Q&A1234: Aubrey Haddard

Aubrey Haddard is a New York based dream pop and rock artist who just released her Sophomore album “Awake and Talking.” Haddard has a unique creative streak in her that translates into her self-reflective and insightful music. A1234 was able to sit and chat with Haddard to discuss her music journey: from playing blues in random venues to envisioning and creating an album.

Hi Aubrey, Could you please introduce yourself and your music?

My name is Aubrey Haddard, and I’m a New York City based musician and play, what I like to call, a mix of dream pop, indie rock.

Are there any particular artists that inspire you?

Yeah, absolutely. I would say there’s millions. If we want to talk about contemporary artists I would say I love the new Julia Jacklin music. She’s amazing. That’s a new little discovery. I always knew her music but I’m loving her three new singles. Cate Le Bon is a really big influence, especially on this new record. Aldous Harding, and her last two records are really important to me. Laura Marling and her collaboration called “Lump”. Caroline Polacheck is also a big part of all of my music. But then, like, if we wanted to talk about old influences, and like things that you will probably always hear in my music, it would be PJ Harvey, Björk and Oasis.

How did you begin your musical journey?

Music was always a part of my life, I don’t know, I was just encouraged to use my voice at home, and my parents were just very supportive of it. So it really started in public school, as an after school activity, being in band. Then having really the right teachers along the way, my first guitar teacher who just kind of put a guitar in my hands and was like, “you need to learn how to do this for yourself.” Just being encouraged by those people on the way had so much to do with it. I got into singing Blues in Hudson Valley and would go around Blues clubs and sit in with the dad bands and sing my little heart out and get such a thrill. And then I was really confused after high school. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. So I took some time off. And that’s when I kind of decided to pursue music full time.

You’ve been releasing music since 2016! Could you walk us through how your musical process has changed? And how do you feel you’ve grown since that first release?

Is it really from 2016, that first release? Wow. I think [my musical process] has changed so much, but I plan on it always changing that much. Because no matter what, I’m just always going to chase the most authentic thing that I can for me in that moment, and I’m always changing so much. When I started out, I put out a bunch of things with other people and was a collaborator on so many projects. In my mind, it’s such a small and simple record. And in my mind, what my individual or artistic expression was, was also that small and simple. I think that [the EP] was just as authentic as I could be to who I was as artists then because I was brand new, I really hadn’t done anything. And that starting that small and simple gave me all the room to grow moving forward. And then you could hear it literally like building blocks and “Blue Part” I feel makes sense as like a next step after that. And then I got into a space where I could, instead of building upwards, I could sort of build everything and then edit down and that’s kind of the space that I’m in now and where I approach the music that we’re making now.

How was the transition from working more independently as an artist to having sort of like a team behind you?

I mean, it’s a rocky road but it’s really amazing. I’m so grateful to have the team that I have behind this record, it’s really affirming to release something and not be doing it by yourself. And to have people who are like “yeah, we want to do this exactly how you want to do it, too. We just want to be there to help you.” But that road to getting this team went through a lot of different versions. People will come and go, and your team isn’t necessarily someone whose role has a name. I feel like there were photographers along the way that were part of my team, because they were just there, they saw the vision, they wanted to help, they wanted to be part of it. And then obviously, my band is a huge part of my team! I’ve been working with the same producer, and the same drummer and bass player since we wrote “Blue Part.” I’ve had the same team, and I’m really lucky to have that stability and foundation there. That gives me a lot of confidence to move through industry and administrative things that are so tricky to navigate already. It takes a minute to find your people. You always have to just be honest with yourself about what it is that they’re offering you because you need to value the thing that you’re creating above all else.

You mentioned in an interview that you were this “Yes, man” for a period of your career where you would just take any performance with any band. What was a highlight of that part of your music journey?

Oh, man, I remember, there was one year, I was touring so much the gigs were endless. It was so much fun. I love being on the road, it gives me such an intense sense of purpose and duty. I was meeting so many people, and playing so many gigs. Like playing the amount of shows you play when you’re an international headliner, but they were all just like New England venues. I was just going on and really enjoying them. 

Are you taking inspiration from your previous releases or is this record a new sound for you?

I feel like it is brand new. But if anything, there’s maybe a sense of inspiration to not be like the old stuff. Like, obviously, we still have reverence for it. We still appreciate it. But when I hear [my old music] on a friend’s playlist or something I won’t even recognize it right away. I’ll be like “oh this is really good.” If anything, there is definitely a push to change to be different. Just based on my own listening habits. I want to make music that feels authentic to me now, music that sounds like the things that I listen to, or sounds like something I want to hear. “Blue Part” just isn’t that anymore, it was at one point, but it isn’t anymore. So I’m gonna try to make something new.

So you’ve got “Awake and Talking”, your sophomore album coming out Friday August 19th. Congratulations! How would you describe the album in your own words?

The album is very transformational, it’s a bold musical statement. I feel like it’s high energy. It’s anxious. It’s intense. But it’s also cathartic. There’s a lot of synth sounds at play here. Some drum pad and then of course, intense vocals. I don’t know how to do anything else. It’s a moment of self reflection. It exists in past life, it exists in the present, and it exists in the future; it’s very forward looking and forward facing. And I hope that it kind of brings different meanings to everybody.

You’ve released 4 singles off the album so far, and all of them have been different genres. How has that exploration of genre affected the making of this album?

I think we were making music that we wanted to feel like some sense of release with, and for all of us that exists in rock and pop. So the exploration of [genre] came very naturally, we just gravitated toward those sounds. I feel like throughout everything, there is the rock and pop influence, so it didn’t feel like I was straying too far from the line. But there were a lot of songs that didn’t make the cut, too. And those songs were even more of the genre outliers, and I still really liked them. So maybe I’ll be able to do something with them.

You mentioned in an interview that you feel it’s really difficult to make good pop music. What was the most difficult part of you writing your own pop music?

I think a really pop song is just incredibly difficult, I think people really underestimate that. I don’t know if I wrote a good pop tune on this record. But I found my method for getting to a place where I like the tune and putting it all on the table and then using a very big knife to cut things away. I think lyrically it’s incredibly challenging to write something that still has meaning and connects with you as an artist but is still a pop hook. Something that still feels authentic, but doesn’t feel cheesy and is really accessible, but it’s still moody and brings a lot of meaning to the table. There’s just a lot of duality. It’s a very delicate balance that you’ve got to strike.

What’s the inspiration behind the album?

Something I was trying to do when we were writing this record was write from a different perspective, other than mine. In “Blue Part” it is 10 love songs. And there’s not a single love song on this record, despite what people may think. Kate Bush was a huge influence for writing from a different perspective. She does that so much. I have such reverence for her lyric writing because she writes these incredible stories, and they’re so relatable and they have nothing to do with her life at all. You don’t even know about Kate’s life because she’s literally never written a song about it. It’s always from a book or from a movie, or from a poem. So I was trying my best to use that as kind of like a prompt. I got into writing about the books that I was reading, my favorite movies, my favorite characters in those movies, just trying to see outside of myself.

What was your favorite perspective that you wrote from?

There’s one from the perspective of a character in this movie ‘Orpheus’. “Just A Wall” is a very clear example of all this. It’s literally the narrative of this movie that I love so much. I was able to find the passion and connect with the lyrics and still just write about the movie and not actually write about my life. Obviously, in retrospect, I am writing about my life. I can look back at these songs and be like “Wow, I was connecting with these things. Because XY and Z that I was going through.” But writing from some of the character’s [perspectives] in that movie was really fun. Like, there’s a character who is death herself, like death as a person. And that was really cool writing as like, you know, the shirked lover was really fun. 

Could you walk us through the album art that features these paper eyes, because it’s also shown up in “Just A Wall”?

I just mentioned that movie, and I’ve always been inspired by Jean Cocteau. He was a very multi-talented, [he was] a filmmaker, writer, painter, and an all around eccentric person. I took so much inspiration from his work from his movie for the music video for the “Future Boxes” and then there’s sort of like a nod to it and “Just A Wall” as well. When we created our mood board [for the album], we were using him as our epicenter. We found this great picture of him with painted eyeballs on his eyelids and we were like “well, we have to do that” we’re about to call the record “Awake and Talking” what better imagery to connect with than the eyeball? The record’s about self reflection, and it’s about growth and who you think you are, and feel like that’s all very metaphorical like to consider the eyeball that way. I had an incredible all female team for the artwork, which I loved. It was just this beautiful, magical moment of creating the artwork. And I had the eyeball props and makeup artist friend of mine and the creative director, Emmy Su, who really sunk her teeth into my vision, and was able to just take it to the next level. Before we started, she was like, “we’re gonna harness the energy, we’re going to welcome the aliens into Aubrey’s world right now, Let’s show them what this is all about.” And it feels like this future record. It feels like these old ideas and then trying to launch them into a new era.

What’s your favorite song or lyric from the album?

My favorite song right now is “Harbor” because it hasn’t been released. My favorite song originally was “Green As Ever” which came out as a single. Now it doesn’t feel like it’s mine anymore. Then my favorite was “Future Boxes” which came out and it wasn’t mine anymore. Now it’s “Harbor”. I love the way that “Harbor” moves and how it puts me in the right headspace and it makes me want to move my body and breathe. 

For the lyrics, “Just A Wall”, those lyrics are very weird but I know exactly what they mean. And I feel like I’m the only person in the world that’s going to know exactly what they mean. So I get a kick out of that. But [the song] is the narrative of this movie and there’s this line “Once cursed with naked pages// Now you find in static words the line.” So this guy is a poet and he makes a deal with “Death” that he’ll trade his soul for a Muse. He’s been searching for his creative Muse and he can’t find it anywhere. So he was cursed with this writer’s block. But now he finds it everywhere, particularly in this like Rolls Royce when the radio is on. He heard words that come through the static and the words are like “The birds sing with their fingers” over and over. It’s so weird. There’s another [line] that’s like “Silence moves faster backwards.” So in the song the lyric is “Once cursed with naked pages // Now you find in the radio static words align// Silence moves faster backwards// Think before you sign.” Because he traded a lot for a Muse.

What’s a moment that while recording the album is unforgettable in your mind?

I love thinking about that! We had a really magical week recording. The vocal on “Someone’s daughter” is probably the height of vocal performance on the whole record. It was just a really specific vocal performance that I wanted to achieve for that one. That high note, long note, a climax of the record, in my mind. We just hit it over and over and over and over again. But everybody was in the room, which was cool. When you’re doing vocals, usually it’s just you and the engineer, but everybody was in the room. There was just a moment where I was like “Oh, that was it. That was exactly what I wanted.” I was being really particular about it, but then was able to nail it. It was the last thing we did for the week. It was the finishing touch. So it felt really good. It was a very cathartic moment. 

So with the release of this record, what do you envision for yourself next?

We have written a lot of new music already. I love the way it sounds! I want to record it right away, I have all these ideas. I feel like I learned a lot about my songwriting process while writing this record and I’m ready to take that and move forward. I’ve been reading a lot of Japanese fiction. And that has inspired a lot of my new songwriting, a lot of new themes and lyrics. So I’m excited to explore that as a new theme, move on from this mythology and film inspired world and get into something different. Something just as fantastical, of course, but something different. There’s a looseness to the music that we’ve been writing that feels really good. Like I said, I’ll always just be chasing like the thing that feels most authentic at the time. It’s still rock based, it’s still synth heavy. But I think we’ll find a new project for it. 

What’s some Japanese fiction that you’ve been reading?

I’ve been reading all of the Murakami books. They are just amazing. I just got so wrapped up in it. I’ve also been really enjoying my time in nature, which I always do, but I’ve been making time for it. And I feel like that connects to so many Japanese values and things. Thinking about space and time and nature has been informing the new writing.

Aubrey Haddard, Who are you counting in?

There’s this artist called Virginia Wing, and she’s super weird. And her record “Private Life” has amazing sounds, it has amazing lyrics. So I am counting in Virginia Wing