We first told y’all about Audra Mae back in August when her track with the Almighty Sound, Jebidiah Moonshine’s Friday Night Shack Party, was featured on our Highway Cruisin’ playlist back in August, when we were but a wee baby blog. The song is still one of our faves — we wanted to feature it again on our next one — but my love for her extends far beyond that rollicking three and a half minutes of music.
I discovered Audra back in college when she was on tour with Matt Nathanson. I was super excited to see the California singer-songwriter (another of my favs), but I was surprised to find myself more attached to his opening act. The was an unsettling and yet homey feeling, something like: “This is it — this is the music I’ve been looking for.” A magical meeting of musical kindred spirits, if you will. Here are just five reasons I love Audra Mae so much.
1. Impressive Musical Pedigree: Audra grew up in a family that knew show business. Her great-grandmother was a member of the vaudeville trio The Gumm Sisters, and thus the sister of Judy Garland, making Audra the great-niece of that ruby-slippered star of the silver screen. Audra grew up listening to early country folk music on one side and jazz on the other, and it all shows in her music. Her sound is a little bit smokey, a little bit twang, with real deep roots, and all-around fabulous.
2. That Sound: Like I said, when I saw her for the first time, I knew this was the music I had been looking for. It combined my love of bluegrass and folk with a little bit of jazz, and a whole lot of girl power, all crooned out by a soulful voice. Something in my Eastern Kentucky heart recognized Audra Mae, and although her roots may be in Oklahoma, she’s got an Appalachian spirit that calls out to my eardrums.
3. When You Least Expect It: Audra’s is one of those voices that starts to show up everywhere, once you know what you’re looking (or rather, listening) for. She’s provided backing vocals for such vastly different artists as The All-American Rejects (also of her native Oklahoma), Avicii, Flo Rida, and my eternal man crush Idris Elba. She’s even made the audible leap to the small screen: Her crooning vocals have shown up multiple times on my latest binge-watching selection, Sons of Anarchy (her cover of Forever Young is seriously haunting and beautiful). Girl has got versatility coming out the wazoo.
4. Songwriting: While I love Audra’s voice and I’m itching for her to release another album of her own, or even just an EP (something, anything, please! It’s been over three years, girl), she’s been getting more attention for her songwriting of late, and deservedly so. In addition to writing her own music, she has written for everyone from Susan Boyle to Kelly Clarkson. She helped pen Clarkson’s January 2015 single “Heartbeat Song,” and country star Miranda Lambert covered Audra’s song “Little Red Wagon” (one of my favorites) on her Platinum album. Audra is a true singer and songwriter, equally at ease performing material tailor-made for her own voice and at adapting her nimble pen to fit other artists.
5. A Rollicking Good Time: Although I’ve only seen her play live once (much to my dismay), what I continue to love most about Audra is how much fun both she and the crowd seem to be having whenever she plays (it’s one of the things that attracts both me and Zelda most to an artist: see her similar feelings about Houndmouth). And really how couldn’t they? With songs like Smokin’ the Boys, I Won’t Grow Up, and My Friend the Devil, Audra is the friend you call on for a good time — whether you’re throwing back bourbons in a smokey bar, counting fireflies on a muggy night, or driving with your windows down, destination unknown.
And, as a bonus:
6. She plays the freaking kazoo. On stage. With her rock band. Enough said.