Nashville-based singer and songwriter Bailey Bryan is like a breath of fresh air. The 21-year-old, who’s already been titled the artist you need to know, loves her craft and is more than ready to share her talent with the world to hear.
Bailey’s humbleness in her ambitions can be heard in her cheerful tone when we speak on the phone – while I’m in London and she’s all the way back in beloved Nashville.
‘I hope it’s not early hours’, – I apologetically pronounce when not realising that I didn’t check the time difference. ‘No, it’s not early at all, it’s 12:30pm’, Bailey says light-heartedly, adding that she’s adamant to come back to the UK soon. The rising music star got on our radar two years ago after releasing her debut single ‘Own It’, encouraging people to embrace themselves as a beautiful mess – just the way they are – and now is teasing her fans about an up-and-coming project which is particularly close to Bailey’s heart. Intrigued? Let’s leave that to the end of this interview.
When did you start writing music and do you remember the first lyrics you’ve ever written?
I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to perform or write music. I always felt that’s what I want to do, even before I knew that it can become like a career. My parents told me that I wrote my first song when I was 4 years old in a bathtub. They also told me that the song was called ‘Pickles in the Forest’. Best song I’ve ever written to this day. [laughs]
I’ve always been coming up with songs and I think that the first song I wrote on a guitar was when I was 13 years old when I got my first guitar from my dad for Christmas. And that song was like seven minutes long.
That’s quite a long tune. Did you also stage a theatrical performance around it? I would’ve done it!
It was a really long song about me and my best friend, riding horses, growing up and living next to each other someday. I would stage performances and all when I was a kid. I would make up dances and songs, sit down both of my parents and force them to watch me for hours. [laughs]
I think that’s the beauty of dreams, isn’t it, when you’re following them unconsciously from a very young age. When you listen to your songs, you notice a Darwin-esque musical evolution – starting from a pop-infused ‘Own It’ and finishing with a dash of hip-hop to your latest single ‘Perspective’. What were and are your musical influences?
I really really do love hip-hop. J. Cole is probably my favourite artist of all times. I love Post Malone and growing up, the Dixie Chicks were a huge part of my life.
When I was in high school, I was really into the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was all over the place, but I think that the common feature that all of the artists have is that they really know how to convey emotions whether it’s through their writing or post-production.
The life-changing decision to move to Nashville while following your musical dream – what was the hardest part after making your mind up?
I was born in Sequim, Washington and moved to Nashville when I was 17. I started travelling there for writing sessions when I was 15 and at the same age, I signed my first publishing deal which was pure luck. I wasn’t a good enough writer at the time [laughs]. My parents and brother are not musical people. Music is my thing that I’m good at. We are a very supportive family, people who take leaps of faith, so we made the decision to move 3,000 miles to Nashville. I think the hardest part of that was the fact that my entire family was moving with me across the country solely so that I could do what I love. And that’s a lot of pressure for a 17-year-old. They’re amazing, never complained about anything, but I did feel pressure anyway. But you know what, I always felt weirdly at peace that I’m just doing what I’m supposed to.
When I turned into an educated adult, my family said to me that they want to move back to Washington thinking that their job in Nashville is done. [Laughs] And they moved back.
Talking about your lyrics, did it become easier to open up to people and express yourself through them over the years or vice versa?
I think it’s the opposite now. In the beginning, it was a lot easier just to really write whatever I want to as there wasn’t a factor of other people. I didn’t know if I’ll ever release that music. Now, if I’m pouring my heart into a song, I’m very aware of the fact that it’ll reach an audience. But it’s all that I want. I’ll never stop writing honest lyrics and songs which are 100 percent me. Otherwise, it’s not going to work. Now, people can listen to my inner thoughts and feelings. Cool. No pressure. [laughs]
What’s more, people will start recording covers of your songs.
I’ve seen it a few times. That’s crazy as when I first started playing on the guitar, one of my first platforms was YouTube. I was that person covering other people’s songs there, so now, when I see somebody covering mine… I’m always thinking oh my goodness, that was me. You’re me right now. I’m that little girl on YouTube. That’s very cool and fun to see.
Most of your lyrics are speaking out on embracing our own flaws and imperfections, building the sense of self-worth. What advice would you give to someone who’s lacking this feeling?
That you’re not alone. You may look at other people and they may seem to be so confident, but they’re probably looking in the mirror and seeing all of their flaws and feeling completely worthless on some days as well. Somebody else might be looking at you and thinking wow, she’s perfect. You’re human. If you can recognise that, and embrace all of your feelings and flaws, you’ll realise that’s exactly what makes you beautiful. And one of a kind.
What have you learned about yourself since the release of your first single?
I’ve learned so much. As much as music is a dream of mine, it’s also a job which comes with more hard work, decisions and the sense of being sure of yourself more than I ever anticipated it would. I’ve realised that I’ve started feeling the pressure of actually hearing my music. I’ve also realised that I’m a bit more self-conscious than I ever wanted to admit and that my main goal is to write lyrics which make people feel heard, understood and comfortable with themselves and their own feelings. But I also think that in doing so, you make a path to examine yourself. I’m constantly working on owning my flaws so that I can make music that encourages others to do so as well.
I believe that writing down your thoughts is one of the first steps. Do you keep a diary for your non-musical thoughts?
I do! I was actually looking back through it today. I keep the world’s most inconsistent diary [laughs]. I’ve had the same one since I was 13, and that’s because I only write in it when I’m very upset, like every three to six months. I’d be going through a little bit of a meltdown and then I’ll pour my heart into it saying to myself that I’m alright. It’s funny when I go back and read the pages as it kind of makes my life seem so tragic. [laughs]
So, you do like a little bit of drama? [laughs]
I don’t, but I definitely embrace the feelings when they come. I’m not the kind of person who can push them down and just keep going about my life. I have to acknowledge the fact if I’m upset or anxious, I have to work through it to function as a human being. Especially when I was in high school, I go back to the things I wrote then and read them now realising I was really really dramatic. [laughs]
The lyrics from ‘Songbird’ say that you’re trying to find a place and a way in this world. Do you think that you’ve accomplished that?
I think that I’m 100 percent on the right track, but only until recently. I didn’t realize that life is not about finding this one destination, thinking that you’re there and you’ve made it. I’ll always be feeling like I’m trying to make it to the next thing, but I believe that there’s so much beauty in the uncertainty of where I’m going next and where life’s going to take me. If right now I’d say ‘yes, I made it’, there would be no other meaning; no reason to take any risks. I think I got more used to the unknown of the future. I trust it a little bit more, I trust that God’s got a plan for my life and the path will keep going whether I’ll embrace it or not, so I might as well embrace it.
What will you be working on next?
I’m the most excited about this project of mine that I’ve ever been, and I’ve ever done before. That musical evolution that you’ve noticed is really just me learning to embrace all of my different influences. I’m pretty unapologetic about that in this up-and-coming release. Something I did with this venture is that I really dived into the production side of everything, and I decided that I also want the actual sound of music to send a message to represent everything that’s made me who I am as an artist. You’ll hear it soon!
‘Perspective’ is out now, for more info visit www.baileybryan.com