After learning her first chords on her uncle’s guitar as a young girl, local artist Aspen Countryman knew she was destined to be a songwriter.
A University of Georgia senior majoring in advertising and pursuing a music business certificate, Countryman has made her mark on the Athens music scene as an indie pop artist. After debuting a string of singles this year, Countryman released a full EP on April 11 and will host a release party at Eddie’s Attic on April 26.
The EP was about a year in the making, but Countryman’s love for music has been around for much longer.
Countryman, whose stage name is Aspen Anonda, grew up doing musical theater and learning to play instruments. Her early years included many open mic nights and small music festivals, but it wasn’t until she was 14 years old that she realized she could start making money from her music
“That was the first time that anybody ever asked, ‘Oh, how much does she charge?’ And we were like ‘Charge for what?’” Countryman said. “It was such a mind boggling concept.”
From then on, Countryman started looking at being a musician as less of a hobby and more as a career.
Countryman’s songwriting process is an ever changing one, with each song written a little differently than the last. Sometimes it’s just a matter of sitting with her guitar and playing around with chords and lyrics until she lands on something she likes. She also writes when she’s in the car, driving between Athens and her hometown of Canton, singing to herself and recording voice memos to revisit.
Tommy Trautwein, Countryman’s producer, said it was her songwriting skills that made Trautwein excited to collaborate with her.
“I think Aspen is one of the more talented songwriters that I know,” Trautwein said. “Watching her perform, she's very captivating. … Her lyrics are just super, super thought out, and I think she's become such a pro in her songwriting craft.”
Countryman said aside from recording vocals, her favorite part of the musical process is song writing. Even though it’s not until she performs and gauges the audience’s response that she knows the actual artistry of a song, she enjoys the initial magic of finishing something and being in love with it.
Countryman released a new EP entitled “this one is about you” on April 11. Originally, the plan was to only release two songs, but during the COVID-19 lockdown, Countryman decided to continue recording songs with Trautwein for a larger project.
The EP was created over the course of the last year at Trautwein’s house, adding layers to the songs one by one from vocals, to guitar, to drums and to bass.
“It took a good bit of time,” Trautwein said. “But it was good needed time to sit with the songs and decide what we liked and what we didn't, and keep moving forward.”
Countryman said the EP is mainly acoustic-driven but also incorporates pop elements. Trautwein described the instrumentation as alternative pop, but also eclectic because it includes pop, rock and ‘80s inspired sounds.
True to the title, Countryman said each song on the EP is about a specific person or about herself.
“My song ‘Success’ is definitely about my experience being a musician, and not knowing how to define success and always looking for the next best thing, whereas ‘GOLD’ was about somebody that I really, really loved for a time being,” Countryman said.
Countryman said this EP put her in a vulnerable position since the songs tell her true stories. Watching the singles come out was encouraging, she said, because she enjoys seeing people relate their own experiences to her own personal ones.
Countryman’s favorite song on the EP is “closure,” which was released in March. She’s also particularly excited about a song entitled “more than she wants you,” which centers on choosing yourself and your happiness over pleasing other people.
“I brought it in as a ballad,” Countryman said. “I thought it was a sad song, and my producer Tommy was like, ‘Aspen, I think this is a bop.’ He told me how to interpret it and as soon as we added the drums, [it turned] into a really fun song.”
In honor of her admiration for astrology and spirituality, Countryman released each single — and will be releasing her EP — on a new moon. New moons symbolize new beginnings and are known to be prime times to set new goals for the month ahead. The EP’s release party on April 26 will be on the full moon, which symbolizes the height of power and clarity.
Countryman will be graduating from UGA this spring and said her release party will double as a graduation celebration. As for what the future holds for her, she plans on moving back in with her parents to pursue music full time.
“As long as I see any type of growth, no matter how slow it is, I feel very comfortable with just pursuing music for as long as it feels right,” Countryman said. “So that's the game plan.”
Tickets for Countryman’s release show at Eddie’s Attic can be found on her website.