Bailey Bryan Talks New Music, Mentor Hillary Scott, and Owning It
When I heard Bailey Bryan's new EP "So Far" was coming out, and I could interview her for If You Can Dream It, I was beyond pumped. You see the first time I heard Bryan was when she covered Drake on country radio, and I immediately started googling who she was, because that just does not happen every day, and she killed it.
Bryan is someone who's really pushing the limits of country music with inspiration from artists like Chance the Rapper and Macklemore. This talented 19-year-old co-wrote each of her five new songs on her brand new EP, proving with her thought provoking, heartfelt lyrics, she's got a message to tell! Bryan is definitely making her mark in the music world, and recently was chosen as an Artist of Tomorrow by the Grammys. Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum nominated Bryan for the honor.
If You Can Dream It Do It: How did growing up in a small town influence you as an artist?
Bailey Bryan: "Honestly I kind of credit the place I grew up in how I do music, genre wise. I grew up in a small town, but I didn't grow up in the South. When you think of country music, you think Tennessee, or southern areas." "I was passing tractors on the way to school, so those rural influences were there, so I related to country music, and that was my first love when I started getting serious about writing songs which was when I was about 13."
"I could drive two hours, and be in Seattle, where there's this awesome underground hip hop scene, and alternative music. Macklemore was my first taste of hip hop. So, I became passionate about all different kind of music. Since, I was coming from a small town, there was no pressure or expectation as what I should be like as a singer/songwriter. I had access to all these different kinds of music, so I could choose what I wanted to be and how I wanted to write through that, I crafted my own sound, and my own voice as a country artist."
"I think I do country, because songwriting is the most important."
If You Can Dream It Do It: Your scoliosis surgery influenced your song "Scars" on your new EP. Can you talk about how that surgery shaped your songwriting?
Bailey Bryan: "Completely! I always say that experience shaped me not only as an artist, but also as a person."
"When I was 16, that's when I had the spine surgery, and for me growing up in a really little town, I lived a really sheltered life where my biggest concern was if my parents were going to let me go to the football game or not. So, then to go from that to, for me, having an earth shaking, stopping experience. I had the surgery, which if you don't know what scoliosis is, it's where your spine is shaped like an "S." So, the whole top half of my spine got straightened out, so I was a couple inches taller than I was before. You can't move or eat normally for a really long time, so I lost a ton of weight, and already at 16, you don't know you are. I mean I still don't know who I am, I'm 19."
"To go through something like that, it caused me to feel even less like myself, and that was the part I wasn't prepared for, because obviously I knew it was going to be a hard physical recovery. I didn't think how that would tie to my self esteem and my mind."
"It really quickly shaped my perspective as a human being, and that was the time I was starting my career as a songwriter, and finding my sound. I was traveling to Nashville to write songs, and working on what it was that I wanted to tell the world if I ever got the opportunity to release these songs. So, that was the experience that got me thinking, what is it that I want to tell people?"
"I learned that the hardest things we go through in life, which more specifically inspired my song, "scars," which I have a giant scar from the surgery now. But figuratively, the hardships that we go through in life, the things that leave scars, that impact us, the things that make us who we are as people.
"The ugliest experiences can form the most beautiful things about us as human beings."
"That's what I learned through my first taste of a really hard thing to get through."
"'Own It' was one of the first songs I wrote coming back from the surgery, and I just wrote what I needed to hear. I was listing things about myself, and 'own it' is about learning to love who you are, the quirks, the little things. That was the start of me realizing, 'I'm really passionate about this.' I found it to be really true in my life, that if I can work to have this attitude in life, I'll be a happier person. If I can acknowledge the things that are hard to accept about myself and about life. It can be fun and light hearted like "Own It," or more of like a sobering reality like "Scars," but it all comes back around to the fact that it's actually a beautiful thing."
If You Can Dream It Do It: Who's been a mentor to you in the industry?
Bailey Bryan: "Well I was lucky enough to connect with Hillary Scott (from Lady Antebellum), around the time I moved to Nashville. Even before I met her, I always listened to Lady Antebellum from their very first album, and I always looked up to her as an example just as an artist who's so talented and so successful, but also just a real human being.
"Authenticity is such a huge thing for me as an artist and a writer. I think she just does such a good job of being an example of that, and doing what you feel like you're called to do in your life, regardless of what everyone thinks is the right thing. While Lady A was on their break, she released a whole Christian album with her family. I just respect that so much, that you know that's real to her. That's something she's encouraged me in, as a new artist. It's just such a really huge blessing to get to connect with someone who's that real, and have that example."
If You Can Dream It Do It: Hillary also nominated you as one of the GRAMMYs Artists of Tomorrow, what was that like?
Bailey Bryan: "I can't believe that it happened! My brain refuses to accept that it happened. First of all, it's affiliated with the GRAMMYs, and just isn't something I thought I'd have my name associated with for a very long time, or ever. So, to have that, and have such a kind artist be the one that nominated me for it, and do the videos where she talked about me and my music. It was just such an incredible opportunity."
If You Can Dream It Do It: Would you say that's been one of the most surreal things that has happened thus far?
Bailey Bryan: "I mean I couldn't have even of dreamed that, and I think another thing would be I got to spend a couple months opening up for Dan + Shay. I couldn't have asked for better first tour mates, because they really came alongside me."
"I saw that we were playing the Ryman when I was looking at our tour schedule, and I would say that was definitely another 'pinch me' moment. I couldn't even dream of getting to tour with Dan + Shay, and then get to open for them at the Ryman, with only having one song out."
"I always dreamed of playing the Ryman when I was about 12 or 13."
If You Can Dream It Do It: What's been the best advice that Hillary Scott has given you?
Bailey Bryan: "I think just her constant reminder to me to just follow my gut, and do what feels right to you as an artist. I think the amazing thing about her, is she's never like, 'oh hey youngster, you don't know what you're talking about, and you've got to be careful.'"
"As a young artist it's easy to be intimidated. I know in Nashville, I can walk into a room, and there will be a better guitar player, songwriter, and that can either be really intimating or you can use it as motivation. She's just really encouraged me to have confidence in who I am, why I'm here, and learn and grow from the people around me, and remember why I'm doing this."
"I think the best mindset to have is, I just want to be me, and not worry about trying to be the next anybody, and try to follow anyone else's path, because it won't work. Art isn't a formulated thing. So, I've just been reminded to follow my path."
If You Can Dream It Do It: The first time I heard about you was when you covered one of Drake's songs on the Bobby Bones show. Did he give you any advice?
Bailey Bryan: "He told me, 'If you stay true to yourself, because what you have is different and it's good. You're going to lose a lot of the time being yourself, but when you win, it will be better than anything else, because you know you've found success being you, and you can find success sometimes by not being yourself, but you won't get the fullness of it."
"That was good encouragement to me, being yourself is always worth it."
If You Can Dream It Do It: You've mentioned a few different things during our interview what you want your message to be like really utilizing social media for good, really staying authentic to who you are, what else would you say you want your message to be for those that haven't heard of your music?
Bailey Bryan: "If I had to choose one word it would be honesty. I really want to portray and encourage honesty, as well as self-awareness. I think the way I'm able to be a positive person is I portray honesty in my music."
"I think if you really look at life, and you wonder why you went through certain hardships, you realize, a lot of good can come from struggles, if you let it, and if you choose to look at it that way."
"That's really the mindset I want to encourage people to have. Being positive doesn't mean you choose to ignore your struggles or those things you don't like about yourself. If you can just acknowledge where you're at in life, I think it's good for us as human beings, and for connecting with other human beings."
"When I was recovering from my back surgery, if the people around me were talking about the things they were going through, I think I wouldn't have had the dark times I went through of the self doubt, of the feeling alone. Now I see that in other people, but I think that you not only help yourself be okay, but you can help other people if you're just honest about the fact that life isn't perfect."