Thornbird Now Available
Audrey Spillman has an ageless voice, full of understated emotion, with phrasing that imbues every word she sings with a quiet intensity and subtle passion. Her approach is especially effective on “I’ve Got To Have You,” a duet with the legendary Kris Kristofferson. Her hushed reading of the lyric fits perfectly with Kristofferson’s gruff, weary vocal. “I love the idea of two people, at two different places and seasons in their lives, being able to come together to sing and share that universal feeling of love,” Spillman says. “We did it in one take, on one mic, facing each other. It was a once in a lifetime experience.”
It’s a powerful moment, but the rest of Thornbird, her debut album, is just as compelling, with songs that showcase Spillman’s melodic gift and honest lyrics. Her writing captures the tension between passion and heartbreak, leavened by her dry wit and poetic phrasing. She recorded the album with the help of her producer, and boyfriend, Neilson Hubbard. “It’s a risk to work with someone you’re dating, but the process brought us closer together.
“We did the tracks at home and in the studio, working to amplify the feeling at the heart of every song. We built arrangements around hand made loops we created from the sound of ocean waves, my breathing and Neilson shaking stones on a cookie sheet. We also used an Optigan, an early version of a synthesizer, to give the music a mysterious, otherworldly quality.”
Spillman’s whispering, played backward, increases the tension of “Goodnight, Goodbye,” a song that pleads for one last chance at love. Lonely muted trumpets and Dan Mitchell’s minimal piano compliment her mournful performance. The ironically titled “Hot as Hell” has a muffled backing track that intensifies the yearning of the lyric, while Spillman’s tense vocal hovers on the edge of hopelessness.
The sound of waves rushing to shore give “Pull Me into Your Harbor” a gentle, cinematic quality. Ambient guitars, synthesized horns and Spillman’s wordless vocal fills amplify the song’s fervent mood. The honking baritone sax that opens “Amy” echoes the sprightly sound of Memphis soul. Will Kimbrough’s distorted guitar solo compliments Spillman’s rowdy, uncontained vocal. Kimbrough also adds a touch of twangy, Steve Cropper guitar to the title track, an R&B tune that sounds like something out of the early 60s. Sustained, whistling notes from Mitchell’s organ support Spillman’s soulful crooning. The album covers a wide range of styles, with elements of pop, rock, folk, jazz and R&B, all snuggling together under a comforting blanket of compassion. “One of the things I've discovered on my musical journey is that I have no idea of where I fit into the current musical spectrum,” Spillman says with a laugh. “I just create music that feels right to me.”
Spillman grew up on St. Simons, a small island off the coast of Georgia. “My mom took me down to the beach every morning,” Spillman recalls. “I felt like the whole world was mine. There’s a lighthouse from the 1700’s and trees everywhere; it was a magical place. I was an only child, so I created my own world, making up songs, writing poems and listening to R&B on the radio.” When her parents broke up, she moved to Nashville with her father, just before she started high school. “My dad bought me an acoustic guitar and encouraged my songwriting. That was the turning point.”
While still in high school, she started performing, recording EPs and connecting with Nashville writers and publishers. She met hit songwriters Natalie Hemby (Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town) and John Paul White. She started co-writing with them, and other writers as well. She placed “Overnight,” a tune she composed with Hemby, on Amy Grant’s album Somewhere Down the Road.
“Last October, I revisited St. Simons with Neilson. I realized how much those early years soaked into my heart and soul. I’ve carried that feeling of peaceful magic with me ever since. Seeing the island again made me realize how much St. Simons informs my music and my life. I’d just gotten word that Kristofferson would sing on my album, if I made one. I felt like the island was giving me a sign to push forward. We came back to Nashville and started working on Thornbird.”
// New Album Releasing 9.16.16 //