Music

Kelly Augustine Sheds 'Light in the Lowlands' (album stream) (premiere + interview)

Photo: Scott McCormick

Inspired by her own tales of suffering and salvation, Kelly Augustine meshes her rootsy soul with folk authenticity on her debut album, Light in the Lowlands.

On April 5, Kelly Augustine will release her full-length debut, Light in the Lowlands. Aptly titled, the folk and Americana singer-songwriter's first collection of studio cuts deals with stories of darkness and salvation in equal parts. "The essential human story involves pain and suffering, but it also involves beauty, hope and redemption," Augustine previously stated. "It's my aim,as a songwriter, to shed light on all of it."

With as many layers and textures as the troubadour's stories bring to the table, Augustine brings just as much variation to the music itself. Effortlessly navigating the resonant, crystalline warmth that emanates through her voice, she expertly narrates these tales. Light in the Lowlands presents a classic American roots sound, featuring the empathy of her folk origins as they stretch across an overarching blanket of country, blues, and folk.

All of the above speaks well to Augustine's roots as an individual. Growing up in a small Oklahoma town, Augustine has seen the harshest tales of poverty on one hand and the greatest stories of preservation and reclamation beside them. She lends her honest life story to each of the songs she weaves with that rare sense of effortless authenticity .

Having exclusively premiered the LP with PopMatters, Light in the Lowlands can be heard ahead of its release below. It is also currently available for pre-order via Amazon.

You left a career in medicine to tell stories and reach people via your songs and your music. Was it an easy transition to make and how did you come to the realization that you wanted to make music instead?

I really enjoyed working in medicine but had been growing restless in the job. It's funny because, throughout my career in medicine, I thought of myself as a songwriter and musician. There was a huge disconnect in how I saw myself and who I actually was. One day, I had some mental chatter going on, "How is it you think you're a songwriter? You're not even writing songs! Wanting to be a songwriter doesn't make you one." That made me mad and lit a fire under me. Writers write. I wasn't writing. I knew I needed to make a change. The transition at that point was easy. It was the getting there that took some time.

What do you think the big themes of the album are? What is the most important thing, to you, that your listeners take away from hearing the album?

Loneliness. Suffering - both as a result of our own actions and by no fault of our own. Resilience. Hope. I'm telling stories about people fighting personal demons, and I'm trying to go a step further and detail the "why" of the struggle. I want people to walk away from hearing this album more curious about the backstories of the people around them. We are all the way we are for a reason. We don't choose to be drug addicts or stay in abusive relationships because we want to live that way. It's something that happens out of our brokenness. And we can help each other through that, but we have to get out of own way in order to do it. Quit being judgmental, quit writing each other off and being dismissive. Listen to each other and be willing to care. That's really hard work. It doesn't come naturally.

How would you describe this album and your sound to someone who hasn't heard it before?

Oh! It's folkousti-poppa-countri-cana. That's a pretty perfect description of it. A smorgasbord of sounds and flavors. The record kicks off with a sassy countri-cana number into a sweet little folkousti-poppa ukulele tune. Seriously though, there's a little something for everyone. There's some laughin' and cryin' fiddle and some electric guitar you'll want to play over and over. It weaves in and out of genres while keeping the sounds rootsy and organic.

You're a great lyricist. What is your favorite lyric line on the album?

Thank you! I'm going to have to say, "the bough breaks, down the cradle falls". It refers to the loss of innocence that comes with a trauma. We all experience that loss of innocence at some point in our lives, some of us in more extreme and wounding ways than others. It's something we can all relate to.

Pick three tracks on the album that you particularly love, and tell us why they really resonate for you and what you like best about them.

"Hurt Too Big" is very, very special to me. Of all the writing on the record, I am probably most proud of this one. The wounding that some of our veterans carry is profound. I have always been grieved by it. There are things that happen to us in this life that we can't control, and things we do that we can't undo. My prayer is that people who are carrying heavy burdens of guilt and shame, who can't forgive themselves for things they've done, will know that they are deeply and wholly loved by God, will find a way to forgive themselves, and will find freedom.

"Second Chances" is based on one of the sweetest, most inspiring stories I've ever been told. I know the people that lived this story, and so it means a lot me. One of my former patients lost his "one true love", because he was an abusive alcoholic so she left him. Years later, he got sober, went to find her, and won her back. It's a story of forgiveness and unwavering love. It's a story that proves that real love doesn't quit and it doesn't back down. I love stories like this.

"Can't Get Enough" explores the tension between desire and what goes into a healthy relationship - needs vs. wants. In this song her lover is all-consuming to her. She can't go about any part of her day without thinking of him. Does that make her a head case or a fully committed lover? Is it good? Is it bad? I really like the questions it raises because they are questions we deal with in everyday relationships.

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