Aubrie Sellers wrapped up ’19 in a big, red bow, but she’s set to open 2020 with a twang when her new album Far From Home drops on February 7th. The follow up to 2016’s New City Blues finds the singer-songwriter continuing to blur the lines of style through raw rock n’ roll energy and carefully crafted lyrics. Sellers won’t be caged or classified based on a single aspect of what she calls “garage country”, but it’s got the depth as well as the pop sensibility to make multiple camps pay attention. Hailing from a family of Texas musicians– her father, Jason Sellers, toured with Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs before launching his own successful career as a singer-songwriter while her mother is Lee Ann Womack, another country artist and songwriter who isn’t afraid to experiment– Aubrie grew up on the road learning first hand about the life of a touring artist. It’s a calling and a world she embraces.
AI- You’re just about two weeks away from the release of Far From Home, and it seems like it’s been a real slow build leading into it. Tell me about the construction of the album. Is this the same band from New City Blues?
AS- It’s a little bit different. I had four guitar players on this album (laughs)! But since I hadn’t put out music in a little bit, we decided to just organically release music and reconnect a little bit with the people. So that’s kind of the strategy we took there.
Where’d you guys record at?
We recorded it at Sonic Ranch, which is a really cool studio outside of El Paso, Texas. It’s right on the border and you can go and stay there and they make Mexican food for you. And it’s really cool just to kind of get outside of Nashville and be able to all be there together with no distractions and fully focused on making the record.
You had some really awesome co-writes on New City Blues– Adam Wright, Mando Saenz, Brandy Clark, our good buddy Brent Cobb, Jessi Jo Dillon… Who joined you on this record?
Some of the same people. Adam’s on there… A guy named Park Chisolm who I wrote “Far From Home” and “Run” with… Brendan Benson from the Raconteurs… A guy named Ian Archer who was in a band called Snow Patrol… A couple songs I wrote by myself… Ethan Ballinger who plays guitar with me– and is my boyfriend of five years! I’m really excited about the people I got to write with for this record. Park and Adam I’ve been writing with forever, and they both played on the album as well. And so for me, rather than kind of sit down and do the Nashville-10am-write-with-a-couple-other-people kind of thing, I tried to write with people who I just really artistically love and who, like Brendan and Ian, I had really wanted to write with just because of other stuff they had done. I really love to just write with people who I feel like I connect with musically. And then it’s amazing what I also get to have them play on the record.
You’ve been doing this long enough, and I’m sure they both have their own advantages, but do you prefer songwriting as a solitary pursuit or with a partner?
It’s fun to write with other people just because it’s fun to be with people you love and who musically inspire you. When I write by myself, it’s usually like… There’s a song on a record called “Haven’t Even Kissed Me Yet”. One night inspiration struck, and I just sat down and wrote it all out right then fairly quickly. When I write by myself, I write whenever inspiration strikes me, you know? And when I write with other people, I’m always writing down little ideas or snippets in my phone and so it’s kinda just a different thing and I enjoy both of them.
Speaking of artists that inspire you musically, you got to do this duet with Steve Earle for “My Love Will Not Change”. You’re a Steve Earle fan, right?
Oh, huge (laughs)!
How’d that come together and why that particular song?
I’d loved that song. I’m a huge bluegrass fan and Del McCoury did a version of that song, and it was written by a great artist named Shawn Camp and Billy Burnette…
And if I could just interject the complicated history between Del and Steve just to set the tone…
(Laughs) That had nothing to do with my story! I know– and I love them both, and I love the records they made together too. But I love that song and when I heard it, I just kind of had a vision for doing it in my own style and the vision I had for it, I thought, “You know, Steve would be perfect.” I grew up on his records, and I love that era of country and his records in particular. I had a mutual friend that I asked if she could reach out and I was never expecting him to say yes, but he did! So I’m so excited about that. Now I’ve gotten to sing with two of my favorite singers of all time. And I don’t know… The bar’s pretty high.
Steve is one– who was the other?
Oh yeah, yeah. That record [Ralph Stanley and Friends: A Man of Constant Sorrow] you got to do… Did you work with your mother on that one as well?
Yeah, she actually sang on that, and Buddy Miller produced the record… Buddy Miller! I’m a huge Buddy Miller fan as well– and Jim Lauderdale. Yeah, that was just like bucket list for me. ‘Cause Ralph Stanley is my favorite voice.
You say bucket list… You’ve stated that you wanted to write with Steve Earle. Did you get that opportunity?
We haven’t written together, but I’m so excited that he did a song with me– so I’m like, hopefully. Hopefully someday down the road.
Going back to the album itself. I love the roadside, acoustic video of “Drag You Down”, and that version to me says as much as the full-out electric cut. I think it came off darker, actually comes across fairly hardcore. Whose idea was that was that breakdown scene and sort of the stripped-down version?
When it came time to kind of think about what I wanted to do for videos and photos for this record, to me the record is kind of a cohesive journey and I wanted the videos and the photos to reflect that. I had an idea to do everything at the same time and instead of doing traditional music videos, I thought it would be cool to do live acoustic versions of the songs and film them in a way that was almost like traditional music videos. So it’s not just the live acoustic video and it’s not a music video for the track that’s on the record– it’s kind of both. For me, the videos are kind of this cohesive journey with this girl through this literal physical journey she’s on as well as the emotional journey. The “Drag You Down” video, we’re kind of sittin’ on the side of the road, broken down, and I have a guy in there kind of playin’ my partner on part of the trip. It was kind of an interesting concept to me to just combine those two things and do something a little different.
And you did the same thing for “Worried Mind”. And both those versions, the acoustic versions are an extreme contrast to the reverb and edge of New City Blues and the other singles that you’ve released for Far From Home. Are those gonna be available on the album as well? As like bonuses? Or will you be releasing them in any other sort of format?
I don’t have any plans to right now, but you know, I’ll be playing them live for sure. I’m doing some strip down shows as well. And so people will be able to see that live. To me, it’s a little bit more like a glimpse into what it’s like when I’m just writing or sitting around with my acoustic guitar, you know, starting a song.
Let me change direction a little bit… You just finished 2019 in a live stage production for Love, Actually. Was that your first introduction to musical theater? Had you done anything like that before?
I have done acting, but I’ve never done musical theater. I’ve never combined the two things. So it was a very interesting experience and a steep learning curve for me (laughs). I kinda was thrown in the deep end and had to learn a bunch of stuff really quickly and it was a really fun and a cool experience. People who do musical theater full time, I mean, it’s incredible to me ’cause it really shakes up your whole life, you know? But it’s a really cool experience, and it’s interesting to be in the same theater night after night playing to different audiences which isn’t something you really get as an artist on the road ’cause you’re playing somewhere different every night. So that was a really interesting experience.
How did that all come together? Was it something like, “Okay, I want to go try this and do it,” or was there someone going, “You know what? you’d be perfect for this.”
I moved out to [Los Angeles] almost two years ago now, partly to pursue acting because I went to acting school and grew up doing that. I happened to meet the guys who put on these shows– that was actually last year– and then this year, they just reached out to me and asked me to put myself on tape for this character. And I did. And that’s how it happened.
What’s coming next? Are you going to do more musical theater or have you got some film stuff in the works?
I hope to have some film stuff in the works, but right now I’m focused on the record. You know, I’m going to be touring a lot, so I don’t think I have much time to be doing any of that for the next few months. We start touring at the end of January, and I’m going to hit the road pretty hard hopefully this year. I’m just focused on getting this record out there to people. That’s where my head’s at.
The title, Far From Home, there’s a bit of irony in that because you, in fact, grew up on the road, right? Music is the family business. Did you ever have a second career choice?
Well, acting was my thing that I had to myself. That was my hobby that no one else in my family could touch. I think that was really important to me to have that. I always knew I was going to do music in some capacity. I just didn’t know what until I got a little bit older and found my own sound and felt that I could do it and make my own stamp without feeling like I’m following in any one’s footsteps too much. That was really important to me, always to be distinctive. When you’re around parents who are really successful in the industry, you can feel overshadowed a lot, so it was really important to me to make my own stamp. Yeah, acting was my thing I had to myself, and I’m still interested in it.
Do you consider yourself a country singer?
Yeah, I came up with the term “garage country” because obviously I have a lot of different influences. I love rock, I love blues, I love bluegrass, and I love country. And to me, my records kind of incorporate all of that. And so I have a very country voice. I think my songwriting is country leaning and even bluegrass leaning in some ways, even though the production is very different from that. I think to shun any part of myself would be dishonest. I just try to incorporate everything that’s important to me.
You’re in Macon with Robert Earl Keen on January 25th and I know that like Keen, you are also a heavy reader. What are you reading right now?
That’s funny, I have a stack of books next to me (laughs)! There’s this book I’ve been reading for a while… I usually don’t split my time between books, but this book was so large– and it’s nonfiction– that I’ve kind of been reading a little bit a day. It’s called The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene. And it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s all about human nature and a little bit of psychology and how people operate. It’s really interesting, but it’s about 600 [pages], I guess. I’ve been working my way through that and then I just started this book, Daisy Jones & The Six which is a fictional book, but it’s based in the ’70s rock era, kind of on a band like Fleetwood Mac. So that’s really interesting since I live in LA now. It kind of talks about the Sunset Strip and all that stuff. So it’s really cool to read a little bit of that history even though it’s fiction.
On the day that the [Far From Home] comes out, February 7th, you’ll be in New York with Tanya Tucker. Do you have any sort of a hometown album release planned?
We’re working on that right now. I’m not exactly sure what we’re doing, but we’re definitely going to do something and yeah, I’m going to be tourin’ with Tanya– and Brandy Clark’s actually on that New York show as well! So that’s gonna be really fun ’cause like you said, Brandy and I wrote together on my first record, and I just admire them both so much as musicians. That’s gonna be a really fun show.