Aimee Bobruk lives in a snug pocket of sounds and artifacts, where dry roses hang from the ceiling and watercolors from strangers cover the walls. The buzz of brewing coffee follows the rhythm of raindrops falling outside, becoming the soundtrack to our conversation. I quickly learn that both Bobruk’s music and personality are reflected in the warmth of her home. The singer-songwriter attempts to stick to the subject of her upcoming album, /ba.’brook/ (to be released Jan. 29), but her words inevitably travel, in between soft “ums” and “uhs”, from lyrics to literature to film and everything in between.
“If the opening frame of a movie shows boots kicking out dust and it zooms up, it’s a different story than if the movie were opening with a landscape,” she says. “So I think, ‘What am I showing in the lyrics? Where is my camera?’ Because you’re leading the listener by manipulating what you show.”
Bobruk constantly thinks in terms of images. Her lyrics tend to originate as clear pictures that form in her mind and are carefully put together like movie clips. The Huntsville, Texas, native moved to Austin in 2001 from North Carolina, where she attended acting school before turning back to her first love of music. Even though she hasn’t returned to acting, her passion for imagery and film will never die. Instead, she has found a way to merge her passions.
“From the time I was 11 to 19, I spent a lot of time on stages,” says Bobruk. “And when you study your character, you think of objectives, your motives. And you’re forced to create a story around it. A story everyone else doesn’t need to know, but the actor knows. And I use that a lot in my writing.”
Through the years, Bobruk has learned to treat songwriting like brushing her teeth: an everyday discipline, a must-do. For her, it’s not about waiting for inspiration to hit. Writing songs is her job, and for /ba.’brook/, she found the perfect match in co-producer Brian Beattie, someone who pushed her creatively but also encouraged her to polish her work.
“Brian’s quirky, and I’m more theatrical, so we made a good fit,” says Bobruk. “My overall goal was to make a full-length album that I felt would represent everything that I heard happening around me, which Brian and I talked a lot about doing. I feel like I’ve always had a really active imagination, which is another reason why I think Beattie was a good match, because he’s very lighthearted and playful, too.”
“Playful” is a good word to describe /ba.’brook/. First, because the range of sounds and arrangements is broad and mischievous. Second, because the stories in Bobruk’s songs aren’t just love song after love song. They all speak of widely different characters, different images and play with different attitudes. “I write a blend of what happens, what I wish would happen or what I regretted didn’t happen. Or I write a fantasy,” she says with a small smile. “Each song was produced like they were independent of each other. For example, ‘Secret’ is a very intimate, sexy, sultry, open seven-chords kinda song that lingers with padded vocals. And ‘Trigger Finger’ is electric with distorted horns, a murder/love song.”
But the actual creation of the album was also playful, consisting of team work and word games. “About 90 percent of the record came from a songwriting game,” says Bobruk. “We had phrases we were forced to include in the song somewhere. ‘Two of A Kind’ had the phrase ‘pretty pair’ and that’s how the whole song started.”
Bobruk loves to toy with words and literature. Many of her songs were inspired by her favorite stories. “Desert Bloom” was inspired by the Carson McCullers story A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud. “Shores Of Gold” was triggered by The Oddysey. “From childhood, I always loved fables and fairy tales. I like Hemingway, and I love Kafka and Camus. I love Gabriel García Márquez, his fantastical mood and circles and spirals, where you don’t know what’s real and what’s not.”
I can definitely see the Márquez in her, even in a single conversation. Bobruk’s dreamy and soft, constantly giving just a short curl of the lip when she’s happy to share something. She speaks of her music and the upcoming album with pride and a sense of protectiveness. She says she still has a lot to do; she wants to grow bigger, travel, get her name out there. She’s touring the East Coast and Canada through February, and playing the International Folk Alliance Festival. She still wishes to write songs about her upbringing in Huntsville. She’s going to Denmark, where she’s played in the past, to teach songwriting workshops. But most of all, Bobruk says she just wants to keep making music.
“I remember shows that have floored me,” she says. “I know that feeling of being touched by music, music that brought back memories, or triggered some sort of catharsis, and that’s really lovely. So when people are touched by what I do, when I get a random email or a letter—it’s what makes you keep going on a rainy day.”