“Self doubt, Awareness, Absorbing emotions no matter how much they suck, and Desire to share.”
18 year old musician, Bailey Bigger, hails from Marion, Arkansas. Singer, songwriter, guitarist, mandolinist, and banjo player…Bigger has been creating relevant music in the mid-south since she was 9 years old.
We were introduced to Bailey Bigger at the SoFar Sounds anniversary show in Memphis, TN. She arrived on stage, huge smile across her face, guitar in hand, ready to give the sold-out crowd a tear-jerking performance. She performed a few songs from her latest EP, “Closer To Home”, with small descriptions of each record before she sang. During her performance of Tall Buildings, which is about her transition into adulthood, we fought back tears while some around us were unsuccessful in holding theirs back.
Immediately after her performance, she was swarmed with congratulations and questions about her EP. Brekfast caught up with her for a sit-down interview that started in Goner Records and transitioned to Java Cabana, a quaint coffee shop that houses small musicians throughout the week. We sat down with Bailey to discuss her Levitt Shell performance, Memphis music, and a track-by-track breakdown of Closer To Home. Check it out below.
How do you like being in Memphis? What is it like being a musician here?
I love it. So Marion isn’t far, it’s about 10 minutes from downtown so I have grown up around Memphis. When I first started playing, I was playing around Marion, my first gig in Memphis was at Otherlands. When I finally got that opportunity to play over here, everything just kind of picked up. There is so much good music and music history here, and I think it’s very authentic. I love Memphis.
Have you thought about going anywhere else?
Maybe Nashville down the road, but I think that in Memphis, I have a better chance at standing out, whereas in Nashville, there are a lot of me’s. Memphis just seems more pure, like a chance to be a real musician and not just fighting to get on the radio.
How long have you been singing and when did you realize that this was something you wanted to do?
I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, but I started playing guitar when I was 9 years old. I was writing poetry as a little kid and once I picked up the guitar, it transitioned into songwriting.
Do you remember the first song that you ever learned on guitar?
The first song that I remember learning on guitar was “Smoke on the Water” [laughs].
Who sings that song?
Oh my God. Don’t ask me that [laughs]. It’s some rock band. Can you look it up?
It says Deep Purple.
That sounds right. It’s so funny because it doesn’t fit my sound at all.
That’s usually how things start. I was a huge Britney Spears fan as a kid and now I play Papa Roach constantly [laughs]. But speaking of your sound, you recently performed at The Levitt Shell.
Was that the biggest stage you’ve performed on so far?
Yeah, that was the biggest stage I’ve ever played before and probably the biggest crowd. It was incredible. The Shell has actually always been one of my serious goals. When I got the email with the location, I just screamed [laughs]. I was so excited.
You were amazing. My friends were in tears, you might have heard them hyping you up on stage.
Thank you. And I did!
You performed the tracks from Closer To Home, so let’s do a track-by-track. What do these songs mean? What are some of the stories behind them? Let’s start with Johnny.
Okay, Johnny is a real person. I met Johnny in New Mexico, in the Navajo Nation last summer. I spent 10 days out there with a youth group on a mission trip and we just worked on some houses there. He was one of the leaders located in New Mexico that helped mission workers come through. He was also in charge of the construction. He was a college guy that I hit it off with, and we spent some time in the desert [laughs].
I Love You, Goodbye is about a different guy. I worked on a farm for two months last fall and he worked there also. It was just another super romantic setting. We fell in love and he had to move back in November to finish school. So that song is just about having to let go of something when you don’t want to. It’s actually about a specific night where I realized that it wouldn’t work no matter how hard I pushed for it. If you love someone, let it go. No matter how much it hurt, it was probably best for the long run.
Tornado is about my mind. I was going through a phase of being lost and trying to find myself again. Someone in my life had just made me feel kind of bad about myself and changed who I was. It was about learning to let go of toxic people and focusing on getting my heart back.
Wildflower is about a guy I worked at a summer camp with and that was my first love. I was 16 and I remember feeling like it was more than just a crush. We spent the summer together and it was like a forbidden love thing. He was three years older than me so my parents were pretty against it, so we would just sneak around and it was really fun but he moved back to Tennessee for school. It’s like that feeling when you’re young and you fantasize about marriage and the future, but then it hits you, people go back to their other lives and things just don’t work out. It’s just, if you ever think of me, I’m still here. He called me his wildflower.
And Lyrics is also about the guy I worked on the farm with. I wrote that song after he moved back home. I just wrote it exactly like it was. It came out exactly like it is now. Once I finished it, it was perfect. It was just a final message to him because I wanted him to know that he is worthy of being loved.
Which record would you say is your favorite?
I think Lyrics will always be my favorite because it just came out perfectly. Since I wrote that song, I haven’t written another song for him just because I feel like I said everything that I meant and that song will always speak for me.
So now that you’ve said what you wanted to say, what happens next? What happens after those stories are told? Do you find yourself in a creative rut?
It’s funny that you ask that. I’ve been in a really dry spot for awhile. Getting out comes down to figuring out the things going on in your life that aren’t generating creativity. Since I moved out, I’ve been going through a lot of life changes, and it’s stressful and it’s scary. It’s new and I’ve had a lot of anxiety lately and I think that’s really put a damper on things. So I’ve been thinking about what brings me inspiration and figuring out how to get that back. I also listen to a lot of music. I’m listening to lyrics and listening to styles and finding inspiration from different people.
So speaking of music, who are you listening to?
I’m listening to a lot of bluegrass revival stuff right now like Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters, Mandolin Orange, The Avett Brothers. I’m always listening to Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Joan Baez. Lyrically, I’ve been listening to a lot of Billy Joel and Elton John just because those guys really know how to write some songs.
My last question, what is next for you?
I have a few gigs coming up.
September 4 – Growlers w Ben Abney & Sky King & the South
September 7 – Buckman Auditorium w Kris Acklen – 8PM
September 16 – Ghost River Brewery
September 29 – Orpheum Memphis Lobby
October 24 – Sounds Good Memphis (831 S Cooper) w Aaron James
For more on Bailey Bigger, check out her website by clicking here.
Stream “Closer To Home” below.