Aubrey, firstly thanks for agreeing for Radio Rivendell to interview you! It is a great honour.
A: Thank you!
You immersed yourself in music and the arts from a young age. What made you decide to pursue a career in becoming a singer/songwriter?
A: I’d always pictured myself having a career on Broadway belting out songs, but I got to a point where I wanted to be more than just a singer; I wanted to write too. It was an arduous task teaching myself guitar at age 22 but it got me going. Once I started working with producer Jerry Merrill, who guided me in my songwriting, I was off and running.
You have many fans who know you from soundtracks to Devil May Cry (Capcom), Lord of the Rings (EA), Dragon Age (BioWare EA), and more recently Alice in Wonderland (Disney). How did you get the inspiration for the songs you performed and wrote for these games?
A: Just to be clear, in addition to performing on the titles you mentioned above, I am credited as a songwriter on DMC 4 and Dragon Age. Typically, I find a concept that I can relate to, inspiring. For the opening song on DMC 4, I was told very little about the game's storyline so I had to really use my imagination in writing lyrics that would paint a vivid picture. Composer Tetsuya Shibata asked me to use religiously charged words and to write a love song about purity, not literal love:
Listen to my voice calling you,
Pulling you out of darkness,
Hear the devil’s cry of sin,
Always turn your back on him
Dragon Age, on the other hand, evolved more slowly. I was given the opportunity to write a song for the end title track with composer Inon Zur. He told me at the time that the game was extremely dark and the hero’s/heroine’s path was almost impossible to pave. So I sat in my studio one morning, imagining myself up against pure evil and destruction and a melody started to appear along with this lyrical idea:
The winds of change, force an order upon me
And fate is rolling in, without any sympathy
And would you believe that ten minutes later there was a 5.4 earthquake that sent me running out of my house? I was terrified because I almost felt like I summoned the quake! Moving on, I took the song to Inon and he helped me re-work the chorus and work up an arrangement and produce it as a pop ballad. From there, the game producer decided he wanted the song to remain a fabric of the story so I had to re-write it in Elvin and Inon re-produced it within an orchestral landscape. “I Am The One” later went on to win Best Original Song ~ Video Game at the 2009 Hollywood Music in Media Awards, as well as receiving other nominations.
Are there any particular projects that excited you more than others?
A: I’m usually excited the moment I’m called for a project. I feel privileged to work as a singer and creator and to work with talented composers. I have to say that each project has taken me to a new height and challenged me in ways that have added to my abilities. Although winning for best song was a pretty big moment for me!
Reading your biography, it is clear that at times you had to fight to achieve your dream. What gave you your determination?
A: It’s certainly been an uphill climb, though I think the biggest obstacle has been me. I’ve really struggled to keep my mind on track over the years and maintain that belief in myself, but my friends will tell you that I’m a risk taker and that’s really the truth. I’ve made some bold decisions that have opened the door for me and I continue to find myself in situations where I’ve said, “yes, I can do this," without knowing for sure if I’ll be able to pull it off. The pressure alone gives me the drive to pull through.
Your performance on the track “Elvin Morning” from The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth II received a nomination for Best Original Vocal – Choral, at the 2007 Game Audio Network Guild Awards. How did you feel when you received the news ?
A: I felt proud. It was a big moment for me because at the time I was so new to games and the fact that my peers recognized my debut performances, meant a lot to me. It definitely fueled my passion for performing on game soundtracks.
You co-wrote music, lyrics and performed vocals for the High Fantasy and Dark Fantasy versions of the Elvish ballad “I Am The One” from Dragon Age: Origins. What was it like working with Inon Zur?
A: Working with Inon has been an intensely real and rewarding experience. He is a powerhouse of talent and ever so prolific. I don’t know really how I manage to bring my talent to the table without being crumpled with intimidation. I would say that it’s due to the fact that Inon is such a risk taker himself and he allows creative room for the people he’s working with.
I bet you celebrated when “I Am The One” reached #1 on the Amazon UK MP3 Soundtracks Chart in December 2009!
A: Absolutely! That was a showstopper. I didn’t think things could get any better than the experience of working on the game and creating music I actually like to listen too. The fact that it had a remarkable impact on the audience was the cherry on top.
Are you a gamer? If so, what sort of games do you enjoy playing?
A: I don’t consider myself a gamer, although I do enjoy playing Little Big Planet with my daughter. It’s a great game and I love the songs in-game! I also play Flower when I need to get in touch with the elements. Oh, and of course there’s Guitar Hero and Rock Band!
Are there any songwriters or artists that influenced you?
A: Without a doubt, I really enjoy Sarah McLaughlin’s [Sarah McLachlan] songwriting style and her voice. I think she’s an amazing performer as well; She's able to keep that emotional connection no matter what she’s doing. I’m also a huge fan of Sting and Peter Gabriel, need I say more about them. Others that have influenced me vocally and as a songwriter include Sade, Annie Lennox, Shawn Colvin, Jewel, Alanis Morissette and Paula Cole.
What was it like performing the songs of Dragon Age: Origins in concert during “A Night in Fantasia” at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in Australia with The Eminence Symphony Orchestra?
A: What a thrill it was. It’s night and day to recording in the studio. The staging and the love of the fans blew me away. It was a bit stressful having only one rehearsal with the orchestra the day before, but somehow it all came together and the synergy that evening was palatable.
Who are the artists you listen to when you’re not busy creating? Which CD gets the most plays at the moment?
A: What I listen to really depends on what I need. If I’m painting I listen to movie soundtracks (Gladiator, Braveheart, The Piano, Last of the Mohicans) or Gypsy Kings and The Cranberries. I’m always in the mood for Sting and some old Police songs!
We understand if you’re not allowed to tell us, but do you have any projects in the pipeline for us to look out for?
A: Yes, there are a number of projects that I’m unable to speak about at this time. They are all games that will be releasing end of this year and on into next year. Stay tuned to my website www.aubreyashburn.com for updates.
Finally, if you could be a character in any fantasy or science fiction setting, what would you be, and why?
A: I would want to be Trinity from The Matrix. I just think she’s the coolest heroine out there. She’s bold and brave, yet intuitive and down-to-earth. Carrie-Ann Moss really did a phenomenal job portraying her. She is Trinity.
Official Webpage: www.aubreyashburn.com