The new counterculture lives in the middle.

Buick Audra: ‘Life Is Short – Make the Art’

Photo by Anna Haas

‘Life is Short – Make the Art’

Prolific songwriter Buick Audra blends past and present on new album

By Deanna Walker

Photo by Anna Haas Photo by Anna Haas

New Music

Share this story!

“Life is short. Make the art.”

This is the mantra of the extraordinarily prolific Buick Audra.

Back in 2012, Audra dedicated the entire year to recording and cataloging 60 of her own songs. She didn’t have a place or plan for them yet, but she systematically went back and gathered those missing “song children” so they wouldn’t end up orphaned, triggering the shame that comes with abandoned art.  

ADVERTISEMENT
[uam_ad id=”89304″]

“I said at the time, ‘This is the record of my existence,’ ” Audra says. “When we have hundreds of songs that we don’t have any sort of catalog for, the burden of memory is great, unless you just don’t give a shit about your work. But I do. So to have everything organized by lyric sheet, capo notation, and demos, I knew I could step away from that part of myself until it was time to go back.”  

Not only did Audra go back to those songs, she came back with the intention to “make amends to the selves that I threw under the bus for being so different.” She made her first solo record in 11 years, the badass revelation Conversations With My Other Voice: “five songs from my old life, five songs from the woman I am now.”  

ADVERTISEMENT
[uam_ad id=”89895″] 

Beyond the recordings, Audra wrote an accompanying book of essays that tell the bare and often brutal truths that gave rise to each of these songs. 

Fierce, confident, and current, Audra reaches back in time on this album to the earlier selves who absorbed the message from parents, collaborators, and romantic partners that her voice, ears, playing, and ultimately her core self weren’t good enough. 

“It’s wild that I was abused around my voice for so long and from so many different people, ’cause I actually think I’m a good singer,” she says. “My voice is my greatest weapon! Whenever I’m afraid and I sing, I think, ‘This is what I have. This is me bringing a gun to a knife fight.’ “

you were holding yourself to impossible standards
beating yourself up each time you fell
taking it all in as part of you
looking for ways to forgive the others
trying to find the good, but never in yourself 

– “But Now I Do,” Buick Audra

“On the ones I wrote in response to the old songs, I was really trying to let myself say whatever I didn’t say before,” she says. “In those chapters, to those people, out loud in the air. I was like, ‘It gets said now.’ So it was really liberating to write ‘Deadbolt.’ It was really liberating to write ‘From Down Here.’ ” 

Photo by Anna Haas

As her guitar muscles through an Ibanez Tube Screamer on “From Down Here,” it’s clear that Audra won’t be silent or small for anyone. The opening of “Deadbolt” is so unflinching and forceful that it deserves an arena, an announcement so epic that it proves rebellion isn’t just for the young and is actually way cooler with lived experience. 

The album is filled with infectious riffs you would’ve played air guitar to alone in your bedroom in high school, and melodies you would’ve belted in a car filled with your best friends – melodies that intoxicate with a sense of personal power and the adrenaline that comes from risk-taking. 

ADVERTISEMENT
[uam_ad id=”89306″]

But while her melodies are catchy enough to instantly belong to the listener, Audra lets you know she’s not going to let you get too comfortable. On “The Alcoholics Wish You Well,” her voice takes tight, unexpected melodic turns like a Tesla. In “From Down Here,” the opening of the chorus erupts like a geyser with the kind of melody that says, “You will not see me coming until I’m upon you.” 

The beauty of deeply honest writing is that it often lands in universal territory. Conversations With My Other Voice relates a life story as unique and powerful as Audra herself. 

And we all probably need that grateful, compassionate “phone call from a future self.” One that lets us know we made it, that we’re stronger for all the hell we went through, and that we were right to believe in ourselves, even when no one else did. 

 ADVERTISEMENT
[uam_ad id=”89893″]

“When you’re abused around your work,” Audra muses, “when you come from self-doubt or family systems that are limiting, I think you have every right to be a person who doesn’t stay on your own side, every right to collapse under whatever the narrative becomes, and I’m so proud that I didn’t.”  

did I never tell you you’re okay?
did I never thank you, never get the chance say- stop holding yourself to impossible standards
beating yourself up each time you fall
taking it all in as part of you
look for the ways to forgive the others
try to find the good, but give it to yourself
hey, you survived and that’s the truth 

– “But Now I Do,” Buick Audra

Buick Audra celebrates the release of Conversations With My Other Voice at 9 p.m. Sept. 28, at The Basement. Jaimee Harris opens. Tickets are $10, available via the Basement’s website.

To stream the new album, Conversations With My Other Voice, Click here.

Find out more at buickaudra.com

Related posts