INTERVIEW: Country Pop Trio Auburn Road
Auburn Road from Sacramento, CA is talented country-pop trio that recently released its debut EP, Fancy. The young singer/songwriters Alicia Paulson, Paxton Martin and Kristen Brown show a lot of promise and potential crafting an EP “that is colorful and dynamic” and the memorable songs strike a balance between “melodic ballads of love and heartache” and “girl power punch in the gut.” Their musical influences range from Pink, The Dixie Chicks, Avril Lavigne to Miranda Lambert. Recently SoCalMusicToday.com interviewed the trio to discuss their longtime friendship as a result of performing in community vocal groups since they were eight, collaborating together to write songs for their first EP based on their life experiences to date, recording and the invaluable experience of working with industry veteran Michael Anderson as well as having Jason Aldean’s band back them on Fancy and more.
At NAMM 2017 the trio was now learning how to play their own instruments (drums, bass, guitar and piano) and were shopping for gear including microphones and possibly in-ear monitors. They also excitedly and enthusiastically spoke of performing at the coveted She Rock Awards at NAMM in 2018.
Would you say the lyrics reflect all of your life experiences to date on your first EP? Do you all collaborate on the songwriting?
Alicia Paulson – Most of the songs on our EP have come from our personal experiences but there are a couple of songs like “Friday Night Lights” that we wrote from outside inspirations like movies and T.V. shows. Since we’re young and haven’t lived a full life of experiences yet, it really helps to pull from other people’s stories to get a fresh perspective for a song. All three of us equally collaborated on all the songs on our Fancy EP, we love writing together!
Paxton Martin – A lot of our songs on the EP were inspired by our own personal experiences. A friend of ours who had a bad breakup and needed some cheering up inspired Fancy. “Tuff Girl” was written because we have been underestimated all our lives just for being girls and we wanted to write a song for every girl that’s ever been underestimated. “Love of My Own” is written about Kristen and I watching our friends fall in love and wanting to feel that way ourselves. And “This Road” was written about our journey so far and what it feels like leaving home to follow our dreams.
Yes, we write almost all our songs together. Someone might bring an idea for a song or come with a melody or chords to a session but we all end up helping in some way during the process of making our songs.
Kristen Brown – The lyrics on our EP reflect some of our life experiences. We wrote the song “This Road” after we had started leaving home more often to go to out of town for gigs or to travel to LA or Nashville to meet new people in the business and what it felt like to be away from our families for weeks at a time.
“Love of My Own” came from Pax and I watching Alicia and her boyfriend. We would listen to her go on and on about their relationship and we thought ‘I want that for myself’.
We do write separate on occasion but we feel stronger when we write together. Typically, someone will come with a concept or melody idea and our producer – who is also our manager – will write the music. Our songs usually go thru a few rewrites before we have a final version but rewrites and all we do it together.
The trio has been friends since childhood and performed in community vocal groups since the age of eight. Do you think that prepared you all for a career in music and taking it to the next level over time? Was that the plan?
Alicia Paulson – Growing up together and becoming as close as siblings has helped us in our career. We blend well because we’ve been singing together for so long, we can almost always come to an agreement and we understand one another well. We even finish each other’s sentences! Taking our career to the next level will be much smoother because of the trust we have in each other.
Paxton Martin – I think it for sure helped that we started singing at a young age. Without even knowing it we managed to get a head start on our careers. Most people our age don’t even know what they want to do in their life but because we’ve been working on it for so long we were more prepared and honestly have a leg up on most. We weren’t just thrown into the deep crazy water that is the music business; we were able to gradually face challenges together. I’ve known these girls more than half my life so as a group we’re solid and that will help us in the long run when we take it to the next level.
We couldn’t have planned for this to happen when we were little 8 year old kids but I do believe that God heard our prayers throughout the years and brought us together to form Auburn Road.
Kristen Brown – I think the fact that we started singing from such a young age helped us gain confidence in our voices and in performing on stage. When we met at 8 years old I don’t think any of us had originally planned on becoming a group but God knows what He is doing and as we became closer as friends, becoming a singing group was inevitable. I’m not sure if the performing we did as kids prepared us for a career in music but it did bring us closer together and ultimately jumpstarted us to where we are now.
Do you have family members that are musical that influenced your singing?
Alicia Paulson – My Grandpa is a professional Cellist. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve looked up to him for his musical abilities. My father may not be able to sing, but he was in a band when he was younger and music has played a huge role in his life, which he passed on to me.
Paxton Martin – Yes and no. My mom was really into sports when she was my age but she also was a theater kid. My dad was also an athlete amd he played the bass guitar in High School. But if anything, truly influenced me to sing growing up without a doubt it would be the Reba McEntire, Styx, Alabama and Chicago albums that my mom and dad would play in the car. They may have not been professional music people but they for sure helped me fall in love with singing and music. We always had music playing in the house or in the car and CDs were and still are EVERYWHERE in our house.
Kristen Brown – Funny enough not one person in my family has any musical ability. That’s a topic that comes up a lot at family get togethers. Everyone tries to pinpoint where singing might have come from, but we haven’t been able to figure it out yet. A lot of my family members are athletes. And the apple could not have fallen farther from the tree lol. But my parents always played music when I was growing up – especially country music. I guess them playing artists like George Strait, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and the Dixie Chicks is what I should thank for my love for music.
How did you come to work with Michael Anderson in the studio on the EP and what has that experience been like and what have you learned as artists and vocalists?
Alicia Paulson – We met Michael a few years ago, through our former choreographer. Since then Michael has been our manager, mentor, producer, and pretty much everything we’ve needed to get to where we are. Working with him has been such a great experience. Every day we learn something new about the music business and how to further ourselves as vocalists. We’ve learned how to become more than just singers, but well-rounded artists too.
Paxton Martin – We met Michael through an old Chorographer of ours. The experience was like nothing I could even explain. It was fun, hard and terrifying all at the same time. When I was younger I had no idea what the recording process was like or how hard it would be. I thought you walked in sang once or twice and boom an amazing song appeared. It was nothing like I expected it was harder and demanded a lot more from me than I thought it would. Recording forces you to understand your voice because the mic shows all your mistakes. You can’t hide when singing on a recording microphone; your voice is flat? The mic shows it. You’re behind the track? The mic shows it. You’re not feeling the emotion enough today? The mic shows it too. Though it was tough I eventually learned how rewarding recording can be. For me the best feeling is when you listen to the finished product knowing you did that. Honestly recording Fancy made me love recording.
Kristen Brown – Working with Michael has taught us so much and he opened our eyes to a whole new way of listening to music. When we first started working with him it was intimidating but that’s because we were 14 years old and we didn’t want to mess up in front of someone who had worked with singers like Christina Aguilera that we grew up listening to. Recording our album was a tough but rewarding experience. We didn’t use any auto tune on our album so we heard the phrase “do it again” more times than we could count but at the end of the day we could walk away from the mic at the end of a recording session knowing that we didn’t give up on it and we made it as perfect as we could. Looking back there is no way we could have done any of it without Michael and we are grateful for all that he has done for us.
How did Jason Aldean’s band get involved in playing on your EP? Are you big fans of Jason Aldean?
Alicia Paulson – We were all praying about how we could make our Fancy EP sound like a true authentic country pop record, and we knew drum machines alone weren’t going to fly. At the time, we didn’t have as many connections to Nashville as we would have liked. But through one of Michael’s friends, we managed to connect with one of the best bands in country music right now. We are huge fans of Jason Aldean and it’s still like something out of a dream to turn on the radio and hear the same band that’s on our EP.
Paxton Martin – We prayed a lot while we were making our EP because we wanted a real Country album that we could be proud of. We honestly had no idea how we’d pull it off. My mom likes to say “It’s not what you know but who you know” and I finally understood what that meant because Michael had a friend that somehow connected us to them. Next thing I know Jason Aldean’s band is playing the music for our record. I guess moms can be right about something lol.
Kristen Brown – Getting Jason Aldean’s band to play on our album was a combination of lots of prayer and one of Michael’s good friends introducing us to the guys. Being a fan of Jason Aldean’s music, it’s still a little surreal to hear one of his songs on the radio and think ‘wow those are the same guys that played on our record!!’ We thank God every day for answering our prayer of getting such a respected band on our first album.
You’ve played a number of big shows with seasoned artists. What has that experience been like getting more exposure and playing before such large crowds?
Alicia Paulson – My absolute favorite part about being an artist is performing. Being on stage and hearing a crowd sing your own lyrics back to you is one of the best feelings. It’s been amazing getting to meet so many people that have come to be fans of ours while watching and learning from the artists we’ve opened for. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.
Paxton Martin – I love singing for large crowds! I think every singer should be able to experience at least one show in front of a big crowd because it’s the best feeling ever. Performing already gives singers a wonderful feeling but when it’s a huge crowd watching you the feeling intensifies. I’m addicted to it; I can’t wait to tour again so we can sing for more new people in bigger crowds.
Kristen Brown – Getting to perform with artists we admire and in front of big crowds on top of it has been such an awesome experience. We’ve been blessed with some truly amazing gigs this past year and we’ve had the honor of performing in front of some crowds we will never forget. One of our biggest shows last year was for one of the local country stations in Sacramento, 101.9 The Wolf and to be on such a big stage with our band was amazing. When they opened the gates and we saw the amount of people that were there it was a moment we will cherish forever. It was so crazy to see people rushing over to our tent after the show and stand in line in the pouring rain just to say hi to us and take a picture.
Is this the group’s first time doing NAMM?
Auburn Road – Technically this is our second year going inside the convention hall but our third year going to NAMM. Our first year we performed inside one of the hotels for an event Ken Caillat was having and the past two years we have gone inside the convention. We’ve had the chance to connect with some amazing musicians and companies. We look forward to this trip every year.
What have you seen since your first year now in terms of how it’s helped your career and what has the experience been like?
Auburn Road – I think one of the differences between our first year and now is that we’ve made learning how to play instruments more important to what we do. Before this year the only booths that were really relevant to us were the recording equipment the microphone companies. It’s been really cool seeing all the different instruments and getting to know all the reps from the different brands. We’ve been pretty lucky with the people we’ve met these past couple of years.
This is your first time playing instruments?
Yes, because we were really focused on our vocals we’ve been adding lessons to our routine for a little while now and we can’t wait to incorporate our playing into our show.
Are people giving you recommendations about types of gear you should get?
Alicia Paulson – I’ve talked with the Noble and Cooley drum company. It’s been fun being able to go over there and talk about custom gear to use on stage in the future.
Paxton Martin – I’m learning piano right now. We haven’t looked at any companies yet, but I think we might go by the Yamaha booth and a few of the DAW booths today.
Kristen Brown – I’m learning the bass and I’m excited to hopefully talk to Tish Ciravolo at Daisy Guitars a little later today. One company we absolutely love and have had the pleasure of working with for about a year now is Shure Microphones. Their mics are great and if you’re looking for a quality microphone to use on stage, Ryan Smith and Cory Lorentz are the ones you need to talk to.
What do you find most valuable about NAMM in terms of your career in terms of music and sum up the NAMM experience for you?
NAMM is a great place to network and make relationships with other musicians and companies. It’s been such an awesome experience surrounding ourselves with other hardworking musicians who can give us advice. We love coming to NAMM and we already can’t wait to come back next year.
Can you tell me about anyone else you have met at NAMM?
When you come to NAMM you are here for a fast four days and you meet so many people that it gets hard to remember everyone, but the first year we performed at an event for Ken Caillat with his daughter Colbie Caillat. The second year we met and sang for Sheila E. and this year we got to meet the drummer from our album, Rich Redmond who is also the drummer for Jason Aldean.
Has the group ever performed directly for NAMM?
We have performed around NAMM at one of the hotels but never for NAMM. We hope to do that next year at the She Rocks event.