- Words Lauren Sneade
- Photography Nikko LaMere
TikTok star Bailey Bryan is waving goodbye to boys and pouring her heart into pop music. In a chat with Notion, Bailey Bryan reveals why she's a "sensitive bad bitch", and why she's setting her sights on a collab with Drake.
The teenage Nashville country hopeful to Gen Z pop princess pipeline is well established. But self-styled “sensitive bad bitch” Bailey Bryan makes her own rules.
New tracks “Don’t Call Me” and “play w/ me” channel “don’t fuck with me” energy into bold pop beats and the confident vocals of a woman who knows exactly what she’s about.
Growing up around church music, and moving to Nashville when she was 15 to try and find her way as the next Taylor Swift, Bryan’s tracks have a softer side which demonstrates the vulnerability she says is an essential part of her music’s realness.
But the 23-year-old refuses to be taken for a ride. She wrote the single “play w/ me” in 2020 after receiving a text from a guy reading, “You can come over if you want.” Bryan’s response was to pick up a guitar and channel her anger into what is now her biggest hit. Bad bitches expect to be worshipped.
This track established her departure from the country ballads her career had begun with. Bryan says she feels most comfortable in the pop sound her work has evolved into. But she doesn’t discount the journey. Starting out in country music has given her an appreciation for real instruments, and she refuses to make her tracks without them.
“I need a real instrument, even if you can’t tell. That’s the common thread that makes this music me.” She credits her primary influences as Post Malone, Kehlani and Ella Mai, but adheres firmly to the don’t-let-them-see-you-sweat gospel of outfits like TLC and Destiny’s Child.
She speaks with striking confidence for someone so young. She has faith in her work, and is satisfied with the path she’s on. After a huge creative block, she’s now back on track. “I allowed myself the space to feel my feelings. And I’m so happy I get to put these experiences into words. I’m writing about dating around and upholding my own standards. I think you can be a sensitive bad bitch… know your worth, but still admit that your feelings can get hurt.”
Even at this early stage in her career, Bryan has been working with some of music’s biggest names. She’s been in the studio with producers Monsters & Strangerz, the team behind much of Rihanna and Selena Gomez’s work.
Bailey Bryan is one to watch. Hear what she has to say.
Well, I got my start professionally in country music! It’s actually still the genre that I have the most releases in. I started travelling to Nashville to write songs when I was just 15, and at that point like probably a lot of 15-year-old girls, I just wanted to be Taylor Swift. I think a big part of figuring out your sound as an artist is just imitating the stuff that you’re into at the moment and finding the elements that feel like you… Before Nashville, I sang in church growing up which I think shaped the way I sing about love and the way that I view music as healing. I grew up near Seattle which has a really awesome rock and hip hop scene. As I got older and further into my career as a writer I just found myself gravitating toward all of those different influences at different times… I definitely felt pressure to stick with country music for a little bit because it’s where I got my start- but I’m glad I got to start with that at 15 and explore and grow into my sound from there, because now at 23 I couldn’t be more confident in the type of music I’m making.
Stage presence seems to come so naturally to you, what’s going through your mind while you’re performing?
So you moved to Nashville in 2016, what has moving from Washington – Nashville done to your sound?
Nashville is so full of so many talented artists and writers of all genres, it can be really intimidating sometimes… But I think just jumping into the scene and working with said talented people has helped me to constantly level up and really just figure out who I am as an artist, everybody has something special to offer and I think being in a place like Nashville keeps you on your toes and always improving which I love.
It’s been a trip being our age during the pandemic and spending all this time inside without parties, and night clubs can start to make you feel quite old – what have you been doing to stay yourself during the pandemic?
You talk about wanting to fight stereotypes put on women to diminish us, do you have any examples?
Having a boy respond “You can come over if you want” is so relatable – have you found that the women in your life are more inspirational than the men?
What did your production team Monsterz and Strangerz (Selena Gomez, Rihanna) bring to the table when you were in the studio with them?
You say that real instruments are the foundation of your music – what does music do for you in the time when you’re not performing and being an artist yourself, but just listening in your bedroom, or going to other peoples gigs/ listening to the radio?
I loved the aesthetic of the “Don’t Call Me” video – what are your top 5 tips for being a girl boss?
Ok disclaimer though, just because I’m giving these tips right now does NOT mean I have mastered them… But these are things I try to remind myself of regularly.
- Don’t think of yourself as a girl boss, you’re just a boss. You’re in the same category and have the same capability as anybody else.
- Be vulnerable. Your intuition and your sensitivity is an asset in connecting with and leading people.
- This might seem like it’s contradicting number 2 but it’s not… Don’t take anything too personally! You can be vulnerable and real and still have thick skin. Sometimes people get intimidated when they see a confident woman living out their purpose, and they might try to project their insecurities onto you… Remember that this says more about how they feel about themselves than about you!
- Have a higher purpose. I believe in myself and that there’s nothing I can’t do because I believe that God has a plan for me and a calling for me to impact lots of people through my music… I’m just working to stay aligned with that. I think that the possibilities expand when you’re working toward something bigger than yourself.
- Drink water. Bosses aren’t thirsty… Literally and figuratively.
It’s crazy that you’ve done all this at 22. What’s next? And who would you love to collab with?