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Struggling with your identity. Is it a part of your routine, or who you really are?

Posted: November 7, 2022

For this topic, we will focus on the definition of identity of how you want to be perceived in the music industry. One dictionary defines “identity” as The philosophical concept of identity is distinct from the better-known notion of identity in use in psychology and the social sciences. The philosophical concept concerns a relation, specifically, a relation that x and y stand in if, and only if they are one and the same thing, or identical to each other (i.e. if, and only if x = y).

The sociological notion of identity, by contrast, has to do with a person's self-conception, social presentation, and more generally, the aspects of a person that make them unique, or qualitatively different from others (e.g. cultural identity, gender identity, national identity, online identity, and processes of identity formation). Lately, identity has been conceptualized considering humans’ position within the ecological web of life.

I must apologize for putting you through that definition. However, it is setting the foundation for this topic. There are many theories or suggestions on what makes up an identity. Just so we don’t get off track, I would like to stick to “the aspects of a person that make them unique”. Which is easy to translate as we apply it to a music setting. Every artist considers the identity that they would like to be perceived by others. You want that ability to connect with fans. If there is no common thread among the fans you are targeting, then you will totally lose out on a window of success. Which also includes failure. The next step is for the artist to go back, to find the right identity so they will be able to meld with their audience. This has been the case with many artists. Some of them I call friends. They keep continue changing their identity, because they either fail to research their targeted audience, or they listen to someone else. Do you see the problem? You continue changing, and your audience never catches up with you. They never quite get the message you are sending with your ever-changing identity.

One of the artists that I have interviewed this year, has never prevented me from Identifying who she was. It is clear as to who the audience she is targeting with her identify. Her name is Bri Bagwell. This bombshell of an artist is fascinating in her ability to connect with her audience. Before we get into the interview, let’s take a moment to review her achievements.

Some artists perform, but Bri Bagwell shines whether it be on stage, in the writing room or on your radio. Radiant and fearless, Bagwell is a quintessential vocal powerhouse – captivating with a golden persona and unequivocal talent.

 

About Bri Bagwell

From the time she began writing poems in her childhood, to teaching herself how to play a dusty old piano and guitar, to performing shows at age 14, Bri Bagwell has followed a singular path towards music. Singer/songwriter, Bagwell, has seven #1 Texas radio singles, multiple Female Vocalist of the Year Awards, and four albums to her credit. Her eleven-song record "Corazón y Cabeza" comes out on August 26, 2022. The New Braunfels, Texas-based artist is known for her rousingly fun live performances and trailblazing artistry. Taste of Country raves, “Honesty, a big voice, and the right song are what makes a country star, and Bri Bagwell has all three.”

Country Exclusive describes Bri’s music as “thoughtful and accessible, personal, and universal, authentically country. The hooks are smart, the melodies are memorable and engaging, a nice slice of modern country for those who appreciate a good lyric but still like a more contemporary sound.” Texas Music Pickers characterizes her recordings as “packed with both grit and grace. As she opens and invites you to take a closer look, she confidently lets you know exactly who she is, what she wants, or how she feels in each track.”

Bri moves from the studio to live shows with the ease of a true star, performing an average of 150 shows a year with her band. She has performed with a long list of artists including Willie Nelson, Miranda Lambert, Robert Earl Keen, Kacey Musgraves, and Dwight Yoakam. A festival favorite around the world, she has appeared at over 20 festivals including the Key West Songwriters Festival, Festival Country Rendez-vous in Crappone, France, Guitars and Swim-Up Bars in Riviera Maya, Mexico, and Musicfest in Steamboat, Colorado. Saving Country Music explains, “It takes no convincing to book her on the main stage of a festival right beside the boys because she brings the energy and party to her live shows... She’s a songwriter like many of the women of Texas music, but she’s an entertainer as well.”

While growing up in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Bri first began performing as a teenager in her twin brothers’ band and immediately knew she loved being on stage.

My mom and dad were always a little hesitant to let me play at the bar at such a young age. I recall a bouncer throwing a man out of the bar (and by throwing, I mean literally) for being obnoxious to a fourteen-year-old girl singing on stage. I got the honky-tonk education early (and loved it), but even the bars were confused about protocol because I wasn't even 18. My parents had to be at every show, and I had to be escorted by a bouncer everywhere I went that was not on stage, especially on busy nights. With only short breaks between sets, it made the most sense to me to just get a piggyback ride from the bouncer to the back of the bar where my mom would wait for me while I went to the bathroom.” Laughing, Bri adds, “I still wish I could do this - it's efficient. My hometown has always been supportive of me, which is such a blessing.

After high school, Bri attended the University of Texas in Austin, jumping at the chance to live in ‘The Live Music Capital of the World.’ In college, she began teaching herself guitar, having picked up chords from watching her brother play. “My cousin Bleu Mortenson played steel guitar for years for people like Trent Willmon and Kenny Chesney, and when I told him I wanted to play guitar, he mailed one to my dorm! I picked it up quickly, with the goal of learning enough chords to write/play country songs. Even though guitar doesn't make as much sense to me as a piano, I have fallen deeply in love with the instrument. Not to mention, I learned quickly that a guitar is much more portable than a piano,” adds Bagwell.

Equipped with the right city, the new instrument, and fellow musicians, Bri was on stage once again. “My senior year of college, a friend had a show at Mother Egan's Irish Pub on Sixth Street, and he called me up to play a couple of songs during his set. The bar manager offered me my own show right then and there, which was incredible but terrifying for me (especially since I only knew a handful of songs on the guitar).” This turned into a weekly residency for Bri and then band performances grew from there.

Bri has seen her audience grow and diversify as she has progressed through the musical landscape. She released her first full-length album, Banned from Santa Fe, in 2011, and a self-titled EP in 2013. When a Heart Breaks was released in 2015, garnering her the accolades of Texas Regional Radio & Music Awards Female Vocalist of the Year, and single “My Boots” hit #1 on the Texas Radio Charts. She was the only female artist to have a number one song the entire year.

In My Defense, Bri’s 2018 album, spawned four #1 singles on the Texas Regional Radio Report accompanied by a music video for "As Soon As You" that spent an impressive nine weeks on CMT. Since the 2018 album, she has released a single "Heroes," as well as a duet with Kylie Frey (a country/bluegrass remake of the classic Cyndi Lauper song, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"). Both songs have been well received, and fans are highly anticipating her new full-length record to be released in Fall 2022. After being named "Female Artist of the Decade" by the Texas Regional Radio Awards in 2021, she is ready to release what she considers her best album yet, accompanied by heavy touring this summer/fall.

Though constantly being on the road and simultaneously recording can be trying, Bri’s faith in her purpose has never wavered. “I have had hundreds of moments where I know this is where I am supposed to be. There hasn't been a single day where I did not want to get on stage. I know that I will find a way to do this if I am physically able; it's in my blood. I cannot do anything else. Those magic stage moments are what I live for.”

Bri’s long list of admirers includes Travis Tritt who predicts, “This girl is the next big thing to come out of the state of Texas. She is what the future of country music should be.”

 

Interview with Bri Bagwell and Guitar Thrills Magazine

GT: First. It is great to have you back. It seemed like just a couple of days ago, that we discussed the benefits of streaming platforms. It was a game changing discussion for many of our
readers. Today, we are going to talk about identity. Instead of describing to our readers what your identity is, can you please explain how you try to connect with your targeted audience by means of your identity? If you recall, it is “the aspects of a person that make them unique”.

Bri: Identity can be a confusing subject, because I feel humans are constantly growing and changing. Some people are lucky enough to have their voice, message, and identity sorted out at a very young age. Some of us take a little longer to settle into exactly who we are. Our influences also can alter our identities throughout our lives, so we are shifting constantly to be more like something or somebody else.What I have found is that what matters to other people (and even what performs well on social media!) is when I am my most genuine self. I also love seeing others bask in their true identity. I feel like I can always tell when something is glossed over or blurred for the sake of social media. What makes us unique is how we instinctively and genuinely react to life, not how we spin it for likes.

I also think it’s important to note that it’s okay to be in search of one’s identity. In my thirties, I really found myself. But in my twenties, I wasn’t being “fake,” I was just on a journey to who I am now. I’m thankful that I know exactly who I am, and I’m able to communicate and highlight that person in my songwriting and my presence in person and online. That has worked for me in regards to fan connection; and I don’t have to try, either. It’s a real connection to my real self, and I am still trying everyday to be better.

 

GT: How has that enabled you to build a large following? Both online and live performances?

Bri: If you’ve been to a show, you know that I like to reveal the stories behind the songs, and I love to joke and laugh on stage. Shows are fluid and ever-changing. Sure, there will be some of the same stories re-told, etc, but I truly people come back to shows time and time again (for over ten years!) because of the raw communication when I perform. You will know how I’m feeling and if I had an eyelash mishap, for example. Someone told me, “you come to a Bri Bagwell show for what happens between the songs, even if you love the songs.” I found that fascinating and never forgot it.

I have never had a giant overnight “spike” in fan following. It’s been steady growth through the years, with time and conscious effort into what I’m writing, recording, and sharing. For career longevity, it’s important to invest in your fan base. They sure have invested in me.

 

GT: Do you fans ever mention that they get you? They appreciate your ability to connect with them?

Bri: I get unlimited types of social media feedback. Some people love seeing my dog. Some people love when I sing snippets of songs. Some people love the outfits and glamorous photos. That’s why I do it all. You’ll see the shiny and pretty, and you’ll see the raw and unfiltered. There’s something on my page for each type of fan. Although it is a lot of work, people come to a show feeling like they’re my friend. That’s an interesting dynamic, of course, having a stranger feel like they really know you when you don’t know them at all. 33

My boyfriend does not show much at all on social media, and he has a mystique about him that is very cool. It’s his choice to keep his personal life very private, and I 100% respect that. I think both approaches are great in their own way… I just enjoy creating fun and interesting content, and it’s easy because my life is very fun and interesting.

 

GT: The way you dress, style, speak and present yourself, is part of your identity. What impressed you so much, that it affected your current style?

Bri: Fashion is a bit difficult when you’re a female that plays a lot of shows, attends awards shows, does multiple video and photoshoots in one year, and also lives a life off of the road. Style and image play a major role in every event, and it’s a lot of work to plan outfits, accessories, boots, and hair and makeup for hundreds of occasions. I have found that a hat has become a large part of my identity; but it is mainly due to the fact that I can throw it on in an emergency time crunch, when I haven’t washed my hair, and when I don’t have access to a mirror or outlet. That sounds dramatic, but life on the road is completely unpredictable and ever-changing, especially without a tour bus. We have to have things that work quickly and work all of the time. For me, that’s great boots, great jewelry, and a great hat.

I like to highlight my home state of New Mexico, and it’s influence on my fashion. You’ll always find me in turquoise, serape, and anything Southwestern. I have also curated partnerships with a jewelry company, high-end purse company, and multiple boot and western wear companies throughout the years. I’m able to affordably rotate and maintain an impressive closet catalog of things that I love. I always tell people to not shy away from partnerships that can benefit everyone.

 

GT: At some point Mattel (the toy company) must approach you with a contract to create your own line of toys. How would you feel about? I am sure every little girl would run out to the storeto buy one. When they do that, you know you have made lasting impressions for many of your fans.

Bri: I’m an entrepreneur and would never turn down an opportunity like that. They could accompany the children’s book that I just finished! I love that little girls and boys look up to me as a singer-songwriter. It’s the cutest. I would like a toy line of easy-to-play permanently tuned guitars for little hands. Hey, it could happen!

 

GT: Do you recall a time when an audience member said something negative? If so, what was your response?

Bri: I’ve had plenty of negative comments through the years. Recently, I let my hair grow out (thanks COVID), and I left it my natural brunette color. When I got back on the road, a few fans were livid and very negative about my God-given hair color… which absolutely blew my mind. When a negative comment happens, I try to remind myself that “this hurts a little bit now, but you’ll laugh about it after some time passes.” It’s so true. Someone once commented that I sing like a dying calf! That makes me chuckle out loud now. Haters often mean you’re doing something right, although I tell my team to feel free and delete and block any trolls so it’s not even in my headspace!

 

GT: Well, you carry yourself well under all conditions. That is why this topic was picked specifically for you. Thus, we appreciate the time and effort that you made to interview with
us today. Please make note, that you will be in an upcoming issue of Guitar Thrills Magazine, that is specific to the country genre only. We also have another surprise for you. However, for
that you will have to wait until November. We hope to speak with you again soon. How does that sound?

Bri: Absolutely! Always good chatting with y’all.

 

GT: Awesome. Take care, and we look forward to your continued achievements in the music industry.

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