Doubters beware, Abby Bryant is prepared to write her own artistic destiny, regardless of what others believe her path should be. Along with her band the Echoes, she recently released her debut album, Not Your Little Girl, which is the kind of record that proves naysayers wrong from the first note, making the many challenges she has had to overcome worth the fight.
I recently sat down with Bryant to discuss the payoff for years of determination, walking boldly on her desired course, and ensuring that the band turns their backs on future industry pressures.
Americana Highways: You just released your debut album, Not Your Little Girl, on October 15. What kind of emotions are you juggling with as you relinquish control over this part of your creative self and put it in the hands of the universe?
Abby Bryant: I feel totally at peace about releasing this album to the world. I gave these songs everything I had – we all did. We took a full two years to create this album to make sure we cut no corners and left no page unturned. I’m diving head-on into this release knowing I did everything in my power to create something I’m proud of that’s a deeply personal expression of my life and experiences, and how others respond to the album isn’t up to me. I can live with that and sleep soundly at night.
AH: In terms of your own life accomplishments, where does finishing and releasing Not Your Little Girl rank? How important is it to you to have this first one under your belt now?
AB: Finishing and releasing this album holds the most profound sense of accomplishment I’ve ever felt, and the feeling lies not just in the album itself. It’s more about this chapter of our lives being the culmination of years of determination and hard work in the face of countless challenges with circumstances and people who doubted us. The song “Keep Moving” touches on just that – how the band has relentlessly labored, fought through tough times, and honed our skills to have our own song to share with the world. Bailey (Faulkner) and I decided from the beginning that we’d stick together and do whatever it takes to live out our dream, and we’ve done just that. And if you have any experience with getting a brand new band or a small business off the ground, you’d know it can take a lot.
AH: What would somebody learn about you in sitting down and listening to the album front to back?
AB: The songs work together to tell a story and communicate from all angles of my life that I’m strong-willed with a sincere heart, determined to walk boldly on the path ahead of me. I’m willing to make tough choices and face my fears. Our band is driven in very much the same way – we’re ambitious, hardworking, and always willing to brush off the dirt and stay the course. I’m kind and good to others but willing to draw firm lines in the sand when someone treats me with anything less than respect and honesty. You could say I’m a strong advocate for myself and the people and principles that matter to me, and I’m growing in that strength every day from facing the challenges of this industry and life in general. I hope that’s what folks gather from hearing the record.
AH: What I love about the album is that even when the band is wailing, there is still a soothing quality to the tracks, and in particular, your vocals. Music is supposed to transport us – at least, it does for me – so I wonder, where do you want these 13 songs to take people? Beyond what they have done for you and the band, what do you want them to do for other people?
AB: We brought a lot of variety from song-to-song with this album because we wanted listeners to have that sense of the full ups and downs of the human experience. I hope we’ve captured the range and complexity of many of the challenges, triumphs, love, and loss that’s a part of our collective consciousness. I hope the message is relatable and meaningful to people from all walks of life. That’s ultimately our goal – to share our story and songs in a way that helps us connect with others.
AH: What is one lesson the band had to learn the hard way in putting together Not Your Little Girl that you’ll apply to future albums moving forward?
AB: We had a tough experience in the beginning stages of recording the album where we felt pressure from a member of the industry to choose a particular recording studio and producer. This choice soon proved to be costly, stressful, and didn’t yield the results we were looking for. After wasting some time and money and basically beginning the project again, we learned that we’ll trust our own intuition next time and never let anyone pressure us into making a choice we’re not comfortable with.
AH: Your musical roots stretch back to singing and playing music in your church. What would that Abby think of this album if she had a chance to catch a glimpse of her musical future all those years ago?
AB: Abby from years back could never have imagined the life I live now. I grew up among very talented small town musicians with no knowledge of the music industry or access to the types of networks necessary to become a career musician in the “secular” scene. I’m so thankful for church and the ways it helped me grow as a person and musician, but it was a very different world. My gospel music roots run deep and will forever influence the music I love and create. I always daydreamed of singing in front of crowds as a kid, but that dream seemed like a totally unapproachable fantasy. It wasn’t until college when I started sitting in with friends’ bands in bars and eventually gigging around town that I imagined I could eventually make a career out of performing.
AH: Sometimes more important than creative influences are our own personal support systems. Who are some of those people who have supported your creative endeavors over the years, and, could this album have existed without them?
AB: My dad was a big part of my music from the beginning. He encouraged me to sing in church and taught me to play the piano. He attended every single music event during my developing years, from recitals to college choir events. To this day we often sing and play together when I make the trip back home. I know I would never be where I am today without his guidance.
Another amazing support system I gained much later is the folks involved at the center of FloydFest. When we were only about a year into our careers as a touring band, we won their On-the-Rise artist series, and this helped open up a whole new world of access and opportunity with other festivals and events and really helped us gain fans and exposure quickly. They’ve embraced us in such a personal way too and have always treated us like family. Another group that comes to mind is the incredible team of women that operate the nonprofit Can’d Aid. They’ve supported us for years now as TUNES Ambassadors and have given us grants to help us record music, travel, create new merchandise, etc. They helped us purchase our first touring vehicle and were a huge part of helping us create this new album. Their mission of giving underserved communities access to music lessons and instruments really hits home with us. I’m so grateful for all the people I’ve mentioned, and there are many others I’ll never forget.
AH: You’re forging your own path, but if you had the opportunity to emulate another artist’s career and put yourself on a similar trajectory, whose would it be and why?
AB: There are a number of current musicians I look up to, like Brandi Carlile and Jim James, whose careers I admire for having the substance to transcend fads and trends – timeless talent and with impact that lasts. However, I’m most focused on making the best, most heartfelt music possible and working as hard as I can to see where it takes me in my own way.
AH: What do you get out of being in a band – this band – that you can’t achieve creatively on your own? How much do the rest of the members inspire you?
AB: The group as a whole keeps me moving forward at the best and worst of times, and I’d often feel totally overwhelmed trying to do on my own the things we accomplish together. Bailey, for example, always seems to have new inspiration and energy when mine is lacking, and vice versa. From a performance standpoint, everyone plays a role in creating a full sound that none of us can produce individually, and that’s a beautiful thing. There’s no feeling like being backed by a full band. It’s support and solidarity in every sense of the word.
AH: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
AB: No, I don’t think it’d be helpful for me to see the future in that way. As long as I know I’m staying true to my own journey and making music that’s fulfilling for me, I’m happy to venture into the unknown.
For more information on Abby Bryant and the Echoes, visit www.abbybryantandtheechoes.com.