- ABOUT US
Mae the Force Be With Her
Audra Mae’s music is steeped in freedom.
By Ryan LaCroix
Published March/April 2015
Audra Mae felt stuck in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
The Edmond native was an unhappy freshman at Middle Tennessee State University. She had failing grades, no doubt a result of skipping class to write songs. That January, the headstrong nineteen-year-old took off for Los Angeles with no particular purpose in mind.
“Everybody thought I was crazy. I’m sure a lot of people thought I would fail,” says Mae. “I wish I could say I had a plan, but I didn’t.”
But just a few years after moving to California, playing small shows, and working at a holistic tearoom, Mae signed a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music. Along the way, she penned the lone original song, “Who I Was Born to Be,” on Susan Boyle’s 2009 chart-topping debut album, and her cover of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” played during a memorable scene on the popular television show Sons of Anarchy.
In 2010, the Putnam City High School graduate released a bluesy, melancholic debut, The Happiest Lamb. Two years later, she did an about-face with a rollicking barnburner of a record in Audra Mae and the Almighty Sound. She says the change was necessary.
“I was so tired of making people sad,” says Mae, who is the great-grandniece of Judy Garland on her mother’s side. “I started realizing that I want to make people happy and make them dance.”
The album’s sassy attitude and folksy charm are what attracted Miranda Lambert when she first heard it. Lambert recorded Mae’s song “Little Red Wagon” for her 2014 album Platinum.
“I kind of stalked her when I heard that song,” Lambert told Billboard magazine in 2014. “I was like, ‘I’ve got to talk to this girl—her record is amazing.’”
Other musicians might be leery of making drastic changes in both feeling and tempo between two records, but it’s something Audra Mae has been fighting for since she arrived in California.
“Everyone was trying to get me to hone in on a sound,” she says. “I couldn’t be one part of myself, so I had to learn how to show one part at a time.”
A collaboration with Swedish dance producer Avicii on his 2013 album True produced the track “Addicted to You,” which peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart. The experience also gave Mae the inspiration to try something new on her upcoming album, Queendom Come, which she will release later this year.
“The collaboration with electronic and dance artists opened my eyes. I was such a snob about the computer,” says Mae. “If your goal is to make people feel things, then whatever the sound is that’s perfect, that’s the right sound—whether it came from a computer or throwing a coffee cup on the ground.”
Meanwhile, her songwriting success has given her the means to forge ahead without a label, which already is reaping artistic benefits.
“I don’t have to ask anybody’s opinion,” she says. “I just go do it.”
Audra Mae’s self-confidence may be best reflected in a message she posted with an Instagram photo of the Las Vegas skyline following a May 2013 collaboration with Céline Dion—“When I was a little girl, if you had told me I’d be here, I’d have said, ‘I better be.’”
Get There: Audra Mae’s first two studio albums and three EPs are available on iTunes. Learn more at audramaemusic.com.