Aubrie Sellers, daughter of Nashville, has released two albums so far, one today and one in 2016 called New City Blues. To compliment and explain that debut, she wrote some notes that read like a young creator’s manifesto, with a few choice callouts of cultural nonsense that may or may not have been going on in her front yard.
“Is party culture as good as it gets? Really?,” she wrote. “This hyper-extroversion is almost a pathology.” It was an oblique dig at bro country and any number of “packaged lifestyle” trends that have distracted the public for profit for decades. Then and now, she asks only for more realistic and safer spaces for sincere, ambitious music. “Why,” she asks, “are we selling this as a product instead of as art?”
That remark came from a conversation Sellers had with me for WMOT’s The String last Fall, just before AmericanaFest 2019, re-visited here to mark the release of Far From Home, a smart, road-tripping country rock album distinguished by ambitious guitar textures, slashes of darkness and a powerful voice that has few rivals for moody blue purity. The thing is that even when we talked last Fall, the album had been in the can for a year, with many more months of waiting to go. And this was a woman who’d already held off until she was 24 to release album number one. Is she just exceptionally patient?
“I don’t think anybody would describe me as patient!” she says with a laugh. “For sure I don’t want to rush the music. I started writing when I was a teenager and got my first guitar when I was 13. But I did very much want to find my place in the world. And with musicians in my family, I was surrounded by music at such a young age. It didn’t feel important to me to kind of get out there before I found my own voice. So I just spent time making sure I knew what I wanted to do before I did it.”
Good advice from and for a daughter of country music greatness, in this case mother Lee Ann Womack, the irreplaceable Texan who’s given us the clarion honky tonk of “Never Again, Again,” the moving pop country anthem “I Hope You Dance,” the 2005 masterpiece album There’s More Where That Came From, and much more besides. And Sellers’ dad is hit songwriter and country/bluegrass musician Jason Sellers. Aubrie grew up so surrounded by the family business that she didn’t have any other frame of reference.
“I felt this immense pressure because of who my family was that I never wanted to play out in Nashville. And that’s where I grew up,” she says in our conversation. “I was afraid people were going to judge me or I wasn’t going to be ready or whatever, so I just never did it until it was time to go.” She confronted those doubts and no small amount of stage fright in part by moving to Los Angeles after just a year of college to enroll in the Lee Strasberg Theater & Film Institute. Acting remains part of her portfolio to this day, but Far From Home will put the spotlight on her songwriting and singing for now.
The album opens with the dappled Western sky ambience of the electro-folk title track. Then her cover of Shawn Camp’s enduring “My Love Will Not Change” tacks opposite the Del McCoury bluegrass version she fell for as a teenager, with heavily juiced guitars and 100-proof harmony vocals by Steve Earle, a girlhood hero. “Lucky Charm” is my favorite track so far with its rolling psychedelia. “Haven’t Even Kissed Me Yet,” a single launched last year during the long wait for release, is woozily romantic. While tracks like “Troublemaker” reveal an ear for Jack White’s fuzz bomb rock and roll.
On albums one and two, we hear a singer who knows full well that her vocal chords and natural tones are shaped the same as her mom and who’s got more than enough self-awareness to set herself apart with musical settings. The wait for new music is over at last.
Sellers, again Los Angeles based, is touring now with Robert Earl Keen and has dates in June with Tanya Tucker. Nashville appearances are in the works.