As a writer, activist, and Grammy-award-winning musician having been in the music industry for over 15 years, Buick Audra is, simply put- a badass.
Audra released her first solo album in 2006, and has since collaborated with the legendary minds of Trina Shoemaker, Joss Stone, Bryan Sutton, and Jerry Douglas to name a few.
Audra is also the vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter of Nashville heavy rock duo Friendship Commanders. Leading up to her forthcoming solo album, Conversations with My Other Voice, and accompanying memoir, she has released a series of three freestanding singles that highlight the circumstances of her solo career hiatus.
Her first solo release in 10 years, the single “All My Failures”, is an ode to her suffering of panic attacks and emotionally laborious experience working with an abusive collaborator. The song has a dreamy, folk-country sound, with tight harmonies and an intricate guitar line.
The second single in her lineup, released in June of this year, is “Maybe I’ll Fly Instead”, a soulful songwriter track about Audra’s lifelong struggles with a harmful family dynamic.
“Lullaby of Loathing,” which officially hit streaming services today, is the third and final single in this series preceding her album, and it is fiery punctuation indeed. The song features Audra unapologetically calling out the misogyny and toxicity of unfit men within the Nashville music industry. Against gentle acoustic instrumentation, she unabashedly addresses these gatekeepers within the music scene.
Audra’s songwriting is deeply intimate and personal, and looking at her lyrics on a page is similar to looking at a diary entry. Simultaneously, though, coexisting with this intimacy is also a collection of common experiences amongst listeners. Her lyricism resonates with many people, and that is one of the most valuable aspects of songwriting.
We had the chance to chat with Audra about the rebirth of her solo career, the new single, and much more.
It seems you put your solo project on the backburner for some time, as you are also the guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for the duo Friendship Commanders. What propelled you to revisit your solo career?
I did put my solo work aside for several years, and I honestly didn’t think I’d ever pick it back up. I experienced a lot of loss and transition when I was releasing my last couple of solo albums. At a certain point, I couldn’t keep it all going.
As far as returning to it, it started with dreams. I would have dreams that I was supposed to be going on stage to perform my solo work, but I couldn’t remember how the songs went. They were more like nightmares, really. And then, in my waking life, I started to hear the call from that part of myself. Now that I’ve been back recording and releasing solo work this year, I think it’s about amends to my former self. I had such a difficult time in those other chapters, I just packed the whole thing up and walked away from it. Now I’m going back and saying some of what I didn’t know how to say then.
The three singles this year are a series. I wanted to talk about some of the surrounding circumstances of walking away from the solo work. In “All My Failures,” I’m talking about the middle-of-the-night panic attacks I’ve experienced for years; they started when I was collaborating with another woman in England, years ago. I didn’t know it then, but I know now that I have PTSD, and that the beliefs that come up during the attacks have taken a huge toll on my ability to believe in myself. The second single was “Maybe I’ll Fly Instead,” and in that song, I’m addressing the family dynamics that have made releasing work so weird and difficult over the years. I do not come from people who celebrate my victories, to put it in brief terms. The last in the series is this one, “Lullaby of Loathing.” This one is about gatekeepers.
What inspired your newest single, “Lullaby of Loathing”? Is there a specific message or meaning behind it?
“Lullaby of Loathing” is about the many (MANY) male gatekeepers I’ve dealt with during my time in Nashville, as a woman in music here. In the song, I’m speaking to a composite of real-life characters that have felt more than entitled to behaviors and comments that were mocking, minimizing, insulting, and always: comparing me to the men around me. Any sort of pushback from me has been met with bizarre, out-of-touch reactions that ranged from acting like victims themselves to blocking my path.
I’m riffing on the idea that in order for women to be heard, we have to present our truths in soft, dulcet tones; hence, the lullaby format. I’m also taking the opportunity to say something that women are shamed out of ever saying, which is that I hate something/someone. I literally had to be seated, barely singing to deliver the vocal for the song, because I’m not even wired for singing so softly. But I wanted it to be an exaggerated presentation of sweetness and softness, to trick the listener into thinking the song contained such a message.
It’s the third (and final) single in the series of songs before my upcoming album for good reason. My forthcoming album, Conversations with My Other Voice, is about how I abandoned my solo voice and eventually found my way back to it. The circumstances around why I abandoned it are outlined in these three singles.
The mood of your vocals and instrumentation sound very different from the actual lyrical content of this song. Could you tell us a bit more about this sort of juxtaposition and what it signifies?
Yes, thanks for noticing that! So, many of the weird comments I received from men in the Before Times had to do with the strength of my voice. I don’t mean strength as in quality; I’m talking about power. Many favored when I used none of my vocal power, when my voice was soft and demure. To me, this is inherently sexist. Wanting a woman to make work that is essentially non-threatening is ridiculous—and that’s something I rage against in Friendship Commanders, where I sing at volume level eleven most of the time. So, in “Lullaby,” I’m singing at volume level zero. I actually had to sit down to track the vocals to get them as soft as they are, because I normally employ more heft. I chose to do it as a lullaby so the song would be a bait-and-switch. I’d say the things I’ve always wanted to say—some of which are quite harsh—but sing them in dulcet tones, so the offending parties would be able to hear the message. I produced the track in the same way. Everything is very reined in, very pleasing. The hidden blade is in the lyrics.
And how did the vision behind your music video come to be? Do the many burning candles surrounding you symbolize anything in particular?
I always saw fire for the video. The message of the songs holds fire, to me. What I ended up doing was creating a sort of protection circle with candles and singing the song from within it. Part of that was visual, but much of it was about stating that I’m past the point of being touched by the outside forces. Plus, the track is so intimate, the candles created a visual representation of that. There is no other light source for the video; it’s all candlelight.
Can fans expect to see this single and your previous two on an upcoming EP or LP? And if so, can you talk a bit about that?
Not these songs! These songs are a short series leading up to an album. The album, Conversations with My Other Voice, is an electric album about voice, literal and figurative. I wanted to release these three songs as an introduction to the theme. Like, what causes someone to stop believing in their own voice? What does that look like? In my case, it was a mixture of internal and external factors that got too heavy. I couldn’t hold it up. On the album, I address the longer form version of the story. The album is a memoir in songs. It will be out next year!
As someone who’s passionate about feminist activism, who are some strong female musicians and leaders that inspire you?
So many. Growing up, I learned from Poly Styrene, Chrissie Hynde, Rickie Lee Jones, Shawn Colvin, Mariah Carey, Tori Amos, the Breeders, TLC, Chaka Khan, the Slits, Debbie Harry, and many others. These days, I still love and thank all of those women, but also learn from my peers in heavy music and singer-songwriter circles.
I am inspired by the women that advocate for racial justice, reproductive rights, bodily autonomy as a wider category, LGBTQIA+ rights, and for survivors. Major appreciation to Tarana Burke, Ijeoma Oluo, Patrisse Cullors-Brignac, Alicia Garza, Opalayo Tometi, and Micheala Angela Davis. Florynce Kennedy’s legacy is a huge inspiration to me, and she’s a person who doesn’t get enough praise out here in my opinion. I feel like we’re letting her down right now, but that’s a story for another time. E. Jean Carroll is a force of nature that we don’t deserve. Locally, I’m a big fan of what Mimi and Muziqueen do in ‘Nashville Is Not Just Country Music; also the work of the women of the Equity Alliance Nashville, and SisterReach in Memphis.
Several writers, too. I’m learning so much from Miriam Toews, who is telling stories about Mennonite women; Laila Lalami, who is writing great books that center around Morrocan/Moroccan-American experiences; all of Nora Ephron’s books are teaching me how to think, write, and be an adult.
I am inspired by women who have the courage to tell the truth, whatever form that takes.
With your new music and live shows happening more and more, can fans expect to see you take these songs on the road, or at least playing regional gigs?
Yes! I’m playing all three of this year’s singles at shows this weekend! I’m opening for Aaron Lee Tasjan in Knoxville TN on Friday, September 10th—I have a full band for that show; and then I’m playing solo in Canton OH on September 11th, and Youngstown OH on the 12th. I can’t wait to play them in person. It’s been so weird to release music during a season of non-touring. These are my first solo shows out in a long time. People can also expect to hear some songs from the forthcoming full-length album!
Speaking of live shows, what might an ideal gig look like for you these days?
I really want to do a tour of smaller clubs with my solo work when the album comes out. As exciting as it is to play big spaces, I love playing smaller rooms where the intimacy can be felt, and where you can see the audience. And I’d love to take the guys I typically play with: Jerry Roe, Lex Price, and Kris Donegan. Playing alone can be powerful, too, but I love playing with those dudes. We have a good thing.
That said, it would also be a dream to open for Shawn Colvin. That’s a fantasy gig for me. I’ve learned a lot from Shawn.
After an evening with Buick Audra, what kinds of feelings or messages do you hope to leave listeners with? What kind of effect do you hope to have?
I hope that someone feels like they’re less alone in the world. I tell these stories for my own healing and processing, but I also tell them because I think we need work about what it’s like to let fear win, or to not come from a family that supports who or what you ended up being, or what it’s like to be a woman in music. It’s wild out here. We need songs that tell the truth. I used to feel like I had to bring good news or nothing at all. Well, life’s not all good news. So, I’m doing this in the hope that others feel known. Feeling known can be lifesaving.
Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to my work, to ask me about it, and to amplify it! I’m grateful to be here.