#CMchat StageCoach Exclusive Interview: Auburn Road

Auburn Road – Alicia Paulson, Paxton Martin, and Kristen Brown – will be making their Stagecoach debut on Sunday, April 29. The trio, life-long friends, have shared the stage with a number of artists (Love & Theft, Uncle Kracker, Drake White, Canaan Smith, JT Hodges, Granger Smith) and had a week-long, standing room only, stint on the LA County Fair’s Kickin Country stage in just the past year alone.

How did you name your trio Auburn Road?

Kristen: “The name Auburn Road actually came about when our manager was driving down Auburn Folsom Road on his way to rehearsal. He mentioned it to us and we all loved it! It’s always felt like a way to keep home with us whenever we’re traveling.”

Sacramento-based – where did you first play as a group in the Northern California area?

Alicia: “Our first show together as Auburn Road, we played at an event for a non-profit organization in Rocklin, called Allegiant Giving, that specializes in providing resources to develop our communities’ future leaders. I remember we were so nervous because that was the first time EVER that we were going to perform our own music!”

Do you each come from musical families? What brought you together?

Paxton: “I wouldn’t say that I came from a musical family. Don’t get me wrong there was always music playing in my house, my mom and dad had stacks and stacks of CDs. I grew up listening to classic country music like Reba and Garth and tons of 80’s rock like Toto and Chicago. My family was very supportive of my singing dreams; my mom put me in voice lessons when I was four because I told her I wanted to sing. Four years after that we moved to Sacramento and I met the girls at a local vocal studio. It’s awesome because we practically grew up together, we’ve grown together and we’re basically sisters now. I’m very lucky because I get to live my dream with my best friends!”

Kristen: “I don’t have any musicians in my family, but I do come from a family that loves music. Both of my parents used to play all kinds of music for me when I was growing up. My dad specifically used to play me all kinds of classic country music like Patty Page, George Jones, Willie Nelson, and many more. I met Paxton and Alicia when I was about nine years old when my mom found a local vocal studio and I started taking classes there. It’s been so great getting to grow up singing with my best friends and now (we get to) follow our dreams together.”

Alicia: “I have a pretty musical family. My grandpa is an incredible Cellist, my aunt was a singer, and my father has always had a strong musical sense and a deep passion for music. We all came together through the same voice lesson company when we were just nine years old. We used to perform together in performance groups and classes.”

What made you realize that music was your career path?

Paxton: “I don’t exactly remember the big moment I realized music was my path because being a singer was always my dream. My mom told me the other day that when I was five years old I looked her in the eye and told her, ‘I’m going to be a Country singer and a star on Broadway.’ Whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up it was always a Singer, I tried sports and other activities, but something always brought me back to music. I believe music is my calling.”

Kristen: “My whole life all I’ve ever wanted to do is make music for my career. Funny enough I still have a poster from the first grade where you say what you want to be when you grow up and I said ‘singer/songwriter’. I have always wanted to be a singer and music has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. It became real though once we got our manager in 2013. That’s when it went from a dream to ‘wow this could really be possible.’”

Alicia: “Of course when I was a little girl I dreamed of being a singer, but back then I had no idea what it took. I thought you just get your makeup done, throw a fancy dress on, and go on stage and sing. Since starting Auburn Road, I’ve learned a completely different side of the music business. It takes a lot more than just singing, and I think when I realized that and still loved it, hard work and all, that’s when I realized that this is the career path for me. It takes a lot of dedication, but in the end when you see your hard work in a CD, recording, performance, etc. it all becomes worth it.”

What instruments do you each play?

Paxton: “I’m currently learning piano and I absolutely love it. I might be a little biased because I’m learning piano, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful instruments. I love the feeling and intimacy the piano creates, and I can’t wait to truly master playing it.”

Kristen: “Recently I have been really loving playing the piano and the bass. I am fairly new to both of them but this year I would love to really dive into learning how to play both of those more.”

Alicia: “I’m currently learning how to play drums!”

What do you think makes Auburn Road’s music unique?

Paxton: Auburn Road’s music is unique because of our harmonies and sound. There, unfortunately, aren’t many girl groups in country music right now and most of them aren’t harmonizing like they used to. We also have many different influences from different genres and we blended and balanced them together to create the unique sound we have. We’re different because we are a mix of classic country, a little bit of rock and the modern 2018 sound.”

Kristen: “I think what makes Auburn Road’s music unique is that we pull from all kinds of genres to make our music sound the way that it does. When you listen to our music, you’ll hear all kinds of different inspirations from rock to classic country, and gospel to pop. We like to take elements of music that we love and put it into our own because it makes it more us and really represents who we are as artists and as people.”

Alicia: “I think the fact that we can’t exactly pinpoint it into one genre is what makes it so unique. We all grew up with different musical influences, and I think that really shines through in our writing. Our manager started us on gospel music to learn how to sing together, and that absolutely comes through in our harmonies. There are so many different styles that have gone into each song, it’s pretty hard to compare it to anything else.”

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?

Paxton: “I would say our music is a mix of classic country and the modern sound. There’s something for everyone in our music. If you love the country/pop sound I think you’d enjoy our music; I also think someone who prefers the classic stuff will love our nods to classic country musically and the storytelling of our lyrics. We grew up with many different influences and we blended them together to create this sound that everyone could enjoy.”

Kristen: “I would describe our music as the old meets the new. If you’re a fan of classic country music, you’ll be able to find that in our songs. But on the same token, if you’re someone who prefers a newer pop/country sound, then you’ll hear that too. At the end of the day, we are three young girls who grew up listening to the greats. Our music is young and fun, but we still carry that mindset of classic country with us.”

Alicia: “Because it’s so difficult to narrow our music down to a single genre, I would describe our music as a journey. On our EP ‘Mustang‘, no matter what you’re feeling, or what you want to escape from, there is a song for you on this album. One thing we absolutely love about traditional country music is the stories they tell. We made sure to include that aspect of country in our music while keeping it ‘modern’, young and fun. Our album isn’t necessarily exclusive to country music listeners. Our goal was to make an album for everyone.”

Most high schoolers aren’t releasing their EP debuts. How did you decide that was the right time for Fancy to come out?

Paxton: “I know this sounds cliché, but it honestly felt right. Everything we were going through during that time was poured into our music and lyrics. We were young teenage girls trying to figure life out. We wrote about our personal experiences like the song ‘Love of My Own‘. That song was about not knowing what it feels like to be in love and seeing all your friends go through it and wanting/craving it for yourself. ‘Fancy‘ was about your friend who went through a breakup and you being the good friend you are trying to get her out of her funk. ‘This Road‘ was about the first time leaving home and realizing your life is changing. It was our growing up album and really expressed everything we felt during that time. ‘Mustang‘ is the next chapter because it’s what happened after that girl in ‘Fancy‘ had some life experience as a young adult.”

Kristen: “I was a senior in High School when ‘Fancy‘ came out and I honestly can’t think of a better time to release that music. When you listen to that album you hear all the things teenage girls go through in high school. You hear the heartache, the first time falling in love, and in our song ‘This Road‘, you hear the thoughts that go through your head when you’re about to step out on your own into the world for the first time. That album really does sum up our lives and what we went through during that time and I can’t wait for people to hear ‘Mustang‘ because that album is all about the years that followed. It’s always been important to us to write songs that we can relate to, but also songs that other people can relate to and listening to “Fancy” can take anyone back to that time.”

Alicia: “It was a long journey writing ‘Fancy‘. We were all around 15 years old and the songs on ‘Fancy‘ were the first we had ever written and recorded. Before we even started the album, we were going through somewhat of a singing ‘bootcamp’ with our manager, Michael Anderson. We were singing for 10+ hours straight some days, doing push-ups when we hit wrong notes, and going up and down some emotional rollercoasters. After those intense six months or so, we knew we were ready to bring all of this progress we had made to life.”

How did you connect with producer Michael Anderson?

Paxton:Michael is not only our producer but also our manager, and our mentor. He wears many hats and we love working with him because he pushes us to be great. He sees our greatness and won’t let us shoot for anything less. Michael understands that were teenage girls and sometimes we may have to talk about whatever’s going on with us before we can get the perfect vocal, he knows how to motivate us and how to help us even we were struggling. That’s why we say he’s a mentor to us because he’s been where we are now and knows what it takes for us to reach our goals!”

How did bassist Tully Kennedy, guitarist Kurt Allison and drummer Rich Redmond, all members of Jason Aldean’s band, come to record backing music for you?

Kristen: “Prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. We prayed every single day to find musicians who could help take our album to the next level and help us make a genuine country album and God answered our prayers and then some. Not only were we blessed enough to have such amazing musicians on our first record ‘Fancy‘ but some of them returned and played for our album ‘Mustang‘ as well. These guys are some of the nicest, most talented people we have ever met, and we are so grateful that they took a chance on 3 girls from California and helped make our music something special. We are beyond blessed.”

Favorite venue to play to date?

Paxton: “How can I pick just one? We have had some amazing opportunities over the years to play some incredible venues like last year we sang the National Anthem at the Staples Center and we sang at the LA County fair! However, I think my favorite venue to play was a place called Goldfields in Sacramento because of the energy of the venue. The people are so sweet, and they were one of my favorite audiences to sing to. It’s not a huge venue it’s kind of intimate which is nice for crowd interaction. I think my favorite place might change pretty soon because we are singing at Stagecoach this year and were opening up for Toby Keith at the Ironstone Amphitheatre, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that place becomes my favorite venue.”

Kristen: “That’s a tough question. Over the years we have gotten the chance to play some amazing venues but one of my absolute favorites would be when we did the National Anthem at the Staples Center last July. It was so surreal to be in the room where so many talented artists have given such legendary performances. It was truly a day I will never, ever forget and I am so excited to be adding performing at Stagecoach and opening for Toby Keith to that list of favorite performances very soon!”

Alicia: “We just recently played at Powerhouse Pub in Folsom, CA for about the 5th time now I believe, and I absolutely LOVE that venue. The best part about it is definitely the crowd. The people at Powerhouse aren’t afraid to let loose, dance, sing along and really make our set fun. It’s always a blast when we have an energetic audience, and Powerhouse never fails to bring that!”

Dream venue to play?

Paxton: “That’s a tough one!! I’d say it’s a close tie between the Grand Ole Opry and Madison Square Garden!”

Kristen: “It would be a dream come true to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. To be able to stand in that same wooden circle where the legends who we grew up listening to once stood, would be the greatest honor.”

Alicia: “A dream venue of mine would definitely be the Grand Ole Opry.”

What can we expect on Mustang Vol. 1 and 2, your upcoming summer EP releases?

Kristen: “You can expect a whole bunch of girl power that’s for sure. We want to show that a girl can do anything she sets her mind to. Women go through so much in their lives and we wanted to write as many levels of it as we could. We wanted to write about falling in love, heartbreak, revenge, finding the passion deep inside you to follow your dreams and never taking no for an answer, and everything in between. I’m so excited for people to hear this music that we have worked so, so hard on and I hope that when they listen to it, they see the ‘Mustang‘ within themselves.”

Alicia: “You can definitely expect a lot of sassy, up-beat music, like ‘Mustang,’ ‘Strike A Match,’ and ‘Fine Time.’ However, we have the sad, tear jerking breakup song called ‘Last Cry‘. We of course threw in some fun songs like ‘Fast Love‘, and we even put in a song dedicated to our military called ‘Harvest Moon‘.

What does ‘Mustang” represent to you?

Alicia: “’Mustang‘ represents strength, power, determination, and independence. As we were writing Mustang we were writing about the strong women in our lives that inspire us; our mothers, grandmothers, etc. but we realized that those are the women we are becoming, and we’re proud to be living out the legacy of these women.”

What’s your personal favorite song from the new EPs?

Paxton: “That’s a hard one. My favorite song constantly changes depending on my mood or what song we’re working on. Right now, ‘Mustang‘ is my favorite song because I love the pace of it and the way the vocals sound. It’s a barnburner song that I can’t help but get into every time we listen to it. I also love the story behind it as well, this is our girl anthem and I feel inspired every time I hear it!”

Kristen: “My favorite song off the EP changes every time I listen to it. Currently my favorite is ‘Strike a Match‘ because when we wrote it, it felt like the song I related to the most. Whether it be a friendship or a relationship, everyone at one point in time has reached a breaking point with someone where you felt you couldn’t turn back and give it another chance and that’s exactly how I felt at the time this song was written so it just stuck with me more. But who knows, tomorrow my favorite could be a totally different song!”

Alicia: “My favorite song changes just about every day, but currently “Outlaw” is my favorite!”

We heard you want the EPs to have a ‘dusty’ feel. How does that differ from Fancy, your first release?

Kristen: “’Fancy‘ has more of a country/pop sound whereas ‘Mustang‘ is more country/rock and I think that’s what gives it that ‘dusty’ feel to it. Musically and lyrically we followed an old country vibe but at the end of the day we still put a young, rock-like spin on it.”

Where do you draw inspiration from when you write songs and what’s your favorite part about the process?

Paxton: “We draw inspiration from everywhere you could be talking with someone and they say a line that makes you think ‘oh that could be a cool song’. Your friend could be telling a story about a breakup and you could be inspired to write from the opposite perspective of that breakup. A billboard could inspire us but most of the time we are inspired by what happens to us, real experiences. Almost everything we have written about at least one of us has gone through it or a version of it at some point.  My favorite part is probably when we’re writing the lyrics to a song when were able to write with each other and bounce ideas of one another. Were lucky to write together because sometimes someone will have an idea but doesn’t know how to say it, but another person does. It’s a real collaboration and I love doing it with my best friends.”

Kristen: “You never know where inspiration will strike. Sometimes it’s from a line in a movie, a story your best friend told you, or something you’re going through yourself. A lot of these songs on this album are written from our own personal experiences and I think that’s what makes it so personal to who we are and allows people to get to know us a little better. My favorite part about the songwriting process is when everyone is so dialed into the song and lyric suggestions become like a game of ping pong. I know that sounds like a silly way of describing it but once a writing session turns into a quick back and forth with lyric and melody suggestions, that really is what it feels like! Some of my favorite songs on the album were written in sessions like that.”

Alicia: “It completely depends on the song, but let’s say we’re writing a love song like ‘Ever After‘. We listened to Rascal Flatts’ love songs for days to get into that vibe. We got inspiration from their lyrics and the way they made their music feel. Other times, it just flows out and we really have no idea where the inspiration came from until after.”

Currently, you’re funding the two ‘Mustang‘ EPs through a pre-order campaign on PledgeMusic, along with touring and merchandise sales.

Can fans still make a pledge?

Alicia: “Absolutely! We still have another album to record and we still would love your guys’ support. Plus, there’s a ton of cool stuff on there that you can’t get from us at our shows, like exclusive T-Shirts, handwritten lyric sheets, vinyl, etc.”

You will be performing at Stagecoach on the Half Pint Hootenanny Stage, alongside fellow newcomers, teen rockers Minor Emergency and singer-songwriter Julia Rizik.

Any fan surprises planned for your Sunday show?

Paxton: “We are so excited and honored to be playing at Stagecoach 2018 and looking forward to seeing so many amazing artists.  As for our set, concert goers will get a sneak listen to songs from our upcoming EP’s ‘Mustang Volume 1‘ and ‘Mustang Volume 2′ and one of my favorite things we’re doing is a really cool ‘Women in Music’ medley! A couple years ago we saw Lauren Alaina do this medley and we loved it so much we started including it in our set. It’s full of hit songs like ‘Umbrella‘ by Rihanna, ‘Fancy‘ by Reba McEntire, and ‘Man I Feel Like a Woman‘ by Shania Twain just to name a few!”

When will you be opening for Toby Keith? Is he one of your musical influences?

Paxton: “I loved Toby Keith especially when I was growing up, my dad used to always play ‘I Wanna Talk About Me‘  and I would have him play it on repeat! This is honestly a dream come true!”

Kristen: “We will be opening for Toby Keith on June 16th at the Ironstone Amphitheater in Murphy’s; CA and we are SO excited! I have been listening to Toby Keith’s music for as long as I can remember, and I can’t wait for us to open his show. Toby is definitely one of our musical influences because he an incredible artist. He knows how to write and perform a song that makes an entire arena want to sing along and that is something we aspire to do one day.”

Alicia: “We all grew up listening to his music and we all absolutely love him. The fact that we’re opening for him is so surreal!”

Who do you look up to as artists? Do you share the same “role models” or do you each have different artists you favor?

Paxton: “We all have similar artists we look up to like the Dixie Chicks or Rascal Flatts but we each have our favorites. Reba McEntire is my girl; I have loved her music since I was like three years old. I have always loved her lyrics and her ability to make you feel whatever she was feeling. She honestly inspired me to be a singer.”

Kristen: “We do share a lot of similar role models, but we also have our own artists that we each personally look up to. I for one am a HUGE fan of Maren Morris. Her voice, the songs she writes, and her confidence on and off stage are all things I am in complete and total awe of. She is a true artist and I would love to be able to ask her a million questions about it all one day. She is someone that would be a dream come true to work with.”

Alicia: “There are quite a few people that we all similarly look up to, but for me one of my biggest inspirations is Sheryl Crow. I think the fact that we all look up to different artists helps us each bring different aspects to Auburn Road.”

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Author: Donna Block

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