Bailey Bryan's parents are big on leaps of faith. The country newcomer wasn't yet old enough to vote when they flew with her from Seattle, settled her into an apartment 45 minutes north of Nashville and — after a few months, when she'd finished school and turned 18 — left.
"All of a sudden I was in this big apartment, a long commute away from where I work, with basically a couch and three forks ‘cause they took all their stuff back with them," Bryan says smiling an "I'm being dramatic" smile.
Maybe it wasn't that bad. She'd been visiting Nashville on songwriting trips for several years and by this time the forever positive, proudly awkward teen from Sequim, WA had a publishing deal and was on her way to signing with 300 Entertainment in a joint venture with Warner Music Nashville. Everyone was at peace with the decision and in the nearly two years since, she's left no room for regret. A single with over a million streams on Spotify, a pinch-me set at the Ryman Auditorium, an EP that holds nothing back … yeah she's doing OK.
Bryan's formal country introduction came via a groundbreaking music video for her self-doubt anthem "Own It." The irresistible clip, shot vertically, portrays her as wild but a little nerdy, awkward in conversation but "Shakespeare when I'm texting."
That's Bailey Bryan. Her dance moves are (ahem) original, but she once wore gray sweat pants to prom so she wouldn't be held back by a form-fitting gown and heels. Followers on Instagram are treated to pictures taken from the road and studio, as well as unfiltered, no makeup shots that reveal her very real, and very relatable struggles with her complexion. And then there's her scar. It's a striking, waistline to shoulder tops zipper that came after back surgery to correct scoliosis. It's a symbol of Bryan's greatest hardship but also one of the most beautiful things about her. Pain and self-pity gave way to a greater understanding of how the world works, acceptance and honesty. Realizing life around her was moving on was ugly medicine. Then she acknowledged the darkness she was living in.
"I do think the reason I'm able to feel and be positive on a daily basis is just because — especially in my writing — I prioritize honesty," the singer/songwriter says, pointing first to "Own It" and then the other songs on her debut EP So Far. These are her stories, presented in a way that allows one to make them his or hers.
"If you listen to 'Scars' and ‘Used To,'" Bryan adds, "those are the songs where I'm more blatantly recognizing the hardships that make us who we are. But it definitely does always come back around to ‘There's a reason for this.'"
"Scars" is the epitome of Bryan's experiences. After a moody piano introduction, the thought-provoking track blossoms, allowing anyone to replace her scar with theirs and then closes with words of wisdom and inspiration.
"Used To" is a more soulful selection on a dynamic debut project. "Here I am, doing everything I ever wanted to but it's gonna take some getting used to, used to," Bryan sings over acoustic guitar at the chorus. Images of that vulnerable teenager standing alone in an empty apartment come rushing back but the push and pull that comes with chasing a dream is universal.
"Half of it feels so amazingly natural and right and the other half is looking at everything that's spinning around in life and is so uncertain and just trying to take it in and come to terms with it," she says.
So Far is Bryan's story so far, but also a blueprint for who she wants to be as an artist. Even a tear-jerking breakup song like "Hard Drive Home" finds room for optimism or at the very least forward motion. The boy she's singing about is the one she left behind in Washington, but the emotions return every time her parents leave after a visit.
"This idea, which obviously I believe so strongly in, that the hardships in life, the things that are the hardest to come through are what kind of form the most beautiful things about us," Bryan says, "it was inspired by coming to terms with this giant scar that I have on my back and the fact that I love it now, it's a part of me and it came from a really hard thing."
Getting there takes time and faith however. Maybe even a leap of faith.