Youth Spotlight: Erin Aubrey
Milligan Singer/Songwriter Loves Indie/Jazz/Pop
By ANGELA WAMPLER | A! MAGAZINE FOR THE ARTS | December 28, 2010Milligan College senior Erin Aubrey, a native of Elizabethton, Tenn., will soon be heading to Nashville, Tenn. to pursue her music career. She released her first album of original music, All These Ours, in October. On it, Erin plays the piano and sings both lead and background vocals.
Recorded in Nashville, the album was produced by Ronnie Brookshire with Area 52 Productions. Brookshire says, "We all find out more about ourselves when one of us decides to reveal our soul to those around us. Erin's music does just that. Her writing dismisses any self-doubt, while her voice draws you to that place where the heart lives. She has effortlessly bridged the past to the present — and this only from her first project."
Also last fall, Erin was invited to spend a semester studying with the Contemporary Music Center (CMC) in Martha's Vineyard. CMC is the nation's only artists' colony where up-and-coming musicians and entertainment executives come together to make an impact in today's music industry. Critically acclaimed songwriter and producer Rick Elias served as Erin's songwriting professor at CMC. "It is a rare thing indeed to discover a young artist with such compelling songs and a unique voice to match," says Elias, who has written and produced songs for movie soundtracks such as That Thing You Do and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
A! Magazine talked with Erin before she left college for Christmas break.
• What does the title All These Ours refer to?
"All These Ours" is the name of the first track on the album. The song tells a story about a couple who recently ended their relationship. The girl recalls things they shared: "We had our song, our dance, our look from across the room, our secret spot..." At the end of the chorus, she asks, "Without you, what am I to do with all these ours." It's a play on words — she doesn't know what to do with all of the things that were theirs as a couple as well as the hours in the day she must go on living without him. I wrote the song three days before I left to record the album.
• Tell us about the songs on the album — meanings, inspiration, etc.
The songs tell the true story of my life over the past year. I left home and everything I knew and went to live on an island for a semester to write music. I met a boy while I was there and, from the first minute I shook his hand, it felt like someone had taken my world with two hands and shook it up like a snow globe. Everything in me was flipped, let loose and turned upside down — a phenomenon that only occurs when you truly fall in love. When we left the island, however, it came crashing to an abrupt end. This album shows the beauty and intimacy of true love, the pain of loss, and the hope that comes when you pick yourself up off the floor and move on. It is ultimately a story of the peace you can find in the midst of confusion, and the love you can find in yourself when letting go. These songs are about the everyday emotions we have all experienced in regards to love and life.
I am definitely influenced by an eclectic mix of music. I love the soulful ballads of the 1930s and artists such as Billie Holiday and Etta James. I am also influenced by contemporary artists like Norah Jones and Ingrid Michaelson. Growing up, my parents always had music from great songwriters playing — The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, and Queen. I am constantly trying to experiment with different genres and I feel that several are several represented on this album.
• Tell us about recording the album.
In August I packed up my bags and headed to Nashville, and the entire way there I was in such disbelief that it was really happening. I didn't find out until a week before that I was going. Although I had been saving up for months, I still didn't have enough money, so the week before I left, my parents surprised me and booked the studio, saying I could pay them back someday. I only had time to stay in Nashville for one week before school started back again. Therefore, we had to spend hours in the studio every day to make sure we got it finished. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful experience. I feel as if I grew exponentially as a musician from being there only a short time.
The studio musicians who played on the album are some of the best and most creative Nashville has to offer. Many of them have played for renowned artists such as Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Dave Barnes, and the David Crowder Band. Being in the studio with them was truly an honor and a pleasure. They were so down-to-earth and cracking jokes the whole day. My producer taught me a lot about the studio and the music industry. More importantly, he was very hospitable and made me feel comfortable throughout the whole experience. Although recording in Nashville probably cost more than my future wedding will cost (if I ever have one!), it was worth every penny, and it has helped start my music career in an excellent way. I was very pleased with how the album turned out and the overall experience.
• What did you do to raise money to record the CD?
I worked at a small daycare and was a waitress at an Italian restaurant, both in Johnson City, Tenn. I think I changed more diapers in one year than Jon and Kate Gosselin (with their sextuplets and twins)! They were both stressful jobs, but I love kids and loved the unique people I met while waiting tables.
• Tell us about your music education.
When I was six years old, my mom encouraged me (relentlessly) to take piano lessons. I began taking lessons and my grandmother paid for them. Every year, when it came time to recommit to the lessons, I would always refuse to do so. Then, my mom would say, "If you sign the paper for one more year, I will take you out for ice cream tonight." It worked every time. Although it was a struggle to keep practicing all of those years, I am thankful to my mom, my grandmother, and ice cream for causing me to stick with it because now I am a piano performance major in college, and it has really come in handy with my songwriting.
I did not begin taking voice lessons until college, but have been doing so for the past four years and feel as if it has helped my voice immensely. While in college, I have been on a rigorous practice schedule for piano and I've been taking jazz piano and organ lessons. In addition, because I am a music major, I have taken several semesters of theory.
• Tell us about going to CMC in Martha's Vineyard.
My junior year, the director of CMC came to our campus to talk to potential artists. I was captain of the cheerleading squad and loved my life in East Tennessee. I told him I had no intentions of giving up a semester at Milligan and he said, "Maybe you'll wake up one day and change your mind. If you do, call me." The next day, I woke up and something in me had changed — all I could think about was CMC. I began filling out the application and recording music demos to submit. I was ecstatic when I found out I was accepted. The CMC changed my life forever and the course of my future. I never thought I was good enough to pursue a career in music until I left CMC with the confidence and knowledge I needed to pursue what has always been my first love.
• When did you start writing and/or performing your own songs?
I wrote my first song my freshman year of high school when my boyfriend and my best friend both stood me up on the same night. I began playing the piano and singing about all of the things I felt. It was a terrible song, but suddenly it was like something had clicked and I realized that I could write a song. I've been using songwriting as an outlet for every experience since then. At CMC, I began performing my original music with a live band for the first time.
• How did your band evolve?
Throughout college, I've had guy friends who were talented musicians. I never thought they would want to perform with a girl, so I was afraid to ask them to form a band. However, when I arrived home from the Vineyard, I had a renewed sense of confidence. One night, at a Super Bowl party, I casually mentioned I wanted to organize a benefit concert. They immediately offered to play with me. We practiced once or twice a week in the college chapel for the rest of the semester and had a blast playing for the benefit concert. We have been performing gigs in the area, and we had a CD release concert at Milligan in October. There was an incredible turnout.
All of my band members are married and have "adult" careers. So we are going our separate ways. However, they are incredible musicians, and we will continue to be close friends and play together any time we're all in town. I am extremely grateful for the time and creativity they have given me over the past year. Their musical influence is definitely present on the album.
• After Milligan, what are your plans / your dreams?
I plan to move to Nashville and pursue a career in music performance and songwriting. For the next 5-10 years, I want to commit myself solely to writing, performing, traveling, and collaborating with different artists. My goal is not to be famous — I will feel successful if I am getting the opportunity to do what I love and am passionate about. Eventually, I plan to attend graduate school to become a licensed music therapist. I believe very strongly that music can be used to bring healing to those who are hurting. I hope to continue performing and writing for the rest of my life. That would be a dream come true!