Alumni Profile: Aubrey Logan ’10

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It’s a dream to possess a deep musical talent that traverses multiple styles and abilities. For Aubrey Logan ’10, being a top-notch vocalist and performer, virtuosic jazz trombonist, and gifted pop songwriter affords her many angles in diverse musical work. But that package became hard to maneuver as she sought to define her brand as an artist.

“Learning music is fun and a challenge with a measurable outcome, but the music industry kicked my butt and continues to do so,” Logan said during a phone call from London where her artist career is now lifting off. “People in L.A. said there was no marketing box for me,” she shares, “no record label wanted to sign me. I thought that talent and skill were enough to get a person noticed, but they aren’t. Everyone has to make their own path in the music industry and mine is turning out to be that of an independent artist.”

For Logan, music is music and style and genre shouldn’t be fences. Growing up in Snohomish, WA, the only child of two music teachers with eclectic tastes, the soundtrack at the Logan household often featured Stevie Wonder, Beethoven, Karen Carpenter, Céline Dion, and Ella Fitzgerald tracks playing back-to-back. At the time, Logan was also singing at her church, acting in musicals, and frequently sang the National Anthem a cappella at Seattle Mariners baseball games.

As a teen, she took up the trombone. “My dad brought home a bunch of instruments from the school,” she recalls. “I could make a sound on the trombone and I picked it so that I could be in the jazz band. After I started playing jazz, I started singing jazz.” When it came time to attend college, Logan knew she’d major in music.

“I applied only to Berklee and was offered a full scholarship,” she says. “I had researched Juilliard, the New School, and Boston Conservatory, but after being invited to participate at a five-week jazz workshop with Terri Lyne Carrington when I was 17, Berklee was an easy choice.”

During her Berklee years, she pursued avenues as a vocalist and trombonist, but declared trombone performance as her major. Professor Phil Wilson was among her mentors. “I took private lessons with him and we would just jam,” Logan recalls. “I learned from him by osmosis. He’d put on a recording—something hard like ‘Giant Steps’ or ‘Stablemates’—and say, ‘Play babe.’ I’d struggle through the changes as he sat in what he called his judgment seat. He’d laugh, pick up his horn and say, ‘This is what you meant to play.’”

After graduating, Logan married fellow alumnus Chris Knight ’09 and they remained in Boston until 2012 when they moved to Los Angeles. There, Logan started building her career and gained encouragement and validation from key sources. “I was fortunate to have people who believed in me like Patrice Rushen, Pat Boone, and Solomon Burke before he passed away,” Logan says. She recorded material in a hip, hybrid jazz-pop style with vocals and trombone solos that was a curious mix to some people’s ears. But she met a kindred spirit in pianist-arranger Scott Bradlee and began working with his band Postmodern Jukebox. He spotlighted Logan’s multi-octave vocalizing and trombone solos in a number of PMJ’s viral videos of cross-generational mashups.

“Scott is a genius,” Logan says. “He takes current pop songs and makes them swing in a kitschy way. He’s putting real instruments on songs that were originally mostly electronically programmed. He’s expanding the minds of the audience and making it easier for people like me to do what I do.”

Gaining traction, Logan signed with a manager, undertook a successful PledgeMusic campaign, and she began making her debut record in earnest. “I picked my favorites from a pool of songs that I had written for the album,” she says. “But I felt I was missing something fun and decided to try cowriting with a few people.” “Crying on the Airplane,” cowritten with David Yaden, is a reflection on saying goodbye at an airport with a cool retro Motown feel. Logan tapped Pam Sheyne (who wrote Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle”) for the album’s lead single, “Pistol.” Logan sings it in a sassy pop style and overdubbed concerted brass jabs and a short solo on her trombone. Covers include a swing version of M.C. Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This,” a melancholic duet with Casey Abrams on “California Dreamin’,” and a rendition of “Habanera” by George Bizet with a trombone solo and ostinato underpinning Logan’s vocals in French and soaring operatic tessitura at the coda.

On the album’s extraordinary ballads, Logan’s vocals run the gamut from soft vulnerable sighs to power-pop belting to gospel and torch-style singing. “If I sit down to write a song, it’s probably going to be a ballad,” she shares. The album’s inspirational title track “Impossible” summarizes Logan’s attitude about facing the headwinds she’s encountered serving up her blend of jazz and pop and trombone and singing in the current industry climate. “It looks impossible, so I must be onto something. They think I’m crazy ’cause right now it’s all or nothing,” she sings from deep in her heart.

A growing and enthusiastic fan base in Europe and her embrace by BBC Radio ratifies her conviction. In advance of the release Impossible this summer, Logan did a series of her own shows in the United Kingdom before continuing across Europe in the spring with PMJ. “The audience is a little less compartmentalized over here,” she says. “I’ve been really well received.”

As for navigating the landscape of today’s industry, Logan is sorting things out. “It’s a single-track culture now,” she says. “So if people only want my songs that swing, great. If they aren’t into that, they can buy the other ones. There is a challenge with the way the industry is now, but people of my generation are trailblazers. We grew up in the Internet age listening to everything that was available. Use the problems to your advantage. That’s what I’ve learned to do.”