Aubrey Lynn England
The Outlaw Interview
Near a year ago now, give or take, we sat down for an interview with Aubrey Lynn England. She’d been kind enough to find some time for us on a day when she was opening for Jason Boland and the Stragglers in Plano, TX. Not that such company is unusual for Ms. England. She’s been making waves of late, and deservedly so. We’re talking here about a woman who started singing when she was a whoppin’ two years old. Two of ‘em. In a row.
And hasn’t stopped since.
We’re also talking about a United States Marine. Let that sink in for a minute. You can go to www.aubreylynnengland.com and look at some of the photos for a minute right quick here if you feel the need. But then come on back. Because, well, yeah. That black-haired beauty you see on that site understands what “Semper Fi” means. She served. She passed basic, earned her stripes. She shoots better than you do. No, we don’t care how good you are with whatever weapon it is you prefer. Invite her to the range tomorrow. She’ll show up in heels and a skirt, and she’ll embarrass you while she gives you that look.
Then she’ll sing you a song that’ll melt your heart and make you wish you were her husband Wade.
That’s Aubrey Lynn in a nutshell, kids. Nothing about her should make sense. Nothing at all. Yet somehow all of the pieces fit in a way that will leave you shaking your head, shuffling your feet, walking away with a cock-eyed grin on your face muttering, “Damn.”
You might reasonably ask here why we interviewed Ms. England a year ago but are only publishing now. And that would be a right fair question. Truly, it would. Here’s the answer:
From the moment we interviewed Aubrey Lynn, she’s been on a meteoric tear. We’re not responsible for it, and we’re not claiming that we are. It was just fortuitous timing for us, and horrific timing for her given that she’s had to wait this long to see our feature on her find the light of cyber-print. But check out what’s happened for her in the time between when she sat down with us and today.
Featured Vocalist on “Whiskey And You,” the Chapter Eleven cover of Chris Stapleton’s single that went to #1 on the Texas Music Chart
2013 Texas Regional Radio Music Association’s New Female Vocalist Of The Year
2013 BigStar 97 Female Vocalist Of The Year (BigStar 97 is a fine internet radio station you should consider adding to your rotation posthaste)
2014 Texas Music Awards Record Of The Year – “Whiskey And You”
2014 Texas Music Awards Entertainer Of The Year
Became a mother. Again. That’s right, Mrs. Marine Corps Musician and Artist has two beautiful daughters now. Both of which trump, in her mind, anything she’ll ever accomplish with a guitar and some well crafted words. But she’s going to keep writing and singing anyway. In her world, you might say it’s a family tradition. A fine one at that.
That’s a laundry list of accomplishments right there. When you win an award in Texas, it’s generally fan voted. Not stuffed suits in a smoke filled back room playing favorites. No. It means the people who listened to your song(s) cared enough to get out and vote for you. Probably a good part of why so many artists in the Lone Star State are so gracious to their fan bases. Not that they try to butter them up, but rather that they’re grateful from the bottom of their hearts that fans connected so strongly with something the artist put out that they get off their ever-spreading asses and go vote.
When you win in Texas, it means you’ve connected with common people on a visceral level.
And when you and a fellow Marine find yourselves good at turning out little Marines who will grow up understanding that the world is a beautiful place with no limits for those willing to aspire to greatness? Whose lives will be instilled with the lessons of those who raised you to chase the dream and never to fear it? It doesn’t get better than that.
So in the last year, Aubrey Lynn England’s won a lot. On multiple fronts. And she’s earned every bit of it. We’ve kept meaning to post this interview, but the woman wouldn’t quit earning new accolades that warranted another mention. Well, we’re drawing a line here and now and telling you about her anyway. You can keep up with the rest of her ascent on your own. We’re big fans, and we’re tired of having to hold off on telling you about her. Here’s some of what she had to say when she sat down with us. A year later, we’re finally posting it. Lord, we hope she doesn’t shoot us for the delay.
DP: You just won, what New Female Vocalist of the Year, right?
AE: Right. Texas Regional Radio’s New Female Vocalist of the Year. It’s an award you can only get one time; you can only be new one time. You can be nominated three years total, but can only win one time. Last year I missed the nomination because I didn’t have a single in the top 100. But in 2012 I did chart, and so I was eligible. It was very cool to receive that award from Heather Roberts, because she and I are roster mates. We work with the same booking agency, so it was definitely neat. It’s an award I’m very proud of because it’s a popular vote, but you also have to have the credential there to say, you know, I did put out a single to radio. I did do something on the radio side to make me eligible for this, but then I had fans to back that up. So it was something that was really cool to get. And really cool to get while pregnant, too. I mean, I went up on the stage and you get to be up there on the stage in front of all these major Texas artists and they’re like, hey, who’s that big girl up there? That was fun to experience that. It was interesting to experience that, because Heather was just all teared up and loud and I was all teared up and loud, and everybody later was just asking “Did you cry?” and I was just like, “No but I had to pee real bad.” So it was cool. Very cool.
DP: So, you’ve already got one daughter. She was there, and she had to be thinking “Hey, Mommy’s good at what she does, and I get to be a fan and sit in the front row.”
AE: Exactly. I already have a 4-year-old, and I can see both of them, you know, in the future just being my big cheerleaders.
DP: There you go. It’s got to feel good to get that kind of validation. We got on the charts, we did our things. You hear so many rumors about how you get on the charts, but the fact is, you did it. Regardless of what the rumors are, you did it and then you had the fan support to back it up. That’s got to make it worth strapping on the guitar when you’re dealing with, well, morning sickness.
AE: Totally. I mean, I am a vocalist. My wheelhouse is being able to sing. And so being recognized for being able to sing when it’s been something I’ve done since I was able to talk… That is something huge to me that finally said, I mean, it wasn’t an opry house or something like we played when I was a teenager, and it wasn’t a television show that said that you win and we’re gonna give you a record deal. It was a group of my peers that are in radio, that are involved in the business that I’m involved in right now, that said ok, you qualify, now let’s see what your fans think. And they all said ‘You deserve it,’ and that means the world to me.
DP: Now Texas music in general is a tough nut to crack anyway. It’s such an over saturated market. You can go to a little dive bar in Fort Worth or Houston or Austin or San Antonio and find somebody who is technically more proficient than most of what you hear on mainstream radio. No studio tools, just raw talent. Makes it a tough, tough market. And it’s tougher for women. There’s talent out there on the female side, from Janis to Selena to Shelley King, but when people think of Texas they think of Waylon and Willie and the boys.
AE: Dudes. Yeah.
DP: So as a woman, first of all, what gives you the idea that you can make it, and then what makes you think that you can stand out from the crowd and not be pigeonholed into that Janis thing? Which for a vocalist like you, I would think, probably comes up? How do you do it, how do you approach it, and what makes you want to do it?
AE: I’ve grown up in a man’s world my whole life. The toughest institution that I’ve ever been involved with, that made me feel like hey, you’re just the meek woman over here, was the Marine Corps. And I think that gives me the gall to come up and say, hey, I can do the same thing that you’re doing. What does it matter if I’m a man or a woman? I have the passion for it, and so this is what I’m going to do. Try and stop me. You know? I have that kind of mentality about it. That’s how I’ve pushed myself into doing it. I get asked a lot why there aren’t more women in that legendary status, why there aren’t more women on the radio. I don’t know the answer to that question. A lot of people say, well, they don’t want the girls to take over like they have in Nashville because it’s super dominant out there and if that happens here, what do we do? Well, I don’t know that that’s really the case, but that’s the opinion that I get from a lot of people. But I really wish it wasn’t a girls vs. boys kind of thing. We’re all just playing music, when you get right down to it. Songs that are great are going to stand out no matter who’s singing them. If it’s a great song, a well written and well produced track that’s pushed right by the promoters and the folks on the business side of it, it’s going to go up the chart just because the song is great. Obviously there is that network that you have to get into, I mean, Willie and all those guys who have been doing it forever, it doesn’t matter. When a DJ gets that, they’re going to play it. To get to that status, you just have to keep busting your ass. Going out there and playing for the DJs, playing for the crowds, sometimes playing for nobody, but putting out good music that you can sell to radio so that they’ll say “I’m going to give this song time.” Whatever their opinion is about females in this industry or whatever, you give them great songs that make them understand it can stand up to Randy Rogers or whoever and force them , on the strength of the song, to decide that it goes on their list now. So while I feel like it’s harder, I think their mentality comes down to asking whether you can stand up to the guys. It was the same in the Corps, you know. We’re gonna let you come to boot camp, but can you do what the guys are doing? Maybe there are some differences here and there, but you’re still held to the same standard. It was just broken down a little bit more for the physical ability of a woman vs. the physical ability of a man. I don’t think that plays out here in the music scene. We’re all the same. I could play the feminist card and say well, they should let us whatever, whatever, but I don’t feel that way. Learned that a lot just growing up. My dad was tough on my sister and I both. We had a little brother and we felt like he got away with murder and things were harder on us. But then I went into the Corps, and they don’t care that you’re a girl. They’re going to say, oh, you’re having female problems right now? So what. Go shoot your gun on the range. I mean, you’ve got to just jump in there and do it and I think that’s where I personally get the nerve to just jump in there with radio. I don’t feel like there should be a difference. There are women who feel like there should be a difference, and I don’t agree with them. We should be saying, look, I’m a bad bitch and I’m going to out there and play just like the guys do. It doesn’t matter if I’m eight months pregnant. I’m going to scream my face off. And if people like that, well then hell yeah, I’m doing a good job. Look, I’m pregnant. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. But music is one of the most important facets of my life. It’s where my heart is and it’s what I’m always going to be passionate about. So you don’t want to tell me that I can’t do it. You’re only going to make me want to do it that much more.
DP: So you really do want someone to tell you that, when it comes right down to it.
AE: Well, yeah, in a way. In the back of my head I like that push. But it’s there anyway, innately. I kinda have that it doesn’t matter if I’m a girl attitude. I’m going to try. And that’s something my father instilled in me my entire life. He would never deny me the opportunity to attempt something. He would be proud of me even if I failed, as long as I gave it everything I had. So look. I tried to work a regular job for a little while when I got out of the Corps. And the truth was, I couldn’t be a mom and a wife and manage daycare and handle a nine to five and do music. So I had to make a choice. My choice was to be a mom and a wife, and do music. You take the pay cut, obviously, because I was making good money in mortgage processing. But I wanted to do this and I wasn’t going to be happy unless I did. Having an incredible support system in my husband who believes in me and who knows that I have the ability to go further than just sitting around Dallas for ten years playing dive bars and never getting the recognition. He’s always been the one saying yes you can, and you will, and we’re going to go out there and find the avenue that works. So he takes care of the income on the bill side, and my music on the business side supports itself. Having less money, less things, a smaller house? That doesn’t matter. Because we’re happy all the time. I get to do what I love doing, and I have someone who’s happy that I’m doing that. So the girls like me need to just go out there and keep doing what they know how to do. Try, try, try. That’s all I know how to do. I don’t write to try to figure out what’s going to work with the guys. But I know, I keep it in the back of my mind when I go into the studio, I think how can we produce this so that they will be forced to listen to me? The song is strong on its own. So we play the game to an extent, but only to an extent. We just make the best record we can possibly make.
DP: Well, you listen to some of the guys who are on the radio today and you think to yourself, geez, why? Is your daddy that rich? You’re terrible. We avoid that at Outlaw Mag; we look for the ones singing from their souls and we make no distinction between a Jason Boland that everybody knows about and a Joseph Wayne Miller that maybe twelve people in Dallas know about but whose voice genuinely deserves to be heard. We try to get hung up on the song and not the gender.
AE: That does play a part. The money. It’s a business. You’ve got to spend money to get that back, and it seems like it shouldn’t be that way. I think DJs have lost that ability to just love music and be a DJ. The corporations have played a role in that. Advertising and all these things come in, so the DJs have lost their personal control over what you and I listen to.
AE: So a Joseph Miller’s not getting his airplay maybe because he hasn’t spent his money on airplay. I don’t know his business and don’t mean to speak for it, but as an example, when Johnny On The Spot over here with the rich daddy paid for a great radio promoter and the stations said okay, we’ll do it… well, they paid their money and radio said yeah, fine, we’ll add it. Then maybe there’s a fan base that supports that, too. So it sucks. I hate that. Because it feels like you spend five, ten, twenty years building a base of people who will support you. But radio might say none of that matters unless you have somebody with money behind you to push it, to back it on that business side.
DP: So in today’s Texas music world, where radio’s concerned at least, Townes Van Zandt would be a nobody.
AE: You’re absolutely right. If he hadn’t already been established back then….
DP: That’s a lot of really good stuff, ma’am. I’m going to have to work hard to distill all this down so we don’t have a twelve page internet article that nobody will read.
AE: Dave, I can talk for hours. Just ask my husband.
DP: Look. Let’s cut to the chase. The market in Texas these days is not much more than a lot of guys singing Luke Bryan songs that Luke Bryan just hasn’t cut yet. They’re calling themselves Red Dirt when they don’t know who Bob Childers is, and they’re wearing shirts that say ‘Fuck Nashville’ while they’re following a simple formula of their own. They’re no different than the machine on Music Row, and that means the deck is stacked against someone like you. So why do you do it? Is it as simple for you as ‘Semper Fi, and here we go’? Why do you do it?
AE: That has a lot to do with it. And look. I’ve been involved in music for almost all of my life. For the last thirty years, it’s what I’ve done. As a small child, as small as my daughter is, I learned everything from my dad. He was a musician. He taught himself to play guitar and fiddle by ear. He was the Mecca of anything I knew about music as a child. Playing with him, growing up on stages with him… that’s where I’m most happy. I can be up there miserably eight months pregnant, ninety-two degrees with humidity like today, but did you see me happy up there?
DP: You were having a ball.
AE: People ask me how it’s fun, they say it looks like I’m going to just pop any minute, and they wonder how it can possibly be fun. But that’s who I am. Up there on that stage, I’m having fun. And if the crowd is having fun with me, if we’re all having fun, then that’s what we’re supposed to do. We’re spreading cheer and we’re touching lives. I do it because I have, for my whole life, always wanted to do music. Write music, sing, play, perform. My daddy did it and I idolized that so much about him. He’d be so proud of me right now, because while the odds are stacked against me, I’m out there running the charge. He’d help me if he was here, saying hey, if this way doesn’t work we’ll find another way. He’s not here, but that’s still what I do. My husband Wade helps me do that, too. When I wasn’t doing music, when I was in the Corps, I struggled. We grew up doing without. Dad didn’t make a lot of money. Mom raised us. So I always wanted to do my time. I wanted to serve. Dad’s boss was a Marine and I looked up to her. She was tough as hell. She came through the old Corps, when it was just stupid for a woman to go in. She was going to get ripped apart. But she made it through and I thought, you know, I can do that, too. They’ll give me money for school and I won’t have to be more of a burden on Mom and Dad’s finances. So I’ll do it. Some folks asked me why I didn’t do the Air Force or something easier. The answer was that people told me I couldn’t handle the Marines. So I said the hell with you, I’m going to come out a Marine. And I did. But that four year span of not being out playing music, not being able to do it…. I mean, I’d sing and I worked on my guitar in my barracks room, but I couldn’t get out and play. So I saw what a life without music as its purpose would really be. It was miserable. Serving my country felt great. I’m glad I did it and got to see the things that I saw. But there was that empty spot and I knew. I needed to play. I saw women like Miranda Lambert, who I knew through a mutual friend, make great strides. And I thought, you know, if they can do it their way and connect with people and build something, well, I can do that, too. So maybe they were inspirations in one way, but they were also challenges. Marines love a challenge. So do I. It’s how my Daddy raised me. I came home every chance I got; played with my Dad’s band, at the opry house in Garland, whatever it was. Wound up telling my superiors, hey, if y’all need someone to sing the National Anthem or something, I sing. Tell me when. And that became sort of a thing for me in the Corps. They picked me once, and then they picked me a lot. A little Japanese woman that I knew, when I was stationed in Okinawa, heard me sing. And she connected me with her husband who had a band that played classic American rock. They didn’t speak anything but broken English to me, if that. But you could just throw in a song and they’d listen for a few seconds and break right into it. Everything from Bonnie Bramlett to the Righteous Brothers to Aretha Franklin and even Led Zeppelin. Things I still love today. And I thought, well, when I get back to Texas, I’m going to put a band together and do this because it means so much to me. We’ll do these songs, and we’ll do my songs, and it will help to fill the void that I feel when music is not central to my life. I’ve served my country, and now I’m going to go home and do what I do. So having that Marine mentality, and finding something that makes me happy along the way? That’s living. Finding what I want to do and doing it. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.
As candid interviews go, this one with Aubrey Lynn ranks near the top. Marines aren’t known for pulling punches. And they’re not known for missing much when they unload downrange. Ms. England shoots straight. And while early on in her career some may have had a point when they said she needed to learn to sing rather than simply wail, the fact is, that’s no longer a valid argument where her catalog is concerned. Aubrey Lynn England can flat out sing a song to your soul. She can do it as a duet partner, as was the case with “Whiskey And You.” And she can do it on her own. See Exhibit A below. We at Outlaw are thankful that Aubrey Lynn gave us some time a year ago. We’ve watched her grow since then; we’ve caught her out at shows with no-names and local heroes and with Pat Green. The folks on the stage haven’t mattered to her in any of those instances. She’s been who she is. A Marine. A wife. A mother. And a singer who can melt your soul. We’re sure glad she was willing to sit with us for a spell. You can find more info at www.aubreylynnengland.com. Here’s one reason you should click that link now and see for yourself:
Dave Pilot lives in north Texas with his first good wife (don’t ask about the other one), seven horses, and five dogs. When his wife’s not looking, he tries to figure out ways to feed the 987 or so cats to the coyotes out behind the fenceline. When he’s not trying to raise his kids to turn out better than he did, he’s hitting historical sites on his way to honky-tonks from Denton to Port Aransas. Visit Dave Pilot on Facebook.
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