At sixteen years old, Bailey James is finding her sound. The challenge for Bailey is finding a sound that fits her since she likes many different genres of music. The singer/songwriter’s most recent releases are very different from each other, but the songs are personal and have meaning to Bailey. For Bailey, the balance between music and trying to have a normal life can also be challenging. Bailey and her family have faced some challenges in the last few years, but Bailey’s passion for music has given her an escape. The young singer/songwriter’s resilience is impressive. Her latest singles, “Devil Won’t Take Me Down” and “The One,” are a testament to her authenticity and resilience.
Bailey’s Love of Music
Bailey James’s love of music came from her parents. Her dad used to sing Johnny Cash songs to her. At eleven years old, Bailey would go home from school and sing until late at night. The young singer wanted anything to do with music. Bailey said, “Taylor Swift was a big inspiration for me. I researched everything about her career.” Following Taylor’s example, “my parents took me to Nashville with a CD I had recorded with everything from Patsy Cline cover songs to opera. We went to every major label to pitch it.” In the process, they met some excellent people.
For three years, “we traveled to Nashville every few months to stay in touch, write, and do shows.” Two years ago, Bailey James and her family moved to Nashville from Levittown, Pennsylvania. Bailey said, “It was a bit of a culture shock moving from the North.” She admitted, “I didn’t know what I was doing here.” However, Bailey has made a home in Nashville.
What inspires Bailey’s Songwriting?
Every songwriter’s process is different. Inspiration for songwriters comes from various sources: someone’s story, their own life experience, something someone said to them. Bailey said, “The songs I write can be influenced by the music I am listening to at the time. Other times I sit in my bedroom, pick up my guitar and jam. An idea might come to me. I also write about what I am experiencing as a teenager.” It is essential to Bailey that kids her age can relate to her music.
After Bailey moved to Nashville, the singer/songwriter was trying to write for a specific genre of music. However, Bailey realized she had to write what she wanted. Bailey said, “I don’t want to be in a box.” Songwriting, for many, must be organic. If you limit yourself to a specific formula, you can lose the reason you began writing songs in the first place.
Lessons Learned Since Moving to Nashville
At sixteen years old, one might think the challenges of trying to make it the music business would be overwhelming for Bailey James. Many her age who have come before her did not make it. The singer/songwriter said, “The pressure of doing this as a teenager doesn’t affect me, but what people say sometimes does. I know who I am and try to remember that. People in the music business will try to change you into something you are not to make you marketable.” Bailey continued to say, “I am going to be me and people will have to accept that. If you are going to be an artist, you must have thick skin.”
Bailey has grown as an artist and continues to learn more every day. Her prowess as a vocalist has grown. Bailey admitted, “When I was first starting to sing, I wanted to belt it out all the time. I have learned when to belt the song and when to sing softer. The young singer/songwriter is determined to be patient as she works to achieve her goals in Nashville. Bailey said, “I wanted to make it at a young age, but now I want to make it when its right for me. Many child stars were not ready for that success, and they couldn’t handle it.”
The Story Behind the Songs
Bailey James has released three songs this year. “I Won’t Be Silent” is a song she released in conjunction with the Jason Foundation. The Jason Foundation is an organization that works to raise awareness and prevent youth suicide. Bailey is the first National Youth Advocate for the Jason Foundation.
“Devil Won’t Take Me Down” is a song about resilience to life’s tragedies. Bailey’s co-writers on this song were Julie Downs and Steve O’Brien. She recently finished a three-month radio tour promoting the single. The song, written about a year in which Bailey’s father lost his job, and her brother died, is about perseverance. After all of that year’s events, Bailey shows her determination to push through and keep going.
Bailey’s current single is titled “The One.” Bailey wrote, “The One” with Steve O’Brien. Interestingly, they wrote this song before Bailey’s brother committed suicide. Bailey said, “I wrote this song with my brother in mind, but it wasn’t really about him. However, after he passed, it became true and really how I felt.” She continued, “I got lucky with this song because since his death I haven’t been about to write about it. I tried to play “The One” about a week after he died, but I couldn’t get through the song.”
When Bailey and Steve wrote the song, “we finished the song in about 30 minutes.” The singer/songwriter said, “It was the fastest I have ever written a song. I had only lost my grandfather, but I had never met him. I wanted to write a song for him, but also for people who had lost someone.”
Bailey recorded the song three years ago and just put it way until her brother Zane passed. Bailey and her team decided to release “The One” on Zane’s birthday.
What does the future hold for Bailey James?
Bailey James is finding her sound, working with Mia Morris and Hailey Powers. Bailey said, “I have been writing more with the girls, trying to find a song that fits us all. Hailey is more pop/jazz; Mia is metal/rock, while I am more country/blues.”
James will continue to play as many shows as she can. She has played at festivals, shows during CMA week, and her favorite place to play is mudding events. Occasionally, Bailey will play a writer’s round in Nashville too. If you get the opportunity to see Bailey play, you won’t be disappointed. However, in the meantime, go download or stream Bailey’s music.
Lessons Learned from Bailey James
When I heard Bailey tell the story of her brother at a writer’s night this summer, I immediately reached out to her. I hoped that I could offer her some perspective from my own experience of losing my brother when I was eleven. I am still uncertain of whether or not my brother meant to kill himself at fourteen or why if he did. However, Bailey and I have a bond that only someone who has lost a sibling can understand. As she says in “The One,” there is always the one empty chair at the table. At every significant moment in your life, they will not be a part of it. I believe I can speak for everyone when I say losing a sibling under any circumstance can be a life altering event
If you have experienced loss, you understand the pain does not go away, but it gets easier to manage. It takes time, but it is essential to talk about your feelings. I applaud Bailey’s courage to share her brother’s story and how she managed her grief. She has devoted time going to schools to tell her story. Many times teenagers will relate more to their peers, so Bailey is doing important work with the Jason Foundation.
Music helped Bailey work through anxiety after her brother’s death, and her hope is her music can help you too. I know music has helped me cope with the stresses of life also. The lesson I learned from Bailey is to take something negative you go through and turn it into something positive.
Please Don’t Be Silent!
The pain felt by those left behind after a suicide is devastating. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or thinking about suicide, please reach out to someone. Call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you are struggling with the grief of losing a loved one, please reach out to someone as well. You are not alone. If you want to share your story, please leave a comment or e-mail me.
To learn more about Bailey James, you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube @baileyjamesgang
Visit Bailey’s website at baileyjamesgang.com/jfi for a free download of “I Won’t Be Silent.”