Audra Mae’s 2010 album The Happiest Lamb was one the most exciting folk rock debuts to come out that year. Calling to mind everyone from Shelby Lynne to label mate Chuck Ragan, Mae’s beautiful vocals were matched only by her knack for penning intelligent, thoughtful lyrics.
Fans of The Happiest Lamb can let out a collective sigh of relief; the first record wasn’t simply a fluke of greatness. Judging by the follow-up self-titled record, Mae, now joined by her backing band The Almighty Sound, is every bit as good as you remember her.
Recorded in just one week (seriously, one week) with the help of Deana Carter in the producer’s chair, the record is 11 soul-baring tracks that remind you that music can still be transformative (if there’s any justice “Smoking the Boys” is destined to be a classic). A prolific songwriter, Mae has also written for others, including Susan Boyle (yep, that one).
Mae spoke recently about the new record, working with Carter, and her effort to cover 30 songs in 30 days.
Innocent Words: The last time I interviewed you, your first record had just come out. What’s changed the most in your life since then?
Audra Mae: Pretty much everything has changed. New apartment, new projects. I’ve done a lot of traveling/adventuring since TheHappiest Lamb came out. I’m so grateful to get to work!
IW: What can you tell me about this new record?
Mae: We – The Almighty Sound and I – recorded it in one week at Hollywood Sound with our fearless Captain Deana Carter at the wheel.
IW: Really, one week?
Mae: Yes! (Laughs) Seventeen songs in a week, four days tracking live, including upright bass, drums, guitar, keys and lead vocals. We picked our favorite whole takes of each track and made little fixes on day five and recorded backgrounds on days six and seven. We tried to be very prepared though. We spent about a month working the musical direction at Jarrad’s (guitar and backgrounds) studio. That’s where we worked out as many kinks as possible, because we knew we only had a week to make the actual record. We all really worked our butts off for this music. It was intense, but it was a total thrill.
IW: What made you bring Deana Carter on to co-produce?
Mae: I wrote one song with her and fell in love. She’s down to earth, brilliant, very encouraging, has a wealth of experience that reaches far beyond the studio or the stage. I admire her, and she was the first person to push me to learn to do this myself instead of looking at me like I’m crazy or stupid. She believes in us.
IW: You didn’t take much time off between albums. Were you just inspired, or wwas your label SideOneDummy Records cracking the whip?
Mae: (Laughs) I was very inspired. I don’t think SideOne expected a new record for a while. I was just having a ball with my friends. Writing and playing together so much just pulled it out if us, I think. Audra Mae & The Almighty Sound has been a total group effort from the beginning.
IW: Is your backing band new or were they just given a name?
Mae: None of The Almighty Sound was involved in the first record. They’re my friends. They all have their own projects, as well. We all play and write together for each other’s stuff. Check out Baywood, and The Shakers. You can hear their influence in The Almighty Sound.
IW: Tell me about the 30 covers you’re working on leading up to the album’s release. What songs do you have planned?
Mae: I started making a list of songs, but a lot of what I’ve posted hasn’t been on it. The list keeps growing though (laughs). Most of the time it comes out of nowhere. I’m watching “Coming to America,” and Eddie Murphy is running around singing Jackie Wilson, and I laugh my butt off and think, “Wait, that’s a great cover!”
IW: Did you have trouble coming up with 30 you wanted to play?
Mae: Not so much. Every time I hear a song, I want to cover it now. The real difficulty comes in when I desperately want to cover something, but I know I can’t do it justice.
IW: What do you have lined up this summer?
Mae: Tour this new record. Write some fun songs. Eat yummy food. Teach my dog new tricks. Stay grateful. Keep working.