Q&A: Aubrey Logan, Postmodern Jukebox

Postmodern Jukebox have won a world of fans with their old-skool approach – human beings singing and playing real instruments. Vocalist Aubrey Logan tells What’s Hot New Zealand why she loves getting to join in, and her delight at getting to visit New Zealand with the band.

You’ve performed with so many artists across a wide range of genres yet you seem to have a particular affinity with Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox – why is that? Postmodern Jukebox is really a family. When you go to a Postmodern Jukebox show, you may or may not see the same people most of the time because the cast is so large and there are different casts in different shows around the world. So for me I really have Scott Bradlee to thank for introducing me to his audience a few years ago when I first met him. And then every time I have been on a tour with them it’s like we’ve developed this little family and so it’s like a reunion. It’s actually been a couple of years since I’ve been on tour with Postmodern Jukebox, this will be like a return for me.

There’s certainly something timeless about swing and jazz, and through YouTube it’s reached a whole new audience – it must be exciting to be part of that? It is. I grew up listening to so many different types of music, and I still do, and jazz obviously is a tradition that will never die but even if it’s rock, even if it’s pop – there are major artists doing electronic music everywhere but there’s just something about a real instrument playing a real song by a real human being that I will never be able to get away from no matter what the genre. So jazz obviously is a big deal because there are elements of improvisation, which requires a human being. There’s nothing like a real drummer rather than a drum machine. And I think people want that, maybe they didn’t know it until they saw Postmodern Jukebox. Real human beings playing instruments – what a concept! It’s not new but it is certainly touching hearts.

What are your favourites among the places you’ve perform with Postmodern Jukebox? When we’ve been in Europe we’ve loved playing London, the Hammersmith, and then in LA I’ve got the opportunity to play the Greek Theatre with them, which was really memorable. And then my first ever appearance at Radio City Music Hall was with Postmodern Jukebox. I had pneumonia that night. I didn’t know it and I did the show, I did my song and then I collapsed off-stage afterwards. I got backstage and I fell down, and the whole Postmodern Jukebox cast were helping me. I got through the show – there’s those moments you’ll never forget.

Like so many you headed to LA for fame and fortune and unlike so many you made a career there for yourself – just how hard was that? You know, it’s still hard but the difference now is that I expect it to be. I wrote my album Where the Sunshine Is Expensive about that journey. The truth is, it’s an illusion that everything is peachy here, that everything is nice and wonderful, and especially becoming an artist in the public eye it’s an illusion that everything is so great. Really, it is hard and you fail 10 times and you succeed once if that, and that’s more normal than people realise. Although people are starting to realise, and that’s what I wrote about, not in a dark way but in a hopeful way. But there’s obviously some dark moments before the sun shines.

Tell us about your first gig in LA. I think it was at Room 5. It’s on Route 66, actually Nat King Cole played there back in the day. And for my very first show I got a band together and we played for like 10 people up in this room. And then we played again and there were 30 people the next time. And then we played again and there were like 75 people. And that’s just how it worked, you know – I probably paid people to come the first time. And then they liked it enough to bring two of their friends the next time and then two more the next time. That’s the reality of it. But thankfully people did come back and they came back with an army. And that’s why I have a career.

And now you love the place? What exactly? I think it’s the empathy I have for all the other artists around here and the empathy that they truly have for me. You hear about people being fake and people being disingenuous around here, which it looks like from the outside because really, everyone is trying to be an actor, be famous or whatever, and these are such fleeting dreams, such volatile dreams, and truly once you get it are you even happy? But I have really learned there’s a better way. You can enjoy your life and make beautiful art and whoever likes it joins you. There’s a surrendered way and I really think a lot of people in LA, even if on the outside you might find them silly or overly glamorous or too fake, on the inside they are real. And I’ve grown to love my peers in that way, in a way I didn’t quite before I had dealt with the heartbreak that this town can really bring.

Will this be your first visit to New Zealand? It sure will be, I cannot wait. I’m really looking forward to seeing the natural beauty everywhere I go. I was born and raised in Seattle and there’s a lot of mountains and greenery and lush nature and I know that that’s what New Zealand is known for. So in a way I feel it’s going to make me feel a little bit like home. And I’m going to go visit the Shire, I’m going to go to Hobbiton. I’m about the height of a hobbit so it’ll be perfect.

What do you hope punters will take away from your performances? I think they’re just going to like the variety of the people that are in this particular cast. There’s going to be Robyn Adele Anderson, me, Casey Abrams, Hannah Gill. Every different singer in Postmodern Jukebox seems to have some superpower, their own little thing, and they’re going to enjoy that. And I’m going to enjoy them because gosh, we dress up in Postmodern Jukebox but let me tell you the fans dress up better than us. We feel like, oh man, we gotta step up our game. I’ve slowly pulled Postmodern Jukebox into the 60s myself but they’ve got the 20s down – they got the feathers, the sequins, the gowns.

What’s one item from your wardrobe that you can’t leave behind when you are on tour? I have a leather jacket with a bunch of fringe on it and I cannot leave the house without that leather jacket, I cannot.

What album/song do you have on high rotation at the moment? Today I listened to Missy Elliott and I listened to Frank Sinatra, so if that helps people narrow down my musical taste …

Finally, what are you most looking forward to about getting back home? I really like cooking. I like cooking for myself and I like cooking for my husband, and it’s the first thing I do when I get home, for sure.

And your go-to dish? Rib-eyes on the grill – simple but perfect, simple but perfect.

Postmodern Jukebox

October 11 – Addison Theatre, Tauranga

October 12 – Great Hall, Auckland

October 13 – Claudelands Arena, Hamilton

October 15 – Municipal Theatre, Napier

October 16 – The Regent, Palmerston North

October 18 – Opera House, Wellington

October 19 – Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

October 20 – Regent Theatre, Dunedin