Interview: Singer-Songwriter Brittany Bexton
HELLO BRITTANY BEXTON, PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT IS YOUR MUSICAL BACKGROUND? DO YOU HAVE A MUSICAL FAMILY OR DID YOU JUST FALL INTO SONGWRITING ALL ON YOUR OWN?
I know this might sound funny, but I was pretty much born singing. I pretty much sang before I talked, and I talked early. The first picture my family has of me signing, I was younger than two, and had wandered up on stage at a camp, taken a microphone, and started singing. When I was a kid, around 7 years old, I sang in church choirs. I started playing instruments around the age of 7 as well, and started taking actual voice lessons when I was 12. I’ve sung in jazz choirs, classical choirs, show choirs and quartets, and I’ve studied just about every style solo. I started writing when I was really young too. I’m not sure of an exact age; it was just sort of built into me. I used to go on bike rides and make up songs. I was about 12 when I wrote and finished my first song. But it’s funny because I don’t come from a musical family. My family appreciates music, and listens to it. They all played instruments in school, but none of them are “musical.” My dad’s an architect, my mom was a school principal, one of my brothers is a financial analyst, and the other is a landscape architect. I like to joke that I’m the only crazy one that went into the arts. But it wasn’t a choice so much as a part of who I am.
WHAT INFLUENCED YOU TO BE A SINGER-SONGWRITER?
I really always wanted to be a singer-songwriter. I always respected people who wrote their own music. And I loved crafting my feelings and thoughts into words, poetry, and songs. There were a couple other career interests growing up. I thought about being a marine biologist, or an attorney, or a counselor when I was still in elementary school, but even with those thoughts, I was always going to be a singer-songwriter too. That was the definite yes every time. My family used to joke that I would be the dancing, singing marine biologist attorney. But as I got older I knew I really just wanted to do music. I’m a life-long learner, and I love learning new things and keeping my brain active, but music is my heart.
WHO INSPIRES YOUR PLAYING STYLE? WHICH ARTISTS CAN WE REFER TO?
I’ve been inspired by a lot of artists over time. My family listened to a lot of oldies and Motown when I was a kid, so that was always an influence for me. I loved Aretha Franklin’s big voice, and I loved Carol King’s style, melody and lyrics. I also loved singer-songwriters like Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, and Shawn Colvin. And alternative rock or pop-rock from the nineties was my jam, and a huge influence. I loved bands like the Goo Goo Dolls, Train, and their Christian counterparts like Lifehouse, and Switchfoot. I think all songs have their place and purpose, but I’ve always loved strong lyrics that really capture feelings, and a story.
WHAT IS YOUR TYPICAL SONGWRITING PROCESS?
That varies so much at this point that it can be different for every song. When I first started writing the melodies and lyrics would always come together. I’d have lines pop into my head with the melody already with them. But now that I write music professionally, I’ve learned new techniques to keep things rolling, because that approach requires a lot of inspiration, and inspiration doesn’t always come easily. Now, sometimes I’ll get a cool melody line that I’ll save and revisit later to see what it’s trying to say. Or I’ll get some lyrics and write them in my notes on my phone so I can visit them later and craft them more. I also get song titles or concepts a lot. I do still get melody and lyric lines together as well. I save all of these, and when I sit down to write, I revisit the ideas that I’ve been looking at and choose which one is striking a chord at the time. I do a lot of co-writing, so I’ll bring these ideas into co-writes as well. I still write by myself too though. I often approach the song from the concept, or title, and I’ll do a free write on the idea for a good 5-10 minutes. I don’t try to structure the free write at all; I just let whatever comes to mind flow. Then when I feel like I’ve got nothing more, we tend to look at the free write and pull out lines or ideas we like. I’ve written an entire song in format without realizing it in a free write, but that is not common. Usually parts of my free writes don’t make any sense because they are just a flow. I tend to focus more on lyrics and feel and structure first. I’ll have an idea of melody, but not force anything until I feel good about the story line and how we’re telling it.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR YOU TO WRITE A SONG?
This also varies. There are songs where I’ve sat down, had the idea, and written the entire song in five minutes because it just flowed from a supernatural type of inspiration. But I’ve also started songs, and not finished them for months, mainly because I’d re-visit them over time. They each have their own journey. I’d say most commonly it takes me about 1-3 hours to write a song though.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING SONGWRITERS?
Study the music you love. Consume as much music as you can. Live a life worth writing about. Explore, learn, live, and experience life. Be a life-long learner; there is always something new to learn, even in the areas where you are an “expert.” Read books and poetry. Let other peoples’ thoughts inspire you. Be willing to co-write. Co-writers can be the thing that takes the rough off of your edges, because we all have different strengths, and we all bring those strengths to the table when we are writing. That said, writing is like dating. There will be some people you click with in the writing room almost immediately, and some you don’t mesh with at all. Don’t give up on co-writing if you have a few bad experiences. Also, I highly recommend writing in some capacity every day; whether that’s journaling, writing, or doing free-writes about things. It helps immensely to get into writing mode, and keep ideas flowing.
WHERE CAN OUR READERS FIND YOU ONLINE?
My website is the hub to everything. That is: BrittanyBexton.com but they can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as well. I am Brittany Bexton (@BrittanyBexton) on all of them. My music is also available on all digital platforms.