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Last week UK-based Naarm/Melbourne artist, producer and multi-instrumentalist Audrey Powne released her fabulous new album From The Fire (available on vinyl and digital). The album takes inspiration from Audrey’s biggest influences; Roy Hargrove, Bill Evans, and Herbie Hancock, weaving techniques from Roy Hargrove’s work with the RH Factor through her production. Written and produced by Audrey at Sing Sing East Studios in Naarm/Melbourne, the album is mixed by Russel Fawcus (Mo’Ju, Kylie Auldist, Slum Sociable), and mastered by Grammy award nominated Frank Merritt at The Carvery in London.

Being the inquisitive lot that we are here at Australian Musician, we wanted to know more about Audrey Powne and her new album From The Fire, so we fired a dozen questions her way…

1. What was the spark that lit your flame for music initially?
It’s genuinely hard for me to answer this question, for as long as I can remember I was always interested in music. I think it was probably watching old MGM musicals with my mum as a kid, I just remember being completely enamoured with the musical and dream ballet sequences and I think I absorbed a lot of that music, the great American Songbook and jazz standards which probably somewhat subconsciously led towards loving jazz from a pretty early age.

2. What was an album or song that had a huge impact on you growing up?
As a teenager, I discovered trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s album with his group the RH Factor, “Hardgroove.” I was working in an Italian Restaurant at Knox City shopping centre and there was a Borders Books and music store nearby I would go to after my shift. I don’t know if anyone remembers Borders but you could scan all the CDs and listen to 30 second snippets before you bought them. I was really getting to learning the trumpet at school at the time so I would just scan all the CDs by trumpet players and listen to them a little bit. As soon as I heard 30 seconds of the song “The Stroke” in that Borders my life changed… truly… it was when I realised for the first time Trumpet could sound like that, be like that. I saved up my money and bought the album for $35.95 a lot of money in 2005 haha. The album also features a myriad of guest artists D’angelo, Erykah Badu, Common and Q Tip all of whom I discovered through this album and are amongst my favourite artists of all time. I transcribed all the trumpet playing on that album and Roy Hargrove has probably been the most profound influence on me as a trumpeter ever since.

3. First concert you ever attended?
The first I can remember was going to see Jamie Cullum with my mum at a winery in the Yarra Valley. I had seen him on telly, on Parkinson and just thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen so I begged Mum to get me tickets. It was amazing and I remember being incredibly inspired after that concert.

4. Which other person has had the biggest influence on your music career?
I mean so many people but probably a teacher of mine from high school Tony Hicks. He’s an incredible saxophonist from Melbourne who has played with so many people and also taught so many other great musicians. He taught me how to improvise but most importantly he taught me how to practice, to take music seriously and to work hard. He also shared a lot of knowledge with me which empowered me especially when I went on to a jazz course at university which at the time was extraordinarily male-dominated. I now have the pleasure of playing with Tony on gigs from time to time in Melbourne which is a really special experience.

5. ‘Sleep’ is your latest single from the new album, what’s it about, what inspired you to write it?
‘Sleep’ is specifically about a period of time in my life when I was experiencing the phenomenon of Lucid or waking dreams regularly. It was such a fascinating experience because it blurred the lines between reality and dreams, a thin line I believe. I was having such vivid experiences in my dreams that I felt like I had real memories of what was happening in my dreams and I was sometimes unsure whether I was asleep or awake. I tried to capture this experience somewhat musically, hence the ethereal strings and high, soft vocals but particularly in the repetitive piano ostinato and easy rhodes which I ran through 2 different tape delays to get it sounding and warping the way I wanted it too. Then put it way back in the mix.

6. Your new album From the Fire has a very cinematic feel about it. Have film soundtracks had an effect on you at all?
Hugely and this is a space I would like to work in, in the future hopefully. I love film and I think film scoring is at such an exciting time, like everyone I’m super influenced by Nicholas Brittel, particularly his score for Barry Jenkins film “If Beale Street Can Talk” which features the trumpet. Also, One of trumpeter’s heroes Terence Blanchard has written some incredible film scores. Other film composers I love are Hans Zimmer (he’s great for a reason) and Jerskin Hendrix’s Poor Things score. I loved that and I love Laura Karpman’s work, most recently American Fiction.

7. What was the vision for the album from the outset? What was the goal?
The first song I wrote for the album was survive and it did come to me all at once one day when I was just practising the piano. This rarely happens for me so it felt like a gift and opened me up creatively to write music after I’d been quite dormant for a while. I had just been through an intense personal tragedy before returning home to Melbourne during the pandemic and whilst endlessly watching the news, like I think everyone was at that time I saw a story about the beginning of regeneration and rejuvenation of native plants in some areas hit hard by the 2019 bushfires. I became obsessed with the idea of re-generation and felt some sort of kinship with what was happening in nature after the bushfires as I myself was trying to regenerate and rebirth into a new life after a tragic event. So I guess in a way that was kind of a form of manifestation I wanted to write an album that followed the narrative of tragedy and rebirth. Once I started writing it felt like one body of work which led me to decide to write the strings and several instrumental interludes which I used to establish recurring melodic and harmonic themes which hopefully bind the main tracks of the album together into a somewhat cohesive, through composed album. I was heavily inspired by my favourite album of all time “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye which is a masterful example of a cohesive and conceptual album. I love long form works, I love novels, I love feature films, I love albums.

8. What would you like your music career to look like in 5 years?
I hope that off the back of this album, I will be able to work more with other people in a producer, composer, arranger role and as a Musical Director. I think this album serves to demonstrate my abilities as a producer and arranger. I still find these spaces in the music industry to be incredibly male dominated and find I am still witnessing young, particularly female artists having knowledge withheld from them and sometimes being gaslit out of their own artistic vision. I passionately believe we need more female voices in production/composition etc. and it serves the music. I hope I can work with younger female artists and teach them what I know and then encourage them to look towards producing their own work or gaining more creative control over their records and performances.

9. What would be your dream collaboration?
Honestly… Right now I am completely obsessed with Meshell N’Degeocello. Her new record “Omni Chord Real Book” is my favourite record of the last few years and I saw her live at the New York Winter Jazz Festival in January and it was incredible. Meshell is such an artist and she has cultivated a community of incredible musicians and I think is just making some of the deepest most exciting music at the moment. But I’ve always been a fan of her work and she has been a huge inspiration since I was a teen and discovered her album “Plantation Lullabies”

10. If money was no issue, what would an Audrey Powne concert look like?
A full orchestra, a small choir and my jazz quartet… I DREAM of playing with an orchestra. That is my ultimate dream. I would like to do all the arrangements… Sometimes I start mocking them up in Logic and Sibelius just for my own fun little fantasies… MANIFESTING!

11. An important life lesson someone gave you?
If you want to make good music try your best to leave your ego at the door and serve the music not yourself. Always do the work. Learn the tunes, practice and be prepared. I live by this.

12. What’s next for Audrey Powne?
At the moment I’m actually in Cincinnati in the middle of a 6 week US tour with the Teskey Brothers which is incredible. I’ve been so lucky to tour with The Teskey Brothers, they are such kind and generous musicians and have cultivated a community of like minded lovely people around them.

But, I am also very excited to be doing some of my own shows when I return to London, Jazz Re:Freshed at 91 Living on July 11th and my debut as a leader at legendary Ronnie Scott’s on October 3rd. Then I am back in Melbourne for a little bit with some very, very exciting shows to be announced soon…

Drawing on experiences in her life and watching the world around her, the debut LP is one complete body of work; cover to cover telling her story of recovery and persistence, but most importantly survival. Connecting each track through reappearing motifs and themes, the material travels through her own experiences in ‘Sleep’, ‘Survival’ and ‘From The Fire’, and critiques of systems and powers at play in ‘Indigo’ and first single ‘Feed The Fire’, opened by a theatre styled ‘Overture’. Drawing on influences including Bill Evans, Archie Shepp, and many more, From The Fire blends genres of jazz and neo soul into hip-hop moments, with instrumental interludes that spotlight her career performing trumpet.

As Audrey embraces all evolutions as a musician and composer, her style is hard to pin down, from hook-laden synth pop songs to longform cinematic soundscapes, RnB ballads and free jazz improvisations, there are few genres she has not touched. As well as her solo work, Audrey Powne has also worked as a session player with acts as diverse as Maceo Parker, Midnight Oil, Jimmy Barnes, Masta Ace and the Grammy nominated band The Teskeys. 

Instagram: @audreypowne
X: @AudreyPowne
TikTok: @audreypowne

‘From The Fire
1. Overture
2. Feed the Fire
3. Sleep
4. Interlude 1
5. Indigo
6. Survive
7. Interlude 2
8. From the Fire
9. Souled Out

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