Straight from the pages of her elementary school diaries, Tampa, Fla. native Aubrey Wollett wanted to one day move to Nashville to be a famous singer.
Although she was willing and ready to start her college career at Belmont after graduating from high school, Wollett’s journey to campus took a little bit longer. She was rejected after auditioning for the musical theater department. A year later, she auditioned for Belmont’s commercial music program, and again was rejected. Her third attempt at a Belmont education was successful, leading her to the Belmont College of Entertainment and Music Business and an avenue into the Nashville music scene. As a December 2012 graduate, Wollett is now trying to branch out of Music City and trying to spark a career in the recording industry.
Belmont Vision: What inspired you to get involved in music?
Aubrey Wollett: I always wanted to listen to pop or rap or whatever music was cool during the times while I was growing up, like Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys, but the only music my dad would let me listen to in the car when he was taking me to school in the mornings was country. So Shania Twain and Trisha Yearwood were the first artists who I absolutely loved. Shania Twain’s “Come Over” CD came out in the ‘90s and I would listen to it all the time. I knew every single song, I knew every word. I wasn’t really brought up on the traditional country stuff, I’ve learned a lot about it and appreciate it now, but growing up I was drawn to country/pop.
BV: You mentioned Shania Twain and Trisha Yearwood. Who are some of your other musical influences?
AW: I love Colbie Caillat. She is one of my favorites. I loved the Dixie Chicks too.
BV: What is it about those artists that you are so drawn to?
AW: I think I wanted to be real country, but I knew I couldn’t fool anyone that I grew up on a farm because I grew up on a beach. I had never even seen a corn field until probably last year. But for example, listening to and watching Shania Twain, I really respected her as an entertainer. She had a lot of attitude in her songs, especially during live performances, and that’s what I wanted to take away from her and add into my own style.
BV: What has been your favorite experience since moving to Nashville?
AW: Definitely getting to work with songwriter Dallas Davidson, who has had 14 No. 1 singles recorded by artists like Brad Paisley, Josh Turner and Blake Shelton. Even though I work with him as an assistant, he’s best friends with Luke Bryan and Jake Owen, and I got to go along with Luke on his Farm Tour this past year. I get to see artists like them come into the office or out on tour and observe them and learn what makes them successful in the industry. I think experiences like this have helped me grow, knowing that I still love the performance side of things, but also be able to learn the singer/songwriter side of things and what the steps are and what skills you need to become successful after you move to Nashville.
BV: Is there anything that you miss about Florida?
AW: The beach and the people. But this community in Nashville, everyone is so ambitious and driven to chase their dreams, and that doesn’t happen in a lot of other places. People come here to be a country star, and they all are so driven. They have it in them to keep chasing that dream and being surrounded by those people, it’s hard yourself not to want more. Everyone is so encouraging and supportive of each other’s ambitions. Those people who are successful now realize they were in the same boat as you at one time.
BV: What brought you back to Belmont after the musical theater department told you no?
AW: After that, I auditioned and got accepted into the music theater department at University of West Florida. I loved it, but then I had a director that really was a terrible person. But I would thank her if I had a chance because she is the one who kicked me out because I grew to hate it so much. That was a time in my life that I just hated music, and that just wasn’t a good environment for me. So I decided I didn’t want to pursue a lifestyle of musical theater anymore because it was just so structured. I tried for so long to become these other people, these characters and I never got to sing with my own voice. So I reconnected with music and realized that is where my true passion was during my sophomore year at West Florida. Even though I was rejected from Belmont once before, I still was in love with the campus and the people. This place is so incredible, I mean, they have flowers in the winter! So I came back and auditioned to be in the commercial music program, but I didn’t get into that either. So then I told myself, ‘I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me if I can sing or not,’ but it would be smart to get a glimpse of the business side of music. That way I can learn the business side while keeping myself as the artist, knowing what to watch out for and how to promote myself.
BV: If you could sum up your music in three words…
AW: There is a brand I am trying to establish for my music – beach bum country. And it’s three words. It’s perfect because I know a lot of people, especially my friends from Florida, that love country music and through that style of music. So many of the lyrics and songs describe our country as on vacation, on a boat, in the water or hanging out with our friends. That’s what we like to sing about and when we are in those situations is when we like to turn that kind of music up real loud.
BV: What have you been doing since graduation?
AW: I am a part of Dallas Davidson’s team, and his wife, Sarah Davidson, is an artist and a writer as well. That is more my job opportunity right now. I am working with her as she looks at signing labels and writing songs. I love working with both of their teams because I believe so much in them and what they are doing as they do for me as well. I also had the chance recently to go home and I played a lot for elementary schools and high schools, which was really fun. I really like doing that because, especially the young people, they are hungry to know everything about your life. I play a show at least once a week, sometimes twice a week, and they’re usually writer’s nights. I’ve also been talking to some of my friends to try and get something going to where we can play downtown. I don’t want to get sucked into that, playing the 2:00 a.m. shifts of cover songs, singing to obnoxious people downtown, but it will be good exposure to keep on with the entertainment side of myself.
BV: What advice do you have for Belmont students that are hoping to follow the same path you are?
AW: My biggest thing is going out and socializing. In any other business they would probably tell you not to do that, but in the music business, going to writer’s nights, shows and other social events within the industry is huge. Even people who are well established are still going out and trying to figure out what’s new and what people like. No one here looks down upon going up to a stranger and networking. That is the key for sure, and also playing as much as you can in as many places as you can. But it also is up to individuals to be driven enough to go for it and don’t second guess themselves, thinking they are not good enough. Everyone is different. Everyone can bring something different to the table.
BV: What aspirations do you have for your music in 2013?
AW: I’m planning to go back into the studio and record three more songs and get an EP out by spring, hopefully around April. I also really want to do more showcases, like 12th and Porter or 3rd and Lindsley, and sing my own stuff with a band. I also want to start playing more outside of Nashville to build a bigger fan base. You get a different kind of confidence when you play outside of a place like Nashville where everyone is doing the same thing you are.
BV: Any new year’s resolutions?
AW: I really love doing YouTube videos so for 2013 I really want to work on getting a new YouTube video up either of an original or a cover song about every two weeks. I’ve realized a lot of my friends and fans, that’s how I keep them updated, is through social media and I can get good feedback that way too. I also really want to get that EP done in 2013 and release some more songs on iTunes.