Norman singer/songwriter Audra Elizabeth sang her original composition “She’s Trouble” at the StART Norman kick-off celebration last week. It’s about an untamed young woman with 12 tattoos who likes booze and shiny cars.
“That song is loosely based on a nickname that my drunken alter-ego earned when I was 22,” Elizabeth said. “A friend called me ‘Trouble’ because all his guy friends would say they loved me. So he said I was a little heartbreaker and big trouble.”
Two years later the Texas native is still adorable and she’s been turning her youthful adventures into songs being heard live all over the metro. With only a few months of singing solo and playing guitar at joints such as The Deli and the Wormy Dog saloon, Elizabeth has snagged a prime slot at Norman Music Festival VII. She’ll be performing 9 p.m. Thursday in McNellies-Abner Ale House.
“I started playing the cello when I was 12 and got a guitar when I was 14,” Elizabeth said. “There were a few little cover bands in high school but nothing I was writing my own music for.”
Her cello performance prowess was strong enough to earn a scholarship at private Oklahoma City University’s prestigious Wanda L. Bass School of Music. She soon switched majors out of music however and for a time had a corporate career in IT at Dell Computers in OKC.
“Last July friends convinced me to start writing songs,” she said. “I did and began doing a few open mics. People responded well, so I kept writing songs.”
As her songbook grew Elizabeth posted an album on Bandcamp.com where people she didn’t know were purchasing her music.
“It wasn’t family or friends supporting me,” she said. “The music was standing on its own.”
Young and unencumbered with no husband or children, Elizabeth decided to devote her time and passion to being a singer/songwriter with a performing career. She left the office cubicle gig and got one to pay the bills at a Norman pub.
“Then I started booking shows and hit the ground running,” Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth’s NMF show will be her performing mostly original material with a few favorite covers.
“There are too many aspects to my music to just call it folk,” she said. “It will be fun and a lot there to catch the audience’s interest.”
Elizabeth has a talent for writing entertaining songs that comes in part from a fearless examination of her own life. She’s not shy for you to know of a fondness for tipping a few Shiner Bocks. A tune titled “Oklahoma Anthem” is about the love Elizabeth has for her adopted red dirt state. Men here get a mixed review, noting that some “sound like hicks” and a few are “pricks.”
“Most of them are gentlemen I’d kinda like to kiss/ they wear boots and blue jeans and treat you like a lady/ Spin you around the dance floor/ hold you tight and call you baby,” she sings.
Elizabeth’s vocals are atypical. No one will accuse her of Celine Dion-style singing but she’s definitely a stylist. Her sound won’t be for everyone but it’s distinctive and attractive after a nonconformist fashion. Posted at her reverbnation.com page is the observation: “You have a Bob Dylan feel” attributed to “Some guy at a bar.” That’s an apt comparison. Dylan’s voice is unmistakable and Elizabeth’s bring no one to mind with similar pipes. She often slurs lyrics to point of being unable to understand them but doesn’t do that with words during regular conversation. It’s less annoying and more mysterious. It’s almost as if she’s singing in a foreign language or some obscure Appalachian dialect. She can definitely turn it on and off for various selections from her songbook.
Check out her “Bare Bones” music video on YouTube for the full-on version. Elizabeth recognizes that listeners tend to either really like or really dislike this kind of highly personal style.
“I sing differently from how most people are doing it,” she said. “I’ve had people tell me it’s kind of weird but in a good way. I love having my own sound.”
Audra Elizabeth is a lovely new voice on the Norman scene.
If You Go
What: Audra Elizabeth in concert as part of Norman Music Festival VI.
When: 9 p.m. April 24
Where: McNellies The Abner Ale House, 121 E. Main St.
Audra Elizabeth performing at April's 2nd Friday Art Walk.