"I think I will always have a foot in it one way or another, and I still want to weave aspects of country in and out of my songs."
In amidst the chaos of an incredibly busy year, Houston-born and Nashville-based country-pop star Danielle Bradbery has had a brief window of time in which to gaze out of and reflect on what's transpired in 2023. She's been moving apartments, as well as keeping on vocal rest following an illness that caused her to briefly lose the voice that once won her... well, The Voice. That period, she tells Countrytown, has allowed her to get some clarity on where she's at right now, as one chapter ends and another begins.
“As I get older, I've experienced many different kinds of learning curves,” she says. “Through all of them, I've learned how to overcome – whether that's in my personal life, with my mental health, in my professional career. I've gone through a lot with all of them this year, and I've learned a lot in that time as well. I would say, though, that the most important thing I've learned in 2023 is how to be truly proud of myself.” Bradbery notes that the new music she has been working on – some of which has been released this year, and some still yet to come – is a reflection on all of these ups and downs within her life of late. It all comes out in the wash, as they say.
“These songs I'm putting out... we've done it in an order where it's really telling its own story,” says Bradbery. “That's been very strategic on behalf of myself and my team – we've sat down and really pored over these songs, in every last detail. It's very different to how I've done things before, and I think it really gives a new sense of perspective on my music. There's a lot of growth in these songs, not least of all because I'm singing about a lot of stuff I've never sung about before. I'm really excited for people to hear it.”
Last month saw Bradbery release The Day That I'm Over You, her third single of 2023 behind Monster and Runaways. The darkly-shaded ballad is arguably the least country-sounding song she has ever released, with its understated electronic elements blended into a slow-dance with shimmering electric guitars and a steady, swirling Soca rhythm beneath it. Despite its seemingly-radical departure, however, Bradbery notes that this was not some sort of statement piece on her behalf – rather, a continuing reflection of her evolving persona and accompanying tastes.
“I wanted to create something that existed outside of those bullet points,” she says. “What I mean by that is having music dictated to you – it has to be this amount of country, it has to sound exactly like this to get on the radio, it has to be this, it has to be that. When you have so many eyes on you, it becomes so much harder to make something that is authentically you. I had a big conversation with my songwriters about all of this, and it boiled down to wanting to make music that I'm happy about – at the end of the day, that's all that matters. The pressure just goes away in that moment – you're being disruptive just by being yourself.”
Talk turns to artists that have effectively excommunicated themselves from country music. Before she was the most famous person in the world, after all, Taylor Swift was a Nashville girl with a dream singing about Tim McGraw. Plus, recent comments from Maren Morris saying that she feels disconnected from the recent “dovetailing [into] this hyper-masculine branch of country music” that has allowed for songs like Try That In A Small Town and Rich Men North of Richmond to become hit singles. So, would Danielle Bradbery ever leave country music entirely?
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“I mean, it's what got me here in the first place,” she says after a pause for thought. “Country music is very genuine and family-based, and that is so important to me. I think I will always have a foot in it one way or another, and I still want to weave aspects of country in and out of my songs. I still find certain musical elements so beautiful and comforting to listen to. With that said: I genuinely love all different types of music, and I love working out of my comfort zone. A couple of years ago I did a Spanish-language version of one of my songs, Never Have I Ever, with a Latin artist named KURT. It was so different for me, but I absolutely love a challenge. When I experiment and see what I can do as an artist, that's when I feel really powerful.”
Once her voice fully returns and the moving boxes are unpacked, Bradbery will head to Australia as one of the key acts on the first ever Ridin' Hearts festival alongside Bailey Zimmerman, Sam Barber, Alana Springsteen (no relation) and Seaforth. It will mark Bradbery's second time down under, and she is chomping at the bit to experience performing on the other side of the world once again. “The fans there make it such an experience in itself,” she enthuses. “They're so much fun, and you can tell they love country music so much.
“Besides everything else, it is just beautiful to be there. I vacationed a little bit after my last tour there, and we're going to do that this time as well by coming earlier so we can go exploring and really soak it in. I have people coming with me that haven't been before, so I'm just as excited for them as I am for myself.”