CULTED SOUNDS: CARISS AUBURN TALKS CREATIVE INFLUENCES, PRODUCING ON GARAGEBAND & HER DREAM PROJECT
Cariss Auburn is ushering R&B into today’s age – by flouting and manipulating the rules of genres to her own sound. Blending elements of electronica with soul and pop, Cariss is crafting a pop revolution. Her signature funky vocals are infused with energy and vibrancy, resulting in sultry tracks that feel like a refreshing dip on a summer’s day.
Growing up in Wolverhampton, the creative has singer-songwriter, producer and guitarist as accolades, and is set to change the game with her confessional, emotive and conversational lyrical flow. We caught up with her after her first London headline gig to talk all things music, influences and her dream future project.
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Hey Cariss! Let’s start at the beginning – how did you get into music?
Heyy! Music has always been a big part of my life through my family – gatherings, staying at my grandparents over the summer, my mum playing Luther Vandross or rinsing Mary J Blige’s No More Drama album. Then I had the chance to learn how to play the cello and was that extracurricular kid at school who was in every single orchestra and singing group.
When was the moment you decided to make it a career?
I was teaching myself how to produce songs and went from Fruity Loops to GarageBand when I saved up for an old Mac. I made this song called ‘Unphased’ and put it on Soundcloud. My friends liked it so I uploaded it to BBC Introducing and it got played nationally on the Mark Forrest show. Then I thought – hang on lol.
A tough one now… what’s the piece of work you’re most proud of, and why?
I think it has to be Daydream. I wrote it in peak pandemic isolation wanting to escape everything and it resonated with so many people, it’s been mad to experience. I remember I produced four bars of the chorus and had no second verse before I ran for my train to London to work with the producer Iziah Yarde. We got the whole song done in 4 hours then Chrio Blake added these unreal guitar riffs. Lovely lovely people have reached out and messaged me or commented on the music video and that means everything to see it be a holiday for people like I wanted for myself. Dr Martens have just featured it as part of their Tough As You initiative, it’s a bit surreal and I’m super grateful.
How did growing up in Wolves influence your sound and career?
I went to the same school as Beverley Knight and she visited to watch a school play, I remember being so starstruck, like Beverley Knight is right there, ‘hello’. I was too shy to go over to her but it’s been amazing having someone like Beverley from my hometown as an inspiration. Places like Newhampton Arts Centre and WCR fm were really supportive starting out and gave me the opportunity to figure out what I wanted to do as an artist. Also I personally think you can hear bits of my accent in my music but I’ve been told I sound like I’m from the south because of my family, sorry to Wulfrunians!
Can you guide us through your creative process?
It does change but it always starts from something I’m experiencing at that time. Writing is cathartic to me so I’m getting my emotions out like a diary entry. Then I’ll either sit at my keyboard, laptop or guitar and start playing around with some simple chords to create melodies to. The nicest thing is when a fully formed idea just falls from the sky into your brain and everything writes itself but I’ve also been on version 27 of a chorus and had to step away for weeks. Then I’ll sketch a production demo on Logic and usually work with a producer but sometimes, like with ‘Fantasy’ produced by Eddie Serafica, I’ve gone in with not a single note in my head and it’s turned out a treat.
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What’s a dream project you need to make happen in the next five years?
World tour! I’d love to travel with my music, that is the ultimate dream. I’m a nerd for seeing where people are listening to my music. I saw that Japan, Mexico and the Netherlands are in my top 10 countries on Spotify. It’s so cool to me. I hit 1k Shazams in the US recently too, spinning. And let’s say one unreal collab, Rina Sawayama? We’re speaking it into existence.
Congrats on your recent show in Notting Hill! What was the highlight of the night for you?
Ah ta! It was my first London headline and it was seriously a dream, there was so much love in the room. I really can’t choose but running on stage to my track ‘Float’ to all these cheers and the lights doing all this dramatic stuff (thank you Neil Bowerman) was amazing. That and people helping me sing a couple songs with me on guitar was a really special moment.
Who are some of your creative influences – whether that’s musical or otherwise?
I just really love artists doing their own thing with no consideration of any genre people have attempted to define them by. Icons like FKA Twigs, Denai Moore, Rina Sawayama, Bree Runway, I always try to channel that sense of freedom. As a black woman creating cross-genre music I also really appreciated Rachel Chinouriri’s recent open letter. It’s tiring to see how impossible it is for some to process black women creating whatever music they want but it’s our reality. Otherwise 80s music is a bit of me, you can hear that through a lot of my music, Evelyn Champagne-King, Sister Sledge, Alexander O’Neal, literally turn it up.
Lastly, name five tracks you’re loving right now and why?
Se So Neon – joke!
This in the car >>>>>>>
Jackie Moonbather – Altitude Era.
Jackie produced my track ‘Oblivion’, I remember hearing his song and sprinting to Instagram messages to ask to work together. I love his stuff. This is from his latest EP I am floating on a cloud right now.
Charli XCX – Baby Fun.
This is pop perfection and I can’t wait to see her live.
Kelela – Rewind.
When the new album drops so will the new me but this is a timeless banger.
Cariss Auburn – Milestones.
It’s my latest song and I’m shouting about it. I really love this track, I was venting about these expectations for life that we grow up with as the only markers for success or happiness. It’s good to get things off your chest at a loud volume.