Warner Music Nashville/300 Entertainment newcomer Bailey Bryan releases her debut EP, So Far, today (April 14).
"I have dreamed of this since I was eleven or twelve," she tells Billboard. "People ask me how long that I've been writing songs, and I think I considered myself a songwriter before I could do it. I just knew that I wanted to be on stage. When I got my first guitar, that's when I knew I wanted to be a songwriter, and got serious about it. I was thirteen at the time."
Bryan says that each of the set's five cuts have deep meaning to her. "I started traveling to Nashville from Washington state, where I grew up, to write songs when I was about fifteen. The songs on the EP are each about a lesson on something that has happened to me since I started coming to Nashville."
In December of 2016, Bryan's career received a huge boost when she was selected as an Artist of Tomorrow by the Grammys. Helping her attain that position was support from Spotify, Radio Disney, The Bobby Bones Show, and one of her biggest musical heroes. "I can't really believe that happened to me," she exclaimed. "Hillary Scott -- who has been a friend and an amazing mentor to me since I moved to Nashville -- nominated me for this program. That was one of the coolest things I have gotten to do thus far. I got to go to record acoustic videos of all of my songs, and talk about them. People then got to vote between me and two other awesome artists. It was a really cool opportunity to get my music out there, and see how people would react to it."
Having someone like Scott, whom she has admired for years, in her corner is something she doesn't take for granted. "I've been listening to Lady Antebellum since their first album, and they are part of the reason that I wanted to do country music. I'm just so inspired by the way that she has lived out this incredible career, and she continues to be such a real person -- and does things the way she feels called to do them. She's been so very kind to me."
Her first single is the infectious "Own It," but the EP runs the emotional gamut. One song of particular note for Bryan is "Used To," which is straight from real life. "I wrote that one the most recently. I wrote that one after my parents moved back to Washington. This is my first time living on my own. When I was seventeen, my whole family moved together. They got me settled, and I wound up getting this awesome team around me sooner than any of us thought I was going to. It felt like it was time for them to move back to Washington. My family is big on taking leaps of faith, and going where you feel called to go. It just seemed like the right time. I was only eighteen, but it felt safe enough for me to live on my own in Nashville. That's about the feelings I felt the day after my family moved. It's about being in the apartment all by myself, and just taking a deep breath, looking at the future and everything that is about to happen. I'm really excited, and know that I'm here for a reason, but also acknowledging there are so many new things and so much unknown that I am stepping into, and it takes some getting used to. It's all about taking a leap of faith in your life."
Before making the move to Nashville, the songstress honed her craft at a local Mexican eatery near her hometown. "All of my performing experience comes from taking my guitar, and playing how many songs I had written at the time, in front of my favorite taco place called Jose's in Sequim, Washington. It was either a case of standing outside there, hoping that people would throw a dollar in my guitar case -- or get a real job," she recalls, allowing that it was a pretty easy decision.
"Anything that I could do to be performing, and to have people hear my music is what I am so passionate about. I would complain growing up in a small town about there not being anywhere to perform. One day, my dad told me to go take my guitar and sing on the sidewalk. He said 'If you're confident enough, you can walk into any place and share your art.' That's what I learned to do. Now that I am doing performance with Dan + Shay and Kane Brown, I am so glad that I had that experience because it did teach me about connecting me with an audience. You just learned how to talk to people and how to make eye contact with them."
Bryan says that her single is one that definitely lends itself to her personality, as well as her outlook on life. "I pride myself in my social media involvement. I have a music video out right now for 'Own It,' which the theme of the video is about social media. It's shot vertically, so you watch it on your phone. The reason I did that was that something I am very passionate about is using social media and all of these platforms in a positive way. Whenever I use social media, I am trying to promote myself and my music, but I also want to be real encouraging and be a real person in front of people."
Billboard is excited to bring you an exclusive first-look at the recording of one of the tracks from So Far -- the wistful "Hard Drive Home." Once again, she says, it's a lyric that isn't second-hand. She's lived the emotions of each line of the song.
"That one represents a transition period in my life. If you listen to the lyrics, it's hard to hide that it's definitely about a break-up. It was about saying goodbye to my first major relationship from high school, the first time I thought I was in love -- to move to Nashville. It's about that feeling that comes after a really hard goodbye. I think it's a representation of saying goodbye to something familiar in your life in order to move to something that you feel you're supposed to do. It's very emotional."