1. What’s new and exciting in the world of Bri Bagwell?
First of all, quarantine made me a brunette because I decided to save the salon cash and grow my hair out au naturale for a bit. News alert! It’s not bright blonde without the bleach. Also, my music video for “As Soon As You” was on CMT for nine weeks. I can’t believe I’m typing that – we did the music video during quarantine with one camera man, a very limited team (in masks), clothes/props I ordered from Amazon (because the stores were all closed), and then the song hit number one; now, we have released it on a much larger radio scale than just Texas. My first national single, from the fourth single off of my record that is two years old. Isn’t that absolutely insane? I also recorded a new track (or three) with some of the country’s (and world’s) greatest musicians; they recorded in their home cities all over the US, and I recorded the vocals in my duplex in New Braunfels. I can’t give more details yet, but I love it and can’t wait for everyone to hear it.
2. How are you filling your time during this Covid19 break from the road? Other than answering these ridiculous questions.
I don’t like to sit still, and I love hiking (even though at 12,000 feet in Santa Fe I was questioning that fact); also, social distancing is encouraged in the wild, even when there’s not an international pandemic! Since quarantine, I’ve been hiking in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado and I’ve been climbing every mountain (insert “Sound of Music” soundtrack here). I’ve written about 15 songs. I’ve recorded more videos for online festivals or fundraisers than I can count. I’ve read a few books, done Barre class at home with my dog interrupting to cuddle on the yoga mat, and I’ve played some shows where it is safe to do so. I’ve also joined the TikTok world.
3. Name association:
Courtney Patton: Crystal Josh Ward: Whiskey Wade Bowen: Vocals Steve Helms: Buddy Kaitlin Butts: Giggles Jaime Lin Wilson: Supermom Jack Ingram: Tinman Willy Braun: Chef William Clark Green: Circus Jade Marie Patek: Janis Sean McConnel: Magic.
4. Both you and Josh Grider hail from Las Cruces. There are other musicians and songwriters that pop out of there too. What do you feel makes it a special hotbed of musicality?
It is kind of strange that so many musicians are from Las Cruces. I’ve always said that I think there is something in the Land of Enchiladas that gets in your soul and makes you want to write songs about life on the border. But, more realistically, it blows my mind when people talk about their hometowns not being supportive; my hometown latches on to local talent and really, truly supports them in every way. It may just be that nobody discouraged me from trying to “make it.” Instead, we all went for it, because we didn’t know any other way.
5. If you had to attend a spin class coached by someone from the cast of Tiger King, who would you pick to coach you up and why?
I would like my spin class hosted by an actual tiger. Everyone else on that show may distract me too much to be on beat, and I go to spin class to work. Also, hint hint for what me and The Banned were for Halloween – it’s on Insta. I was not Carole Baskin!
6. If you could book your own festival with money and logistics no object, who would you book and where would you have it?
I’ve typed and deleted this answer 25 times, which tells you how the pressure of social media today can really get to you. “If I say this, they’ll say that.” Truth be told, my ideal festival would consist of all my favorites, male and female, which would take approximately 14 days because I have so many favorites. It would be held on the moon, and Miranda would headline in an astronaut suit made of fringe. THE. END.
7. Favorite touring memory of the following towns:
College Station: I was hanging with a bunch of friends and had just met Bleu Edmonson for the first time. We were all outside of Church Street BBQ when we heard a gunshot. Bleu tackled me to the ground to shield me, and we’ve been buds ever since. Chivalry ain’t dead. Lubbock: I had just had a brand new guitar vault made, and although it is majestic and beautiful, I made the mistake of not getting specs and just turning a friend loose on the project (lesson learned). The guitar vault is in my garage and is stunning, but is wayyyyy too big for our operation. We walked into a bar in Lubbock to open for Randy Rogers, who saw my massive guitar vault and immediately said, “who’s opening, Taylor Swift??” Houston: The first time I sang “Amazing Grace” at the end of the night at the Redneck Country Club, everyone came to the front of the stage and sang along (as was customary). I was so moved and it had been such an amazing show, I burst into tears and cried uncontrollably for an hour. Stephenville: I opened for Kyle Park there and heard everyone sing “Leaving Stephenville” at the top of their lungs. It made me realize the power of a “city song.” New Braunfels: I sold 550 tickets the first time that I headlined Gruene Hall. People were singing along with songs, which hadn’t ever happened, and my parents drove from New Mexico to witness that special night. Oklahoma City: Playing at the Wormy Dog was always magical and fun. I was on stage when a girl was dancing and dropping it like it had never been hotter. But she was drunk, and fell over. I kept singing, but my band had to turn around to the drums because they were laughing so hard. Beaumont: I opened for Stoney LaRue in Beaumont, and he invited my whole band to hang on the bus after (as he does). We all had a blast and I left my purse under the table and my purse went to Oklahoma with Stoney’s bus on accident. Denver: We played with Mike and The Moonpies in Denver on the way to Steamboat and I don’t remember much when we play with them except that I know it was a blast. Little Rock: We’ve only played there once, but I had a tour bus that weekend; I’ll always remember being proud to have blocked off a lane of a street in Little Rock, no matter how cheesy/braggy that sounds. Corpus Christi: TOO MANY TO TYPE! I hosted Ziegfest at Concrete Street, and Gary Alan’s crew showed me a road case that was custom made to hold whiskey bottles and shot glasses – and then they poured me a shot. It was kinda the best. Midland: The green room in Midland still holds a giant poster of me with a sharpie-d out black tooth, drawn in devil horns, etc. I was sure an ex-boyfriend did it, but I laugh every time I see it or get texted a picture of it, because apparently it was Micky and the Motorcars.
8. You one of the more successful females in a male dominated industry and often find yourself the lone female on festival bills and such. You are a role model to young girls everywhere wanting to pick up a guitar. What advice do you give when asked? Do you feel like the playing field is evening out a bit or no?
I always say the same thing to any new females that are pursuing this path and this dream. Don’t compare yourself to anyone, especially other females. A newer female artist was comparing herself to me, for example, and I told her: I have a team now. I have a manager and a booking agent and now an entire PR team; I have a band and a tour manager and a Merch guy. I have more than a dozen people that work for and with me, and it’s still overwhelming and terribly hard. In the beginning, when you’re doing literally everything by yourself… that was the absolute toughest time in my life. You HAVE to give yourself a break when you’re responsible for 27 people’s jobs, and then you have to be creative and write songs too? It’s a big burden to carry, and you never know if you’re doing it “right.” I also tell them to not be fooled into thinking I have it all together because I do, in fact, cry all of the time! And lastly: persistence is key (male or female) – especially in our scene, you really just have to stick it out and keep finding ways to make it work.
I have seen an absolute shift in how female artists are viewed/treated. I used to hear the most insane comments “I’ll never book a female in my bar, that’s just stupid and bad business.” I have started to hear less and less blatantly anti-female comments throughout the years, and I’m so happy about that. Radio, too, has become so much more supportive overall, and that shift is the most heartwarming thing to have witnessed. I think it’s a tribute to the Jamie Linn’s and the Courtney Patton’s, but also the Miranda Lambert’s and Kacey Musgraves’ and now the Ashley McBride’s. All those apostrophes are surely not where they’re supposed to be.
9. For quite some time, you participated in a weekly songwriting group where you had to write 1 song per week. What did you learn about yourself through that process? And how many of those songs were keepers?
Writing one song a week for the “song game” – as we call it – is hands down the most amazing thing I have ever done for myself and for my career. Although the majority of the songs will never see the light of day (hopefully), they are practice, discipline, and respect towards your craft. You don’t go out on the court expecting to sink a three-pointer every time, and if you don’t practice, how can you get closer to doing just that? It’s a numbers game for me; some will be bad, some will be good, and a few will be great. But I have to write them all to get to the great ones. I was recently listening back to an entire year’s worth of songs, and most of them I don’t even remember writing. I was transported back to what I was doing, what I was feeling during that time… it’s almost like a history of counseling sessions caught on tape in the form of a song. I only made it a few songs in before I had to ugly cry on the side of the road. That song game probably got me through some really tough times. And, on a happier note, a lot of my last record was written that way! I also learned that no matter how “busy” you are, you can always make time to write songs; you have to. It’s a matter of discipline that you don’t know you have in ya, until you really try… or you get kicked out of the group!
10. You are sponsored by Rebecca Creek Whiskey and they have become big supporters of many Texas Music artists. Could you speak to how that relationship came about? And also, what’s it like to get all the free whiskey you want?
Rebecca Creek is truly my (whiskey) family! I am very close with the owners and many people that work there. I believe the best partnerships are ones where you love the product AND you love the people. It has to be both for me. About 8 years ago, a man came up to me and said, “Bri Bagwell, I wanna be your whiskey!” (which was of course mirrored after one of my songs). I told him, “well, that’s creepy!” We both laughed, and he presented me with a Texas-shaped basket with a bottle of Rebecca Creek and some glasses. I had never heard of it. We were both “newish” Texas products, and we grew up together. The people at the distillery think it’s funny when people ask how much whiskey I take; I do love it, duh, and even though I could go pick up whiskey anytime, it’s in my contract to get some at every show I play. I never have to pick up whiskey from the distillery, playing 150 shows a year (well, except this year)!
11. You’ve recently begun touring in a bus some, but when in the van do you prefer driving or being a passenger?
In the van, 99% of the time I am on my laptop in the passenger seat, or putting on makeup in that same seat. In the early days, I would sleep in the backseat the whole way to the next venue; now, for many reasons – including how the heck did I ever sleep on those seats every day holy cow my back – I like to answer emails, write songs, or just feel productive on the trek. When I’m home, it feels nice to just cook and do laundry and unpack/repack and watch Netflix and run errands. HOME things. So, I have to balance that out by working when I can on the road. I love being up front with my tour manager blasting a murder podcast (MFM anyone??) and doing tasks that I hate like, PUTTING ON MAKEUP. That being said, I will definitely drive if someone needs to tap out. I am not awful at backing up a trailer, and I think I drove 8 hours a few weekends ago. I don’t like asking anything from my employees that I can’t do myself.
12. Stories behind the following songs:
“Cheat On Me” – I wrote this with the one and only Courtney Patton, the first time that I ever met her in person. I had the first verse written, and I played it for her. She busted out not too long after that with “Then I could say if I never saw you again it would be too soon” and I was in love with her, and the song. Jason Eady is a big fan of the tune, which makes my dang day.
“My Boots” – I had a song about whiskey, and thought I needed another song about boots since I was working with Anderson Bean boots. I realized that when I put on the bright red ones, something bad or crazy always happened. I thought it was appropriate to just tell the truth, and it was my first number one in Texas. Also, red boots are kinda my thing now. *watch out*
“If You Were A Cowboy” – This is the only song on the last record that I did not write. My producer Rachel Loy showed it to me. It was a song she co-wrote with Kate Bowen and Mellissa Fuller. It was funny because Rachel was almost hesitant to show me the song, and told me her feelings wouldn’t be hurt if I didn’t want to record it. Immediately, I was like – I HAVE TO HAVE IT. I am not the best at writing “anthem” type songs, and this one just rocks so many socks.
“Ring A Bell” – This was a co-write with one of my best buds, Jody Booth. I had this chorus written for a long time, but was never able to make the verses work. Jody and I stayed up til the wee hours of the morning around a campfire figuring this song out. This is a tough one, because it’s about a woman that’s with a married man. I wanted this song to be an example of my grit as a songwriter; I had the idea of “does that ring a bell?”, but it wasn’t perfectly clear to the listener that it was referring to a wedding ring. Jody helped me clarify that through the verses, and by adding “does that ring, ring a bell?” I also love the line “put it in the one night stand” referring to the nightstand by the bed. Again, I think this is the type of song that hasn’t been written a whole lot, and I’m proud we explored that territory.
“Exit Signs” – This is about dating someone who lives far away, and I wrote this song completely in my truck while driving down 1-35. I really, really want to re-record this someday. I played this for the president of Sony ATV right before he gave me a publishing deal.
“Beer Pressure” – These are all of the reasons that my family gets me to drink, and all the reasons I get my friends to drink, crammed into a song. I wrote this on the way to Steamboat when we had 9 people in our van and I couldn’t lay down. I had to sit up the whole time, so I took my laptop out and googled “what rhymes with beer?”
“Graffiti” – This song is really special to me, because I literally wrote this song twenty times before I got it right, even before I took it to Rachel. I knew what I wanted it to say, but it’s a very difficult message to communicate. Growing up, the wall on the side of my daycare always had either new graffiti or a fresh coat of paint on it. Even as a little girl, I always wondered why they couldn’t paint the wall the same color each time; and furthermore, every time there was a new off-shade coat of paint, you still knew underneath was the graffiti. I wanted this to translate to going through a breakup: even when I put on makeup and a smile, most people can tell when I’m hurting or in pain. I am that “patchwork mess” of different shades of white paint over a graffiti, or my case at the time, a broken heart. It’s my favorite song on the record.
“Don’t Call” – I stole this from a lady’s facebook status. She said, “he calls me ___ and he calls me ____ and then he calls me in the middle of the night!!” And I said, thank you, putting that on my record! I wrote this with Jason Kyle Saetviet in Nashville.
“Whiskey” – This song is about dating a boy who liked whiskey more than he liked me, plain and simple. I wrote it when I was 18 all by myself. It was four and a half minutes long and I can’t believe that the radio played it so much. I played piano on this track on the record.
“Asphalt and Concrete” – This song was a product of one of Rachel’s song challenges, with the prompt being “moonrise.” I had seen a sign that said, “In my defense, it was a full moon and I was left unsupervised.” My brain immediately started to rhyme “moonrise” with “unsupervised” and write an autobiography about moving from the desert of Las Cruces, NM to Austin, TX at the young age of 18. The big city can really disorient and overwhelm somebody who isn’t used to it, and this song is all about learning the lessons of adaptation (the hard way).
“Half As Good” – I went to my co-writer Jessica Roadcap when I was at Sony ATV. She knew I was going through a breakup and she asked if I was okay. I told her that I keep lying to myself and telling myself that I am okay. I told her I’ll believe myself if I can lie as good as he did. She said, “SIT DOWN LET’S WRITE THAT.” To make it sting more, we changed it to “half as good” and put it on the radio.
“Crazy” – I wrote this in twenty-two minutes when I told my mom, “he makes me crazy! It’s not my fault that I’m crazy!” She said, I’m going to shower, and you go write that song. And I did! I played it that very same night at Dean Dillon’s Songwriter Festival in Crested Butte, CO.
“Empty Chairs” – This was from the “song game” using the prompt “Talks With God.” I was really trying to capture the rollercoaster of emotions that we experience because we (artists) – and the industry in general – often judge an act by the number of tickets they sell, their revenue, NUMBERS, etc. Plus, ticket sales are our survival, and for me, the validation that my heart needs to keep going. A great night can make your soul soar, and a bad night can cause you to question everything you are doing. During quarantine, a restaurant owner texted me that she was crying listening to this song, and it changed the whole perspective of it for me.
13. You were quite the athlete in high school, all-state volleyball player and whatnot. Did you have scholarship offers? How did you end up choosing UT?
I suppose I would’ve gotten some official offers, although I never really pursued that path. I went on an official visit to NMSU (D1 program) and had letters from a handful of interested schools, but I was ready to hang up the tennis shoes and pick up the guitar (although I did play on the UT club volleyball team my freshman year). I only applied to ASU and UT. I wanted to go somewhere outside of my home state where I could get a great education and where the city also had a live music scene to match. UT was my first choice, and although I got some academic scholarship money to go to ASU, once I was accepted into UT, I had my heart set on going to Texas. Getting into McCombs School of Business from out of state was definitely really tough – I also didn’t know a soul in Austin. But, I knew I loved Texas country, and I was going to the live music capitol, plus the top accounting school in the country. Side note: I ended up majoring in Marketing with a minor in Management.
14. Since leaving New Mexico for Austin you have been quite the vagabond moving all over the state. What’s been your favorite town to live in?
I’ve moved 13 times in 14 years, and I HIGHLY recommend that you DO NOT do that for all of the reasons involving sanity. The epitome of a gypsy, over here! I actually was moving into a house in Dripping Springs with Bonnie Bishop (omg I know) and the landlord sold our house two days before we were supposed to move in. She was in a Uhaul coming back from Nashville, and I couldn’t renew my lease at my apartment. I put everything in a storage unit, and didn’t really live anywhere for nine months. If I would’ve planned the storage situation a little better, that would’ve been my favorite. But, New Braunfels has my heart, and it looks like it will for a long time (I just bought dirt there!).
15. You were a contestant on the reality show Real Country and ended up being mentored a bit by Travis Tritt among other cool things that happened. What is your favorite memory of that entire experience?
TV is so stressful and I am not the person that thrives on that type of stress. I love having 90 minutes with my audience singing my songs. However, Travis Tritt is probably the coolest person ever, and I got a a hug from Shania freaking Twain! Our outfits collided, her in sequins and me in fringe, and we got stuck for five minutes until wardrobe could pry us apart. It was AMAZING being stuck to the queen.
16. You famously rescued your dog Whiskey off the side of the road. Talk about that experience and how you became a lovingly obsessed dog mom overnight.
Whiskey was actually in the middle of the road, and the following words had just come out of my mouth: I’ll drive, this is the perfect place to look for stray dogs!! I turned a corner, and a hungry and flea-filled chihuahua was crossing the street! I pulled over, jumped out of my truck and stopped traffic to chase her to the side of the road. One car honked at me, to which I responded with the appropriate finger. I chased her for a while down the side of the road, until she finally stopped. I scooped her up, and I haven’t put her down since. I’m obsessed with her, and I know Jesus sent me her to get me through what was a very tumultuous breakup and time in my life.
17. Do you still remember the first real song you ever wrote? Was it any good? On the scale of first songs.
My first song ever was called “My Most Perfect Night” and it was everything a 14-year-old teenager is wrapped up in a piano ballad. It’s not terrible, and it has a cute innocence, but don’t ever listen to it! Haha.
18. Rapid fire:
–Salsa or Guac? Salsa PLUS guacamole is highly underrated and amazing. Try it.
-Mountains or beaches? Mountains. Grew up with them.
–LA or NYC? NYC…LA holds scary TV show memories
–Netflix guilty pleasure? Great British Baking Show!
-Favorite season? Whatever’s newest. It keeps improving.
19. What is your favorite George Strait song and why?
“I Cross My Heart” was my favorite song as a little girl. I used to sing it with the utmost passion and I could hear it 100 times in a row and never get sick of it. That kind of love for a song stays with you forever. Also, because I’m such a big Dean Dillon fan, “The Chair” is up there because of the story behind it.
20. What do you feel makes your music unique?
I feel like each song is truly who I am in this moment. I don’t shy away from writing about my insecurities or my mistakes. I don’t avoid subjects because it’s discouraged. That’s why I named my record “In My Defense,” because in my defense, this is why I am the way that I am… it’s all in track 1-10. Or actually, in the entire repertoire. I spill it on the page and on the stage. Did I just write a song?