music flavored pop and folk-rock was always huge in the U.K. and living
up to the spirit is Auburn and their 2016 CD called Love
& Promises. Filled with catchy pop played in a
rustic, Americana-style folk-rock manner, Auburn is a fine vehicle
for singer Liz Lenten, who gets solid backup from her excellent
backing band. Ms. Lenten cites influences like Dusty Springfield and
Norah Jones as well as Rickie Lee Jones, and from the following interview,
Liz adds, "I guess Bonnie Raitt and Dolly made me want to
write my own songs." Theres also a Nashville influence
here and the album was recorded, mixed and produced by Thomm Jutz
in Nashville, Tennessee. The electric / acoustic guitar work by
Jutz is another selling point here. Speaking about Love & Promises,
Liz tells mwe3.com "Love & Promises was just so easy
to record. We did the whole thing in 30 hours! No rushing, it just
flowed so easily. I think all my albums are similar
its always a collection of always emotional, often miserable
and occasionally slightly more cheerful but most are stories rather
than statements. But, I hope that my writing is progressing with each
one and each album has a theme to the collection of songs, so an overall
those who appreciate well-produced albums on CD, the sound of the
recording and scope of the Love & Promises album packaging
is superb, with the booklet featuring complete lyrics. Just the ticket
to put Auburn on the world-wide music map, Love & Promises
is filled with catchy pop-rock hooks and well thought out arrangements
that just sounds better spin after spin. www.auburn.org.uk
presents an interview with
Liz Lenten of AUBURN
Where are you from originally and where do you live now and what do
you like best about it?
Liz Lenten: I am a bit of a mongrel! My family originates from
Eastern Europe, and lived in Manchester. I was born and brought up
in Leicester, and now, after a decade in London, live in the wilds
of Lincolnshire, in the center of England in a tiny, very rural village!
I love living here... its so peaceful and beautiful. Its
flatlands, and you can see for miles. I also have a holiday home in
Sitia, Eastern Crete, Greece, half way up a mountain, in the middle
of a traditional village, which is my little piece of paradise and
where I do most of my songwriting.
mwe3: Tell us about growing up in England and who your biggest
musical influences were and what made you want to become a recording
artist and composer?
Liz Lenten: I grew up listening to my parents records
Billie Holiday, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis, lots of country, jazz and any
style of female singers. I guess Bonnie Raitt and Dolly made me want
to write my own songs. I just loved the stories but also listening
to Kate Bush, Dusty Springfield, Joan Armatrading, Karen Dalton
and also Melissa Etheridge, Patsy Cline, Debbie Harry, Janis Joplin,
Guy Clark and so many others. I just always wanted to make records
and tell my own stories. I wasnt really into pop
music at the time, my friends all thought I had awful taste in music,
but I just liked the older stuff and story songs!
mwe3: What instruments did you study?
Liz Lenten: I studied voice up to grade 8, piano to grade 5
and play the guitar, which my Dad taught me when I was 4! He was a
doctor, but a good musician, also a songwriter. I arranged and sang
one of his songs on my Nashville album a few years ago. He
had written it for my Mum in the 1960s when they were first
mwe3: What inspires you to write a great song and, in your
songs, does music come first or do lyrics come first?
Liz Lenten: When I am writing there is no set method. Sometimes
its the lyrics and melody, they do tend to come together, and
sometimes its a chord sequence or just a groove. I teach composition
and song writing but I dont write like a teach! How do you say
to kids, just pick up a guitar and let your feelings out?' Thats
not going to work, so I use a structure for teaching, or if I have
a commission for a choir or whatever, but when I write myself I just
lose myself in ideas and see what flows. I record all ideas onto my
phone, so handy!
mwe3: Tell us about the recently released Auburn album Love
& Promises. Do you feel its the best album youve
made so far and how would you compare it with the other Auburn album
Well, I think we always think our latest work is the best. I
am very pleased with how the album came out. I do think its
some of my best work so far. I really enjoy working with Thomm Jutz,
the producer and guitarist, in Nashville where I have recorded my
last 3 albums. I just feel totally at ease with him and he brings
out the best in my songs, always tasteful and subtle. He just seems
to pick out the best bits and keeps my original vibe and mood and
he juts lets me focus on telling my stories. I think its a natural
progression from my previous albums
I hope they are improving
mwe3: What was it like recording in Nashville with Thomm and
did being in Music City influence your sound?
Liz Lenten: Yes, he and Nashville did influence the sound of
my songs. There is a real sound that you cant articulate
but just sounds like Nashville and nowhere else. I absolutely love
working with Thomm and his team of amazing players
he just gets
me perfectly. I never need to explain what I am thinking
just hears it. He is an amazing technician but then drops down a solo
or a guitar part that makes you melt on the spot. I cant believe
I get to work with so much talent, but I do and its amazing!
mwe3: How many albums have you made with Thomm and how different
are your albums from each other?
Liz Lenten: I have made 3 albums with Thomm now. The first
one, Nashville sort of started the sound
the Americana influences but still keeping my Englishness. Then Mixed
Feelings, which was one of my favorite experiences as I was really
happy with the songs. We had so many to choose from, and I felt it
developed my / Auburn sound even more. And Love & Promises
was just so easy to record. We did the whole thing in 30 hours! No
rushing, it just flowed so easily. I think all my albums are similar
in that its always a collection of always emotional, often miserable
and occasionally slightly more cheerful but most are stories rather
But, I hope that my writing is progressing with each one and each
album has a theme to the collection of songs, so an overall outlook.
I dont think it really matters what I think
always forms their own opinion on what a song is about anyway! Thats
all part of the fun. I love it when people tell me that my song means
a lot to them and then find out that they have a totally different
take on it. Even though I sometimes feel that my heart is totally
on my sleeve and I have left myself wide open to anything. Its
just always lovely when anyone relates to what you are singing / writing
about and gets it in their own way!
What are your impressions of Nashville and the US in general? Have
you been to the bigger cities and towns in the US? NYC or L.A.? Compared
to England the US is hard to get around.
Liz Lenten: I absolutely love Nashville! The music in every
pore of the place. Id move there in a heartbeat! I have family
in US in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, so have
made many trips to see them and spent time. I love the country, especially
amazing vibrant place, such a buzz to be there, always.
Almost all the people I have met in my travels to US have been warm
and friendly and welcoming, much friendlier than the average Brit!
mwe3: How did you put the band together with Thomm Jutz? Seems
like a lot of artists are heading to Nashville to make records.
Liz Lenten: I can fully understand why people head over the
Nashville to make albums... its such a wonderful way to work.
For a start, there are no interruptions. I have a studio at home and
an office in my house, so there is never any lack of distraction or
people needing my attention, so one of the best things
for me is that I can go and forget everything, and just focus on making
my records. I was introduced to Thomm by the lovely Gretchen Peters.
Her husband Barry played on my first two albums there, who thought
he would be just right for my music, and she was spot on. I spoke
to Thomm, then sent him some of my song demos. Luckily, he liked the
songs and he chose the musicians to play on the album, based on our
mwe3: What kind of guitars is Thomm playing and what about
your guitars? Do you have a favorite guitar or other instrument?
Liz Lenten: I dont know what guitars he uses... he has
loads, and pedals and all that shit, but whatever he plays it sounds
gorgeous. I dont play guitar on the recordings, although I play
live with my band when I tour, but Thomm is such an amazing guitarist
there is no way I would play in the studio when he is there, hes
just the best!
have a few guitars... all acoustic and do most of my writing on a
vintage Martin guitar, named Rosie, that I scrounged, borrowed, bought,
stole from my lovely live sound engineer Justin. I just feel so connected
to the instrument
that he cant have her back! He is welcome
to visit though and play her whenever he likes! I also have an Ovation
superstar that I tend to use for rhythm work and a Martin Traveler
mini guitar that I take to Crete with me. I have a little pignose
electric guitar thats fun to play, but I dont usually
use electric. I pick a lot and strum with my thumb and fingers. No
plectrum, so my style of playing isnt really suited to electric.
mwe3: The first track Asleep starts things off
in a hushed manner plus you have a quote from Dr. Seuss who says love
is better than dreaming. Is the track autobiographical? Speaking of
love you have other quotes about love in the CD booklet from Joan
Crawford who compares love to a fire that could warm your hearth or
burn down your house
Theres quite a wide range of loves
side effects in your music too.
Liz Lenten: Okay
the Love & Promises album
is all about just living for the moment. The last few years have been
pretty crazy for me, for lots of personal reasons, and one huge thing
I had to take on was changes and trauma, so whilst a lot of my songs
stem from my personal feelings and experiences. Its
not totally autobiographical
it just starts out that way, then
I let poetic license take it away. Some of the songs are very
close to reality, but many are not at all. I also tend to write about
the feelings and comments made by my friends too, so
what you tell me... it could end up all twisted in a song!
I do like quotes about love, and particularly the way that everyone
has a different take on what love really is about. All my songs are
about love in one way or another I suppose
down side to falling in love, or the end of a love affair, or the
love of your family and friends, or the love of a place or time or
just a feeling, and of course sad times and difficult or heartbreaking
situations are great to get those feelings out. But, I am also a real
romantic and do believe in the whole head over heels thing
too. I just find that writing the sad songs makes me feel happy!
In My Blood is another love song. Does it speak about
blind devotion to love? Is blind love the best kind of love?
Liz Lenten: Its more about having no control over your
its literally part of you. I doubt that blind
love is best kind of love. Eyes open are what is probably needed but
new relationships are often blind!
mwe3: The title track Love & Promises is one
of the best songs on the CD. What inspired that track? Is that kind
of love harder to find these days?
Liz Lenten: I suppose it was inspired by a complete lack of
faith in traditional relationships
so its all about just
going with the feelings that you have at the time and saying, I
dont need love and promises . Just all the other stuff
of course I do really, everyone does
it was just how I felt then.
Im really pleased you liked the track. It is one of my favorite
songs. We have shot a really arty video for the track, hoping to get
that out soon
just a few edits to complete it!
mwe3: Miss You Blues is a slow bluesy track that
speaks of a lack of love. Did you write the track first hand or were
you writing about someone you know? Is it tongue in cheek or is it
a serious track?
Liz Lenten: It is a bit tongue in cheek in terms of style.
I just wanted to make it really dirty bar room blues!
It was about someone I know that I was missing at the time, yes.
mwe3: Is Wanda a kind of satirical imaginary woman
that no man can attain? Its got a very interesting melody to
match it with several breaks on a slide guitar? Although you lay it
out at the end!
Yes, kind of
Its about being / having that dream woman, that
every guy wants / wants you to be, a long way from reality or responsibility,
or work, or commitment. But of course shes not real, and if
she was she wouldnt really be that perfect dream woman... she
would have needs and feelings too!! I do absolutely love the
musicians take on my weird chords and melody, particularly love the
keys on this and of course the amazing slide guitar. The band got
it straight away.
mwe3: Cross The Deep Atlantic is a very romantic
song. Tell us about your singing partner on the song. Its very
English in a way. How did the duet happen?
Liz Lenten: The male vocals are sang by a friend of mine from
Texas, Chet O Keefe. Thomm produced some of his records and as soon
as I heard his voice, I wanted to sing with him. We hooked up on Skype
and chatted, and then I wrote the song, based on our long-distance
friendship, which wasnt ever a relationship! Just my little
fantasy of what a long-distance relationship would be like. I hear
it almost as a nursery rhyme. Its simple and sweet. And Justin
Moses added such gorgeous tones with the dobro. I love the way Chet
sings it. His voice is like velvet!
Chet came over to the UK last year and we toured, just the two of
us and two guitars, doing alternate songs of Chets and mine.
It was a blast and the UK loved Chet too. I always embarrassed him
at the gigs telling him I wrote the song about him, then following
it with my stalker song Hell Hath No Fury,
from Mixed Feelings
and used to pretend that was about
him too. Hes a lovely fella, you should check out his music,
hes a wonderful songwriter too. I put out his last CD on my
label. We hope to do some more work together at some point.
mwe3: Is Safety Net written about the musician
or the circus acrobat?
Liz Lenten: It is really about life, and trying to keep yourself
steady and safe in an unsecure situation. The circus stuff is just
mwe3: Ivory Moon has a nice hooky chorus. Does
the hook come to you after you write the verses? I like the connection
between the ivory moon and someone smiling. I never saw it that way!
Ah, thanks so much. The song is about my son. It is absolutely real,
every word. He has the most wonderful smile that always makes me feel
better whatever the situation and I always feel lost and like I hit
the ground hard when he isnt here. He hates the songs I write
refuses to listen to them! (Ha ha). In English slang,
teeth are called the old ivories
like piano keys,
so thats what made me think of a huge smile as an ivory moon.
This song literally wrote itself. It just came out. I couldnt
write it down as quickly as I was thinking of it
everything, just rolled out once I had the first verse. The Nashville
band thought it was a bit of an epic, so much longer than the usual
mwe3: Stupid Game is either very dramatic or ironic
comedy about relationships. I understand that love is a game. Life
sometimes guides our choice of partners or lack thereof. I wonder
if the internet has made it easier or harder to be human.
Liz Lenten: I think the internet has made it much harder, full
stop. Social media is one great big game. I hate it. Its all
front and no trousers! Love is also a game. Fun to play when its
going well and a nightmare when things start to go wrong. Its
just that sinking feeling when you start to feel like you have been
had and maybe not everyone is being totally straight with you
mwe3: Tell us about writing If Everyone Was Listening
with Mark Gus Gustavina. It sounds like you were going
for a specific pop-rock sound on that track, at least compared to
some of the other songs. What do you look for in a songwriting partner
and will you be doing other songs with Gus in the future? What are
some of the key lyrics as I dont think the lyrics for this track
were printed in the booklet.
Liz Lenten: I have written with Gus, my UK guitarist and co-writer,
on and off for over 20 years. The only reason we dont write
so much together now is both having a lack of time to get together
and I am writing all the time on my own, so have so many songs. Gus
is one of my favorite and most trusted musicians and friends. He came
over to mine the night before I went to Thomm's to record L &
P, just to go through the songs with me and give me his feedback
and any ideas. Everything he says is relevant. Anyway, we started
to jam and wrote If Everyone Was Listening at the end
of the evening, after watching the news!
played it off my phone, half finished, to Thomm, who loved it and
said we had to record it! So, I finished the lyrics in the studio,
and we just let the feel evolve. It is probably one of the most pop
sounding songs I have
but I love it. Its powerful
again just simple message. There are quite a few of our co-writes
on previous albums and we do intend to write more together next tear.
When I write with someone, I just need them to be relaxed and jam
around a groove. That always makes an idea spring forward and then
we just refine it. I love writing with Gus. The only reason that the
lyrics arent on the CD artwork is because of a print error,
we genuinely dont know how they disappeared!
mwe3: Is Tell Me is another song about the realities
of relationships? You wouldnt think relationships could be so
complex! Its quite a sobering song. Is it autobiographical?
Liz Lenten: Okay
yes, it is autobiographical. I am still
confused and dont understand any of it! And yes, it would be
really nice if people communicated with each other and actually told
them what they are thinking, before its too late. But I guess
thats just life. Relationships are hard, so many conflicting
thoughts, particularly at the end of a very long one.
mwe3: Is State Of Grace anything to do with religion?
The song is really coming from a unique direction. What do you make
of it? It sounds like the song is coming right through you. Is song
writing being in a state of grace? Sometimes I wonder
Liz Lenten: No, not religious and having God's approval as
Its more about forgiving yourself, and the God within
us all and allowing yourself to go with your own feelings, living
in the moment, etc. etc
Youve probably gathered by now that my life was in a state of
change when I wrote this album and I just wanted to allow myself to
live in the present and stop trying to understand why things happen
mwe3: I know your mum just passed away. Is that like rite of
passage of sorts? Tell us about your mother and did she connect with
My Mum was my rock. My heroine. My best friend. My style icon. My
advisor. My role model. She loved us all unconditionally. She encouraged
my every single day. She always loved music, although she was a dancer,
couldnt sing to save her life, (lol), but she loved music and
there was always live music in the house as I grew up
sing songs, my dad played piano and loads of other instruments, parties,
always musicians around and performing was a totally natural
thing. She supported my musical ambitions always, right down to selling
her jewelry to pay for recording time.
wrote a song on the Indian Summer album called All Comes
Back To You. Its about my Mum
whilst she was in
hospital having a hip replacement! There is a line in it that says,
you sold your rings, and I know other things, to make sure
I got what I needed
And someone asked me if she had
been a hooker! When I told her that, she was a proud as punch to think
that someone would pay her to sleep with them! She was always laughing
and she came to virtually every live gig I ever played, even over
the last three years when she has been in a wheelchair, heavily paralyzed
after a severe stroke. She never missed a show that she could get
She played music all the time when I was young, and thats what
drew me in to love it so much. I will never stop missing her. To be
honest, I still cant quite get my head round the fact that she
has gone. She was kind to everyone she met, really, so generous, and
quite reserved. She hated it when I would hug and kiss her all the
time! She never really understood why we all adored her I dont
think, particularly the last few years of her life, she couldnt
get why everyone was so kind to her. I explained that you reap what
you sow and she sowed nothing but goodness. I have dozens of songs
about her in my head. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.
Tell us about Scarlet Records and how many albums do you have out.
You did such a great job on the CD sound and packaging. Its
a shame to lose that with the download craze still in full swing.
Liz Lenten: So pleased you liked the packaging. It was designed
by my nephew Seb Lenten, who used the project as his final university
module. He got a 2:1! I was very proud of him. Hes a talented
lad. We spent a lot of time talking about the songs and the moods
and the colors and the quotes and the message and the style. We included
the lyrics as so many people had asked before if I would include a
lyric booklet next time. I am very pleased with how it came out. I
think he did a wonderful job.
I have put out loads of records on Scarlet from Auburn, to
The Popes, Shane MacGowans live band
to Eliza Carthy,
a national treasure of the English folk world and who I have managed
for the last 10 years, and loads of other new artists, whose music
I like, such as the wonderful N.Y. singer/songwriter Galia Arad and
Chet O Keefe, who I wanted to help launch in the UK. Its just
a small label really, to springboard stuff, and I agree, its
a shame that hard copy has been taken over by downloads but its
something I enjoy
working with other artists, so I will probably
continue releasing stuff anyway!
mwe3: I had been listening to the Love & Promises album
for a while so Im glad we were able to do the interview. So
whats coming down the road for you musically and label wise?
Liz Lenten: I really appreciate your support. I have been writing
new material over the last year and intend to go back to Thomm in
Nashville in 2018 to record a new CD. It will probably have a slightly
different feel to the last 3
more organic and acoustic, but
hopefully still with that lovely Nashville vibe and Thomms gorgeous
playing and production. These songs are all pretty personal, so I
want to spend a little more time writing before choosing tracks. I
like to take about 20 or so with me, then we can find a playlist that
really works together.
am also touring live in the UK in February 2018, with my good friends
from L.A. - Live Dead 69. Auburn Acoustic is a 3 or 4 piece, myself
on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Gus on acoustic guitar and backing
vocals, Jevon Beaumont, who is also Arthur Browns musical director,
on bass and backing vocals and maybe one of my lovely backing singers.
We like to keep it small and intimate and powerful. I cant wait,
singing live is the best bit of the whole process!