Before newcomer Bailey Bryan moved to Nashville from her small town of Sequim, Washington, she thought her path to country fame would go something like this: she’d get to town, sign a record deal, write songs and then play the Bluebird every weekend.
It would be that easy.
While her Nashville successes have come relatively fast, the realities of being a country singer haven’t been exactly what she pictured. And for that, she is grateful.
“There’s beauty in the struggle,” Bryan told me when we met before her Saturday night (Dec. 9) show in Chicago.
“Whether I blow up tomorrow, or it takes me ten more years, I’m ready for it either way. As an artist, you want a little bit of pain because it pushes to the next level of creativity.”
Like she sings on one of the tracks — “Scars” — on her debut EP So Far, “We wouldn’t be who we are without our scars.”
“This is all I’ve ever wanted to do from a very young age. I wanted to go to Nashville. In my mind, it was this super sparkly image, like, ‘You’re gonna get there, you’re gonna get a record deal, you’re gonna play the Bluebird every single weekend, and everything will be perfect and easy,'” she admitted. “It’s been harder than that, but in a good way.
“I’ve grown so much more through the process, with songwriting and touring. I didn’t even know what a tour was. I thought I’d play a big show once a year, and then you’re famous. You don’t realize how anything works. It’s given me such an appreciation for the artists I love.”
Reflecting on her steps here, the 19-year-old recalls coming to Nashville at 15 to sign a publishing deal, then deciding at 17 it was time to call Tennessee home. So Bryan’s mom and dad and her little brother (who she calls her best friend in the world) all moved with her. They sold their home in Sequim, found an AirBNB where they could all live in Nashville, and signed up for online school for Bryan and her brother.
“It was the definition of a leap of faith. It wasn’t an easy decision to move. My parents didn’t want to move, but they wanted to set me up so I have roots there. We prayed about it a lot,” she said.
“I started writing songs a little. I stood in the open-mic line at the Bluebird a lot. And I also kept thinking, ‘What did we just do?’ Then things happened, and they happened so much faster than I expected, and I grew so much. Any adversity like that helps you write the best songs,” Bryan shared. But still, she admits she was intimidated because of the caliber of Nashville talents. “You just know that no matter what room you walk into, there will be a better musician, a better writer, a better singer than you.”
Bryan’s naiveté, she thinks, is the reason why the possibility of failure never crossed her mind. There was never a plan B. And there was never a deadline for success.
“If I had known about the hard parts and the doubts and the growing pains,” she told me, “I might have been more scared to do this. But I had this blind faith, and that gave me the confidence I needed right when I needed it.”