Autumn Boukadakis returns to The Auslander this weekend for a rare appearance in Fredericksburg. The classically-trained singer-songwriter has just released her second CD - Velvet Sky. Photo by Phil Houseal
by Phil Houseal
As a very young child, Autumn Boukadakis begged her parents to let her take piano lessons. Unlike most of us who never made it past Suzuki I, Autumn stuck with her lessons and received her degree in Classical Piano from the University of Texas. But rather than playing Brahms and Beethoven, Autumn was more influenced by the Dylan and Creedence tunes her dad played as she was growing up.
I discovered Autumn last fall while she was performing at the Auslander. With no preconception of what to expect, I was instantly drawn to her original style of singing and playing. She classifies it as folk/Americana, incorporating bits of gospel, rock, and country ballad.
The first thing I wanted to know was whether her classical training was a help or hindrance. It may seem a question with an obvious answer, but I've often envied the spirited performances of musicians uninhibited by music theory and formal training.
Her answer? Both.
"Classical training enabled me to really play technically challenging material, and I consistently try to apply that training in my own songwriting," she said. "But I have found that it may have hindered my improvisation skills. I am much more comfortable reading music, but improvising on stage is thrilling. It is just two completely different ways of playing music, and sometimes I lean on one more than the other."
It has not hindered her songwriting ability, as Autumn has just released her second CD - Velvet Sky, a professionally-produced work which has been described as a love letter to life.
"I was as truthful as I could possibly be," she explained. "A lot of reflection, a lot of sincerity, and plenty of musicality. The new album is more mature, classic, and a giant leap into a more focused folk/Americana category."
Back to that "category" thing. Reviewers are always trying to pigeonhole a performer's sound, while performers squirm just as hard to avoid labels.
"I don't really compare myself to other artists, I just don't," she said. "Otherwise I would go crazy trying to live up to some vision of what is normal or right. Besides, calling myself folk/Americana 'with lots of room' sounds like a Starbucks order."
Fans can figure that all out for themselves, as Autumn returns to The Auslander this Friday for a rare Fredericksburg appearance. Those performances may become less rare, as the Oklahoma native is growing to love this Texas town.
"Out of all the cities in this fine country, Fredericksburg has been the most supportive," she noted. "I love the Auslander, I love KFAN, I love the hot tub at the Fredericksburg Inn. I sincerely love Fredericksburg; I intend to live there someday. The people are kind and they appreciate songwriters. Fredericksburg feels like family to me."
Autumn already has a friendly suggestion for her new Fredericksburg family.
"Get off the couch and come watch some live music," she said. "There is nothing that compares to sitting in a Biergarten, drinking Chimay, watching a live performance. Plus, Ray Rodriguez (Mystiquero) will be sitting in with us. And he is hot!"