Heartbreak and Healing: Aubrey Haddard Takes Blue Part on the Road

Aubrey Haddard

We’ve all had our heart broken at some point.

Even for the least emotional of us, the pain of a lost love will linger forever. Whether we point the finger at ourselves for the mistakes we made, or hand the blame off to a more convenient outlet, we still sit alone with our own unique perspective of how things ended up the way they ultimately did.

On her new LP, Blue Part, Aubrey Haddard seems to be fully aware of the range of these emotions. From the first white noise echoes of the intro—a reverberating cacophony of enchanting siren voices that beckon from inside a stumbled-upon seashell—the sense of being alone in a vast ocean of nothingness is palpable.

But every dark tunnel has a light of hope, and right away in comes Haddard’s smooth blues riffs to absorb and soothe our mutual pain. “How did I get here?” she asks on Seaweed & Sand, “with my heart in my hand?” We don’t necessarily have the answer to that question, but for the Cambridge, Mass., based and Berklee College of Music trained musician, it’s the journey that matters most, and not necessarily the destination.

Haddard has long been a fixture on the Northeast music scene, but her roots are in the Hudson River Valley, an eclectic arena of immutable locals, hipster transplants, and even a few punk elders and 90s rock adherents. Metalcore and emo even popped in long enough to launch Coheed and Cambria’s career. All in all, its a place of conviction and passion and a fertile ground for musicians who want to do it their way.

“I really thought music was going to be a passion and a hobby forever,” she remembers. “I didn’t think it was a viable option for a livelihood. I took a couple years off from school and did a program in Senegal for year. It was amazing and it’s quite different from here. I brought my guitar and I was able to sit and write songs, and I realized music was more than just a staple in my life. After I got back I applied to Berklee and I got in.”

With that aesthetic in hand, along with her education and maturity, Aubrey has expanded her reach and her chops. Her guitar playing, alternating between the Telecaster which she taught herself to play on, and the more versatile Strat (a secondhand treasure), is confident and adept, nearing Hendrixian levels of technical prowess and emotional conduit. The twangs and riffs are so elementally blues they skip the brain and go right to your heart, while fuzzy drips of lead wails go right to your hips.

She’s played in numerous bands, and still spends time in a full fledged funk band with horns and all, but the music she has been making recently, like on Blue Part, is familiar. You’ve heard it before in your waking dreams, maybe even in your sleeping ones. It encompasses and surrounds like a warm blanket of Bakersfield honey reverb, perhaps a little damp, maybe from tears, maybe from sweat, maybe from a sea salt spray that arrives every few seconds with the encroaching tide. To wrap yourself up in it is to feel safe, secure and hopeful. Even if just for a little while.

Blue Part’s cover art, a grainy photo of Haddard in swimsuit on a near-empty sandy shore that looks like something out of Instagram in the late 1970s, perfectly captures the sparse sentiments of passion and love. With her face slightly obscured by windblown hair and silhouette, and much like the product contained within, we can’t be too sure what she is feeling as she ambles alone on her path. But we know she means it intensely.

“I sort of decided early on that photograph, when and where and by whom it was taken, was so encompassing of the vibe of the record I wanted to make, i was like ‘this has got to be it.’ I want the record to be like a moody, beach sound.” However, being able to convey that feeling alone can be tricky.

To that effect, finding the right people to play with was just as important. Along for the ride are drummer Josh Strmic, who’s toms and snare seem so far off the ground they may have been recorded in space, and Charley Ruddell on bass, whose intricate and funky lines hold tight with Strmic’s ghostly drums, providing a jazzy vibe, not unlike a few early Sea and Cake records. When they stretch out the most, like on the anthemic and boppy Save Me, cymbals crash and pulses pound.  

“We’ve been playing in so many groups for so long, I feel like having all these different genre experiences has helped me target whatever my truest sound is,” she maintains. “I have Josh and Charley as my cheerleaders, and they play with such emotion and intention that it really comes across as authenticity. It’s very much a collaboration of sound.”

But as accomplished musicians as they are, it’s Haddard’s voice that ties everything together. ‘Soulful’ certainly works as a descriptor, but it’s so much more than that. Carrying the tune is secondary, yet there it is all along, perfect note by simmerring note, while surfing on some serious conviction. With lyrics that question so much, it’s almost beguiling how obviously certain she seems in what the answers already are. At times the Ani DiFranco-like ability to wrap so many words into a single breath lends a feeling of absolute imperative. Yet just five seconds later she stretches a single syllable so far, it nearly snaps under its own fragile weight, an all too human tendency, to be sure.

By the time we wrap up with Blue Part – so named as to draw comparison to the hottest part of a fire’s flame – what should feel like heartbreak has been soothed to a dull and nearly imperceptible throb. The band leaves us with a similar instrumental as what welcomed us, and as we are exiting the seashell of heartbreak and loves lost and found, not only are we changed, but the emotional baggage we brought with us has also been transformed. And through this therapy we are healed. Enough, at least, to carry on.

The Ladybug Music Festival will be Aubrey Haddard’s first Delaware performance – don’t miss her on Saturday, July 21st!