In 2010 ‘Fingers Crossed…’, the debut album from Louise Aubrie, was released. The short, sharp, but perfect, nine song collection that introduced Aubrie’s music to the world initially attracted attention because the album was produced by underrated musician/producer Boz Boorer. Anything bearing Boorer’s name was worth listening to. So expectations were high before we’d even heard Louise Aubrie play a note of music.

Then there was the image of Aubrie on ‘Fingers Crossed…’ Despite the pink hue of the cover photo, Aubrie, standing there bearing her Gretsch Chet Atkins 6120 guitar, gave a tough stance; here, surely, was a young woman who wasn’t part of the cutesy, poppy, little-girl lost brigade. That cover image gave the impression that this was a woman who was going to rock, and then some!

When you do finally get to the opening song, ‘Convenient Forgettable’, it is quite a shock. Aubrie’s vocals, while powerful, display a tough tenderness not heard since some of the Brill Building recordings. There’s a definite Shangri-Las sound in there, a little Spector, a sprinkle of 70’s punk and lashings of energy. But ‘Fingers Crossed…’ is no perfect copy of former musical glories. Maybe it’s due to Boorer’s superb production, maybe it’s down to Aubrie’s captivating vocals or her ability to write appealing melodies or more probably a combination of all of the above that make the sounds fashioned on ‘Fingers Crossed…’ sound totally contemporary. It is a sound many have attempted, but few have achieved.

Three years down the line, the songs on Aubrie’s debut still sound as powerful as they did on the very first listen. Last month ‘Time Honoured Alibi’, Aubrie’s second album, was released. Just eight original songs this time, but a little over 30 minutes of new Aubrie songs was more than a welcome sight. The first few plays of the new album initially give the impression that Aubrie has developed her sound a little from her debut, moved on slightly but in a very subtle way. Listening to the two albums back to back though reveals that ‘Time Honoured Alibi’ really carries on where ‘Fingers Crossed…’ finished. It’s another collection of gutsy but refined rock/pop where the melodies register immediately, and where Aubrie really does make a case for being one of the most expressive and captivating vocalists of her generation. There are so many absolutely brilliant female vocalists at the moment, but no one is doing what Aubrie does. She really is in a class of her own.

After two albums that prove that Aubrie is obviously a major talent who is going from strength to strength, we took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the making of her albums and how she initially met Boz Boorer.

PB: ‘Fingers Crossed…’, your debut, was released nearly three years ago. How did you first get involved in music and how did that lead to your first album?

LA: I’ve always sung and written music, but I took the first step to recording professionally at the Mill Hill Music Complex in North London. The owner there, Roger Tichborne, was extremely kind to me and gave me my first opportunity to work with his engineers and to start being creative with my own material. I did not have a band with me at the time, but I laid down a few tracks there, and then I upped sticks and moved to New York City.

I did not know anyone in the New York, let alone any musicians, but, because everything is so concentrated, it is fairly easy to integrate into the music scene. I chose to live in the Lower East Side in Manhattan because of the proximity to all the music clubs. I was extremely lucky to meet some truly fantastic musicians, and, after about a year of being in New York, I started to get the first album together. It was a combination of some songs and memories from London, and some new material that was fuelled by my new US life.

PB: Did you feel that America could help further your music career?

LA: It is funny, but when I moved that was not really forefront in my mind. I love London so much as it is my hometown, but I felt like I wanted to experience a new chapter in my life, and I had always been a big fan of New York. I remember coming through Kennedy with a bunch of guitars and not much else – there was definitely a disproportionate ratio between clothes and instruments! – but I didn’t really have a plan as such. I wanted to play music there of course, but I didn’t know how or when that would happen.

PB: Do you feel living in New York has influenced your sound or changed your songwriting in any way?

LA: New York is an amazing city; I fell in love with it immediately. And being in the city has had a huge influence, both the city itself and the people I have worked with on my records. It can be tough living in this city, but it is also very addictive... it is so hard to leave, and, even though it can boot you and bruise you, it’s a wonderful city full of opportunities.

London and New York are similar these days in many ways: you walk around and see the same stores, the same restaurants, the same spectrum of (in)sanity and creativity. But there is a difference in the energy. I found the energy in NYC is more heightened than in London, mainly because of the 24-hour culture. I still don’t think London has really embraced this, which is no bad thing, but New York’s streets feel different at night which again can spark thoughts and ideas that might otherwise be constrained to dreams and/or nightmares! I have written a lot of material with the midnight streetlife providing a backbeat.

PB: Time Honoured Alibi’, like your debut, was produced by Boz Boorer. How did that collaboration come about? Why did you choose Boz? Was it because of his past or solo work?

LA: Well, New York also played the central role in my relationship with Boz, which is ridiculous because we actually lived very close to each other in North London, but it took 3,000 miles for us to get together! I first met Boz, briefly, via Roger at the Mill Hill Studios, just before I left London. But we struck up a working partnership when he was on tour with Morrissey in the US. He had some time off in New York, and we started discussing music and one day I handed him some demos, which luckily he liked. He saw something in them, and he was generous enough to work with me on producing the albums.

I was (and am) such a big fan of Boz’s; primarily because of his work with Morrissey, but also his Rockabilly roots and his involvement with other artists, both up-and-coming, and, well, legendary! Boz has written some of my favourite songs, both with Morrissey and solo, so to have the opportunity to work with him was unbelievable. I still can’t believe my luck really. We co-wrote the song ‘Keep It Coming’ on this new record, so I know I am in the very best of company.

PB: How much did Boz shape the songs do you feel? Are your songs basically finished by the time you get into the studio?

LA: This record was very much shaped by Boz. He was key in bringing together the arrangements that the band and myself had designed. Boz is wonderful to work with; his ears are the best in the business – I think he must be part bat! I am always amazed at how he can hear every tiny sound and nuance, and he will pick up on things that no one else can; just a subtle line that would change an entire song. He spent many years as a studio engineer, and that, coupled with writing, playing and being on the road now for over 30 years, really makes him the most special person to be around.

On the first record, the songs were pretty much finished and we’d played them a lot prior to recording, although Boz still came up with some fantastic riffs, most notably on ‘Always Love’. This time was a different experience; the songs were pretty new and raw, and it was a deliberate choice to take them to the studio like that, so that we could shape them there, and I am very happy with the result.

PB: For all his input neither ‘Fingers Crossed…’ nor ‘Time Honoured Alibi’ are Boz Boorer albums. The strength of your songwriting and that incredible voice leave no doubt as to whose vision is displayed on the albums. But you both seem like very strong personalities. Were there any major clashes over any tracks?

LA: Thank you very much! Ha, ha – definitely no clashes! I look to Boz’s expertise and trust him implicitly; perhaps it is boring but we get on incredibly well, and all is calm!

PB: There were nine songs on ‘Fingers Crossed…’, and then three years later eight songs on ‘Time Honoured Alibi’. We are getting quality rather than quantity so far on your albums! Did you have more songs available for the albums but kept the numbers down for a reason?

LA: Yes, some would say ‘lazy’! I did have more songs, but this time, when I listened back to the tracking, it just felt right to leave it at eight. It told the story I wanted, and that was important to me. These new songs are all about the great men in my life, and the experiences I have had with them. Although people listening to the songs will not know the intricacies of the stories, I wanted the narrative to twist and turn as I told it, and come to a natural stop.

PB: Who were the musicians that backed you on ‘Time Honored Alibi’? . Was it the same band that backed you on ‘Fingers Crossed…’?

LA: Yes, I have worked with the same musicians, and in fact the whole team was the same, on both records. When we recorded ‘Fingers Crossed…’, it was the first time I’d worked with a full band in the studio. And because it was such a successful formula, I stuck with the same team for the new record. I write all my own material, music and lyrics, and then I arrange the songs in collaboration with my band and with Boz.

On guitar, I have Rob Ritchie, who also sings the duet ‘Tonight At Ronnie’s’ from the new record with me. On bass is Matt Wigton, and on drums is Fred Kennedy. Matt and Fred have a wonderful partnership and have worked closely together for over a decade, so this gave me a really solid foundation. They recommended Rob to me, who I knew was a brilliant guitarist as soon as I met him and first heard him play. The fact that the three guys all knew each other before was also a key element. We all respect and care about each other inside and outside the band.

I think the fact that we’ve worked together for a few years now really shows on the new record. Everyone knows what the other will like and suggestions/arrangements become so natural. I am blessed to work with such talented people.

PB: And the same guys back you when you play gigs?

LA: Yes, for the past few years I have been playing with my wonderful band. Although this year, things are changing. I am still lucky enough to play with Rob, but, purely due to logistics, I now have a new rhythm section with me. It was an interesting transition, but again I’ve been lucky to find some more fabulous guys to play with. And we often augment our live sound with another guitarist and utility guy, so it is like being in a big gang!

PB: Talking about gigs, you have a few lined up but do you have a full tour planned to promote the new album especially as it has been so warmly received?

LA: I hope so. We’ve been very lucky to get some great reviews for this record, and the lead-off track ‘Where Are You?’ is in the top 10 of the US national indie digital radio charts, which is fantastic. We are getting a lot of commercial FM radio interest, and based on that exposure we are hoping to tour in the summer/later in the year. We are currently looking at venues and logistics, and I am also intent on playing back in London – that would be wonderful.

PB: There’s definitely a Louise Aubrie sound emerging over the two albums, What would you say was the biggest difference between the two albums?

LA: Well, I had the same team, but this time, I definitely wanted to find a rockier sound. I was listening to a lot of T-Rex, Ramones, Bowie etc and wanted to make a glam-rock record! Obviously, it is not exactly that, but that was my main influence, and where the heart of the music was rooted.

PB: Your music sounds like it has one eye (or ear) in the classic sounds of the past while still being planted very firmly in the present. It is like you have borrowed sounds from almost every musical genre of the last sixty years to create something that’s uniquely Louise Aubrie. It’s difficult to pinpoint one predominant influence. Which artists would you say have most influenced your music?

LA: Sinatra. I am not sure how obvious that is from listening to my records though! But I remember watching re-runs of those old Sinatra TV specials when I was very young, and I was transfixed by his performances. No one comes close (or will ever) to his style and phrasing in a song. He never once sounded unsure in his attack. And Elvis is, of course, the King. I had his music on loop. So there you go – it started with the Chairman of the Board and the King. I am obviously not alone in citing these men, but it is amazing that they still inspire people, long after their deaths, in so many ways. My music is not Swing or Lounge or Gospel or Rockabilly, but all of that is in my heart, which is the place all my songs come from.

As I got a little older, David Bowie became a huge inspiration, and then the glam-rock era and of course punk-rock. T Rex, the Pistols, the New York Dolls, and the Ramones … and I remember playing a Blondie album over and over until I wore it out. I wasn’t around when these bands were at the height of their fame, but for some reason I was drawn to look back to the 70s.

The main inspiration on my music, however, is Morrissey, both his career with The Smiths, and his 20+ year solo career. ‘The Queen Is Dead’ changed my (musical) life. Again, I am not alone in referencing this; it is surely one of the most seminal and influential albums that has been made. It is an incredible body of work. Morrissey’s solo albums ‘Vauxhall and I’ and ‘Your Arsenal’ in the 90s were also a central influence, the latter being produced by the late, great Mick Ronson, and it’s a sound that I definitely tried to emulate.

PB: What’s next for Louise Aubrie? Do you have periods where you concentrate on writing, for example, or do you wait until inspiration comes in some form?

LA: Yes, I am definitely someone who is reliant on inspiration coming, and then I take advantage of it. I know a lot of writers sit down and set aside a certain amount of time each day or week to write, but that doesn’t come as easy to me. Once I get an idea, writing the song comes pretty quickly, but it might take months to get that idea!

PB: Lastly, how many and what guitars do you own? In pictures and videos you have been in the company of some very interesting guitars. Do you have a favourite?

LA: Ah, yes, my guitars! I love them. I am sure every musician feels the same… it’s not just about the hardware; you have a real connection to these instruments; they are an extension of your creativity. I am a big fan of Gretsch guitars. I have a 1950’s Chet Atkins 6120 that is my favourite (and appears on both album covers!). I also have a Gretsch Silver Jet that I love the sound of. Aside from them, I have a bunch including a Gibson Les Paul, a Fender Strat, a couple of acoustic guitars, (my Martin being the one I tend to write all my songs on), and a Fender Mustang Bass.

PB: Thank you.

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