"One of most satisfying co-writing experiences has been in San Quentin prison doing workshops with the inmates," Auld explains. "I love creating songs out of their writing. I'll give them the title and toss it in the air. It's very much taking 15 men's words and creating songs out of them. Then I'm the editor in that situation.'
It's a little different to when country star Merle Haggard spent his 21st birthday behind bars in San Quentin when the late Johnny Cash did a prison concert. Auld wrote Bread And Roses for new album Come Find Me about her prison writing sojourns and donated proceeds to the Bread And Roses rehab organisation.
The karma worked. Dale Jett - a member of the famous Carter Family clan that produced Cash's wife June Carter - also performs two other Auld songs. "A P Carter's grandson Dale Jett performing one of my songs Down In A Hole in his live show," Auld reveals.
Auld doesn't shy away from co-writing when approached but prefers to choose writers she knows. "A lot of people come to Nashville to co-write," Auld says. "They sit down and write a song. I like writing alone, going along on inspiration. A lot of people want to get rich out of writing songs but that's not my motivation - I don't pursue it. I tune into what the muse is sending through. I felt that on the Orphan Song (about Louisiana orphan singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier) when Terry McArthur showed me the lyrics. It came to me immediately as a complete song, came to me very easily. Obviously I can write very easily with Bill Chambers - it's obviously a very trusting thing."
Auld and American plumber husband Mez Mezera also collaborated on Just Love. "He sent me a romantic email one Valentine's Day," Auld confesses. "I ripped it off and that became the first verse. There was too much of him in there not to get a co-write." The couple definitely need the money - they have 15 mouths to feed. "We have two dogs and 11 chooks that Anne McCue feeds when we're away," Auld elaborates of the expat Sydney guitarist who sings on her new album.
Auld also honours her home state on her album in the songs Tasmania and Tree. "I'll be home for my Dad's 80th birthday at the end of April," Auld adds. "We always had music in the house and very little TV. When I wrote Tasmania my mum was going though some medical issues. I felt a long way away in east Nashville and wished I was with her."
Auld won't have that problem on this Australian tour that includes Tasmanian concerts. But she was coy about being asked when she wrote Forty about hitting the big 40. "Funny question Dave, oh really, you'll have to come and look at me," Auld jokes. "That song will keep me forever young - you can write me the '70' verse," she laughs.
AUDREY AULD performs at The Northcote Social Club on Tuesday May 3 with Abby Cardwell and Sam Lemann. Tickets from northcotesocialclub.com, The Corner box office or 9486 1677. Her album Come Find Me is out now.
BY DAVID DAWSON