – bluegrass – and his music is really raw. Some bluegrass can be overproduced, which makes it lose its special quality. I love George Jones as far as traditional country. I feel like there was an initial wave of outlaws with Waylon and those guys, and then Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam in the 80s who were big influences on me too.
In the rock world, I love Led Zeppelin. They influenced my sound a lot; so did CCR. Buddy and Julie Miller were huge influences and I love the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss record.
NYC Country Music: What is your songwriting process generally like? Do you consider yourself foremost a singer or songwriter?
Aubrie Sellers: If you asked me five years ago, I wouldn’t consider myself solely a songwriter. I started writing for this record about four years ago, and I was still learning. I had written before but I hadn’t sat down and decided I was going to go and make a record.
For me, it’s a little different writing by myself than cowrites. I write whenever inspiration strikes me and I have to sit down and write it then or else I won’t finish it. For co-writing, I can sit down, get an idea, and get a melody. Usually a melody comes first, but with co-writing, sometimes it’s different and I’ll start with lyric ideas. I try to leave it more open when going into a co-write.
NYC Country Music: You wrote a song with Brandy Clark for the album – how did that go?
Aubrie Sellers: I wrote “Liar Liar” with Brandy and Jessie Jo Dillon. They are really close and write a lot together. Jessie Jo introduced us and I love Brandy. I remember writing it in Jessie Jo’s office. Both of them are so talented, Jessie Jo is really great with lyrics, and it was a great collaboration.
NYC Country Music: You’ve toured with John Moreland, Hayes Carll and Chris Stapleton. What were those experiences like and how did it influence you to be able to tour with such great Americana and country artists?
Aubrie Sellers: I really love and respect everyone I’ve toured with so far as musicians and it’s been super fun. I’ve toured with Marty Stuart, too, and he is just mastery. He’s been doing it for so long; it was amazing to watch.
I’ve known Chris forever since he was in the Steeldrivers, when I used to go watch all his shows. It’s amazing. I started opening for him before he even put out this record, then I played his album release show, then I played with him again this summer and I played with him a couple weeks ago, so I’ve really watched him blow up.
Hayes is great; I’ve toured him probably with the most. It’s great watching people whose music I love, and it’s cool to watch how they’re all great, but all so different as well.
NYC Country Music: You said you’ve been writing for this album for the past four years. What does it feel like to have a release date set in stone for New City Blues, to be able to get it out to the public, and to headline your own shows?
Aubrie Sellers: It has been a really long process. I think, generally in Nashville, things don’t take that long anymore. People have record deals and deadlines, and I didn’t. I didn’t have a deal, and now, I’m going through Thirty Tigers, which is independent. I’m so excited to have the record out. I’ve been living with music for so long, wondering if anything would happen. Now, it’s crazy for people to be hearing it for the first time when I’ve been hearing it for so long.
NYC Country Music: It must be rewarding to get this validation. NPR has been streaming it for the past few days, and the feedback has been great so far.
Aubrie Sellers: It seems like people are really getting, it which is cool, because I wasn’t sure if they would. I’m a little nervous about how it reviews. I’m excited; this year I’ll be touring more than ever and hopefully be able to play with a full band and be able to bring music to everybody. I’m just excited to play with a full band.
NYC Country Music: Tell me about the title, New City Blues. It comes from a line in “People Talking” – “why are you walking around with new city blues?” Why zone in on that one line to title the album?
Aubrie Sellers: New City Blues encompasses a feeling of not always particularly fitting in, or of not knowing exactly where to fit, or of belonging, which is how I feel personally, and musically. It also encompasses a feeling of my music as a new representation of my influences. It felt like it has a double meaning and it felt right. The songs are all high energy, but they’re not upbeat material.
NYC Country Music: Speaking of upbeat material, the album opens with Light of Day, which sounds like it would be happy and bright, but then there’s the line “sure gets dark before the light of day.” That’s such a powerful statement Is that why you chose to have it lead the album?
Aubrie Sellers: “Light of Day” was one of the songs I wrote first, and it was one of the songs where I thought this is the sound I’m going for. With that intro, it represents the sound of the record, and it sets a vibe. It sets a precedent for the record.
NYC Country Music: One of the “countriest” songs on the album is Like the Rain. Does traditional country have a special place in your heart? Could you ever see yourself making a purely traditional album?
Aubrie Sellers: I love traditional country, and especially bluegrass even though both have influenced me. I think “Losing Ground” is pretty traditional as well, and I think there’ll always be a place for that. I don’t know that I’d ever make a full record like that, but it will always be around for me.
NYC Country Music: What’s your favorite song off the album to perform live?
Aubrie Sellers: I love performing “Sit Here and Cry.” It has that upbeat energy and trashy sound, even though the subject matter is not upbeat.
NYC Country Music: What was the video filming process like for that song?
Aubrie Sellers: I thought I was going to be super nervous, but it ended up being awesome because the director really got what I was going for. The song is kind of sarcastic and dramatic, and I wanted the video to reflect the opposite of the lyrics. Adam Wright and Chris Coleman, who are both on the record, are in the video, and it was a really fun process.
NYC Country Music: What was it like working with Frank Liddell, such an experienced producer, in producing the album? It seems quite different than the work he’s done with Miranda Lambert and David Nail, among others. Would you say you brought him out of his comfort zone in working with you?
Aubrie Sellers: The great thing about Frank is that he gets the artist and helps the artist be and sound like themselves. He’s great at bringing out the best and being an editor as well as facilitator in your music, where a lot of producers in Nashville are great, but you can tell that they produced a record because it sounds like them. My favorite thing about Frank, and why I wanted to work with him, is that he respects artists. When I’d say in the studio “I don’t want this,” or I want all electric, he respected that.
NYC Country Music: Much has been said recently about the state of females on country radio, but it seems like there’s a great new crop of up and coming female artists, like yourself, Maren Morris and Mickey Guyton. How do you see yourself fitting in between country radio, Americana radio and the broad scheme of radio?
Aubrie Sellers: I read a review on a blog that said “I don’t think she’ll ever find a place on country radio.” I disagree. I’m obviously working Americana right now. I’m not on a major label, and you can’t do radio without a major label, but I do think that there’s room for it. I think these songs are relatable and they’re a different sound from what’s on the radio now, but that doesn’t mean they can’t play them. Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle were both different. Emmylou Harris is another great example. I’ve always envisioned my music as fitting into a broader area than just Americana or just country. I think people like me who listen to so many different types of music don’t narrow themselves by genre, which is a business thing and not a listener thing. I think there’s room for my music on country radio, and maybe beyond.
NYC Country Music: What can fans look forward to at your Mercury Lounge show tonight?
Aubrie Sellers: It’s the record release show, so we get to play the whole record, which is super cool. I have a great band with me this time, and I’m not much of a talker, I’m more of a singer, so I’m just going to be presenting the music. It’s all electric, it’s going to be really representative of the record. It’s high energy, and hopefully people will connect with it.
By Matthew Waga