She’s plucking at guitar strings and bowing violin melodies into the air. She’s a self-proclaimed over-thinker. She’s never without her morning cup of joe. She’s strolling down the oldest streets she’s ever lived amongst.
Words By Camille Smith Photos By Ashley Haguewood
Aisha’s voice is steady and serene over what seems to be a pensive mind. Born in San Antonio, she moved to Austin in 2005 and was an active player in the music scene for ten years. She’s recently migrated to Massachusetts, and now splits her time between a small town north of Boston and the live music capital of the world.
“I’m continually amazed at the number of musical worlds that exist in Austin,” she says. “The city has so many spaces for bands to play and is home to such a vast number of musicians who’ve formed numerous tight-knit communities. I felt like people around me were constantly working on new projects or honing their live shows. It was so inspiring and exciting. It took leaving to realize how truly special and rare that is.”
With great affection for the city, she admits to feeling unfocused in the months preceding her move. “It’s easy to get distracted with all that’s going on,” she said. “So I decided to pluck myself out of it for a while and move to a place where the pace is a bit slower.” She’s taking advantage of her new-found stillness to focus on her second album, which she plans to record in Austin.
Aisha began playing violin at the age of ten. “It’s the instrument I know most thoroughly, and for a long time it was where I was most comfortable,” she adds. While studying journalism at the University of Texas, a classmate approached her about a band in need of a violinist. She grappled with the idea for a while, wanting to make a break from her previous incarnation. “I’d been playing violin since I was 10 and had spent so much time and energy being an orchestra kid…I think I was enticed by the idea of going to college and becoming someone new, apart from music, apart from violin.”
Nevertheless, she was intrigued, albeit a little apprehensive. “I didn’t know the first thing about writing music,” she said, “especially for a folk band. But I’d dreamed in high school about composing someday, and I’d made up little songs on my own, so I decided to check it out.” The group was Alex Dupree and the Trapdoor Band (now IDYL), and after one show, Aisha joined the ensemble. Through playing with Dupree, she met Rob Lowe, a founding member of the band Balmorhea, and went on to record several albums with the group.
After returning to her stringed roots, she began experimenting with her vocal abilities–always “singing in secret,” until a group of friends convinced her to take a turn at a house show. If at first she was nervous, eventually she became excited to share her songs and sing in front of people. “They tricked me into doing that,” she laughs.
On her debut solo album, Life in the Midwater, Aisha wrote and performed vocals, guitar, violin and viola, with Travis Chapman of Balmorhea on bass. The album plays as an ethereal daydream that meanders into shadowy territory. “When I’m writing, it’s about something I’m trying to process. It’s all really personal,” Aisha says.
“These songs were written when everything felt like it was in flux. [There are] songs about heartbreak, sorting out my old ideas of spirituality and coming to terms with those ideas shifting, and my mother, who passed away from breast cancer.” When asked about the origin of the album’s title, Aisha recounts a passage she read about bioluminescent fish. “They create these brilliant lights that shine through their bodies, but predators are sitting and watching for something to happen to cause the fish to illuminate so they can capture their prey. The author described the fish as being paralyzed with fear.”
Aisha is no fish. Regarding her goals for the future, she prefers to think in small steps. “Right now, my hope is to make a record that I’m really proud of and tour to support it.” So while she’s no fish, she’s no shark either. Aisha is humble and doesn’t appear to be interested in fame and fortune. She isn’t running toward the bright lights of late night, she simply wants to create something meaningful. In her own words, she wholly desires to, “make music, share it, and build a life out of that”. Look out for Aisha performing live this spring, and in the meantime, you can listen to some of her dreamy work at aishaburns.com.