With her debut single “Up In My Ear (La La La),” 21-year-old newcomer Auburn Williams establishes herself as an exciting new talent on the pop music scene. The song is an irresistible slice of urban-pop ear candy that doubles as a sassy empowerment anthem as it dismisses an in-your-face suitor with its irresistible “la la la” refrain.
“It’s about how you’re trying to have a good time and someone gets in your face and starts complaining,” Auburn says. “You have to put your fingers in your ears and say, ‘la la la, I can’t hear you!’ The song has a lot of my personality in it. When I sang it, I felt the irritation. I was really saying ‘Get out of my ear please!’”
The track’s playful vibe is just a taste of what this appealing young singer, songwriter, and rapper has in store for the debut album she’s currently creating in the studio with J.R. Rotem, who has produced multi-platinum hits for Rihanna, Sean Kingston, Jason Derulo, Iyaz, Leona Lewis, Britney Spears, Rick Ross, and others.
“I think there needs to be meaning behind a song,” Auburn says. “Sure there are times when you need to dance and have fun, but, to me, the best songs are those that have a message. If someone’s going through something, whether it’s a situation with a family member, or not having any money, or dealing with a break-up, an inspirational song can help them get through it.”
Auburn was born in Minneapolis to a single mother who raised her and her two older siblings in a no-nonsense household. A straight-A student who graduated from high school a year early, Auburn was a tomboy and self-described “nerd” who remembers being painfully shy as a kid. “My uncle nicknamed me ‘Wednesday,’ after the daughter in The Addams Family, because I was so quiet,” she says with a laugh. Auburn began singing in church and listened to nothing but gospel music as a kid. “BeBe and CeCe Winans, Fred Hammond, and a bit of Whitney Houston, that was about it,” she says. She got behind the mic for the first time at age nine when her cousin J. Isaac, a well-known local singer, invited her to his home studio to see what she could do.
“I started singing and he stopped me and said, ‘I don’t hear you. I don’t feel your emotion,’” Auburn recalls. “And I was like, ‘I’m behind a mic in a room. You can’t see me.’ And he said, ‘That’s the thing, you have to make me see you. Let me see the words. Give me a picture.’ He taught me that you have to feel what you’re singing in order for the person who’s listening to feel it.”
As Auburn turned 13, she continued to work on her songwriting, posting tracks on her MySpace page, and growing her fanbase the grass-roots way. In 2007, Auburn released an independent album called Same Giirl on local St. Paul label FS Music. The album, which blended dance-club hip-hop with deep-reaching R&B, featured production by Naughty By Nature’s Kay Gee and Jer-Z (Lady Gaga, B2K), as well as contributions from her musical cousins, rapper Chellie B and producer/beatmaker Young Bishop. Same Giirl spawned the underground hit “Ewww!!!”, which climbed to No. 6 on DJBooth’s Underground chart.
That same year, Auburn hit the road opening for Keyshia Cole, performing in more than 20 cities and winning over scores of young fans every night. At the end of 2007, Auburn’s management received a phone call from Beluga Heights. Impressed by her singing and rapping, as well as her considerable songwriting talent and relatable, girl-next-door personality, Rotem signed her as the first female artist to Beluga Heights. When the label inked its joint venture with Warner Bros. Records in early 2010, Auburn signed on as well and Rotem has nicknamed her “The Princess of Beluga Heights.” Savvy about using social networking and digital media to connect with music lovers, Auburn has attracted new fans steadily through her YouTube channel and MySpace page, where she posts self-made videos and candid footage of her journey making her debut album. “I’m excited to meet my fans,” Auburn says, “because they’re the ones who helped me get here. I’m looking forward to getting out there even more. It’ll be amazing to perform for all the people who’ve supported me.”