You might think you miss the beach. But you don’t miss the beach like Aubrey Wollett misses the beach.
The St. Petersburg country singer has made beach life a big part of her musical identity, writing an array of surf-centric songs — Saltwater Gypsy, Run to the Water, Better On a Beach, even Sandy Christmas — that romanticize the Gulf Coast lifestyle of sunsets and sand dollars.
“Whenever I’d come in for a co-write, they were like, Here’s the sunshine girl!” she laughed by phone recently. “Anyone who wanted to write their beach or summer song, they were like, Aubrey you’ve got to come over here and write; I need your inspiration as the Florida girl.”
Wollett has toiled behind the scenes in Nashville for some time — she has opened for artists like Tanya Tucker and Wynonna Judd, and sang the original demo for Blake Shelton’s Boys 'Round Here — but moved back home a year and a half ago to develop her sound and style more organically.
That’s been difficult this last couple of months, with most Florida beaches closed due to the pandemic. On Friday, Wollett will release Beach Vibes, the latest single from an upcoming beach-themed EP — but she’s giving the Times an exclusive first listen today. Check it out below.
“I’ve heard a lot of nos in my career, and this is one of those situations where people were like, Man, I don’t think it’s relatable to everyone,” she said of Beach Vibes. “I was like, you know what? This is my thing. This is what I want to say. Nobody’s going to kill my beach vibe. ... It’s a song about not listening to anybody, and being yourself."
Locked down in quarantine, Wollett can’t hit the beach to film a video for Beach Vibes. So she’s crowdsourcing it, asking fans to send clips and photos of them living a beach lifestyle on lockdown. You can email them to email@example.com through midnight May 10.
To celebrate Beach Vibes’ release, we rang up Wollett to ask how beach people get by when there is no beach to get out to. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Do you think Florida should reopen its beaches?
Oh, man. I don’t think all at once. There should be some rules to slowly doing it. I personally think locals are pretty good at, “We’re used to the beaches, so we get accustomed to them.” But when tourists come down here and everyone flocks to them, that’s how craziness starts. I miss the beaches, of course, but I also am a rule follower. I feel like there’s a slow way to do it to make everyone happy.
How did the beach become such a part of your musical identity?
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I grew up in Dunedin, and we would go to Dunedin Causeway after school and park our cars to get sun and skip school and go to the beach. That’s always been a part of my life. And I took it for granted. Moving to Nashville, everyone’s like, Don’t worry, Florida girl, there’s a lake beach. I’m like, Ew! What the heck is this?
(In Nashville) I felt like I was trying to fit into being the Southern country girl, but then I realized I’ve just got to write about what I know, and just be me. A couple of years ago, when I released Saltwater Gypsy, that was my brand. I was like, this is me, and I want everybody to know that. I claim this.
Why did beach songs become their own subgenre of country music?
Everyone wants to vacation to a beach or a tropical place. People listen to that music to remind them of a memory, of when they were vacationing. It’s an escape for people. You can’t listen to a beach song and be sad.
Aside from Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffett, who are the go-to kings and queens of this subgenre?
Jake Owen is an inspiration. He’s a Florida guy. Definitely Zac Brown Band. Sheryl Crow. I’ve always loved her; I think she’s timeless as an artist. Colbie Caillat. I used to listen to her in high school, and I love her acoustic vibe. If I could tour with all of them — oh my God. I could go to heaven.
As a beach expert, what would be your advice for anyone going through severe beach withdrawal right now?
Luckily, I have a pool right now, but if I didn’t, I would definitely be ordering an inflatable pool. If I could not leave my backyard, I would be loading that up every day, chilling. That’s my advice.