Today we’re in Austin’s famous Fourth & Co with our guest, Bri Bagwell. And for those that have been sleeping under a giant Texas rock, she is an absolute Red Dirt music powerhouse. She’s an eight-time Texas Female Country Artist of the Year, star of multiple TV shows, and recently she won Artist of the Decade.
This New Braunfels, Texas-based artist is known for her rousingly fun live performances and trailblazing artistry. Travis Tritt even recently predicted, “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.”
Now let’s get right to it —a closer look at Bri Bagwell.
Bri Bagwell: Here it is. Let’s do it.
Nicolia Wiles: Now, you have played with some of the country’s greats. You played with Willie Nelson. You played all over the world. What has been your favorite, your most memorable performance to date?
Bri Bagwell: Ooh, I will have to go with that Willie Nelson gig. I mean, it really doesn’t get any better than that. And I was just honored to open, honored to play with him. But he came out and he was so kind. He signed my guitar and then he asked me to sing with him. So, I actually got to go sing on stage with Willie Nelson, which is mind-blowing. And he also kissed my mom. So that was…that was memorable in that way, too. My whole family got to come out. It was near my hometown of Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was in El Paso. And so just having my whole family there for such a great moment just made it all better.
Nicolia Wiles: Did he get to sign your guitar?
Bri Bagwell: Yeah, he did sign my guitar. And it’s my favorite guitar that I’ve ever owned. And now it’s hanging on the wall. It doesn’t go on the road with me anymore. And I miss it. It’s my baby. But when Willie Nelson signs your guitar, like you have to retire it. I need to wrap it in bubble wrap and just keep it forever on my wall.
Nicolia Wiles: Excellent. Getting a little more serious with this one – for a lot of artists, they really like to talk about, especially on social media, they like to talk about the positive aspects of the music industry. But with your song “Empty Chairs” you took a different perspective. What was it like for you to give a little more raw, vulnerable version of yourself in the industry?
Bri Bagwell: Yeah, I think what I’ve learned throughout my career is that what I do best, and what is perceived best, is whatever is authentic to myself. Any time I’ve tried to step out of that box and do something different, or do something that isn’t really just genuinely me, it doesn’t go over as well. So the fact is, is that this business is really tough and I think it was just a really easy song for me to write because it was like, some nights are packed and great and then some nights there will be empty chairs. And what’s been really interesting is that, that was probably my most well-received song among my musician friends, of course, that were very thankful that I wrote it, which was, you know, it’s a hard song to sing. I still can’t sing it without tearing up. But after COVID, like the people that have been coming up, there’s a lady that called me — she owned a restaurant and she was listening to empty chairs while looking at all the empty chairs at her restaurant as a business owner she was just, you know, going through the ups and downs like we go through as musicians. So it was interesting. I only thought that song would matter to music people, but it doesn’t. It’s kind of a universal truth. So I don’t know. It just speaks to the fact that I should always write songs from my core and it will help somebody out there somehow.
Nicolia Wiles: Now again, you’ve played with a lot of country’s greats. But if you had the opportunity, what would be your favorite artists, living or past, to record your next album with?
Bri Bagwell: Oh. This is a tough one, but Johnny Cash and my grandmother were second cousins. So, I am a direct Johnny Cash descendant. And I blame my like, I love Jesus, but I drink a little on that side of the family. And I just grew up loving his voice. And my dad bought me his autobiography. And I just love everything about Johnny Cash. So, it would probably have to be him. If I had to choose one. But I could choose 75. But we don’t have time. We don’t have time for that…
Nicolia Wiles: Now a quick look of you online shows a lot of fans talking about how you’re the hardest working woman in country music today and that you’re so graceful to always be there to answer questions or sign merch. How do you prioritize, and do such a great job, with a work-life balance when so many others find it very difficult?
Bri Bagwell: Well, I cry. I cry a lot. I cry all the time. No, that’s very sweet of you to say thank you, because I read this thing that, like, really helped me not too long ago, and I apologize I don’t remember the source, but it was kind of the idea of there is no such thing as balance. It’s like a trade-off. You know, when I’m doing personal life stuff, I’m going to be sacrificing business stuff. And so it never, you know, you never really achieve it. It’s more like recognizing that I’m giving up this for this and that. And once I kind of started looking at work-life balance like that, then I started to relax a little bit more. And it really helped my mindset and sometimes even signing until the end of the night, especially after COVID has gotten a little stressful after not being around people for two years because of COVID, so maybe just taking a time to realize what I’m able to give before I reach that point, that breaking point, because real life is really, really tough, and putting it out all on stage for 90 minutes, or however long, is exhausting and then going to talk to people afterwards. I have to really take a mental check and see where I’m at because I want to be able to be kind to everybody, that’s what they deserve. And every time people come to shows, I want them to be able to get their merch signed. I think that’s what’s so beautiful about Texas music, is being able to go meet the artist afterwards. I mean, you don’t get to do that with a lot of these national acts. So just making sure that I’m in the right headspace to be kind to everybody because I love that you said that I’m always grateful and kind — it’s not always that way, I’m definitely human. So, I just want to make sure that I that I’m always the person that I want to be to the fans, not who they want me to be, the person that I want to be. And that’s a person that works hard and is also kind.
Nicolia Wiles: So, talking about working hard. Tell us about winning the Artist of the Decade Award from John Dixon at your recent Music Fest at Steamboat.
Bri Bagwell: Oh, my gosh. I’ve won a lot of awards through the years, but getting something like a decade award — I was like, ‘Does this make me so good or does this make me feel old?’ I’m not sure. You know, it is when I won female vocalist of the Year last week for the eighth time…and you know, at that point it’s kind of just like, we don’t throw a party or anything. It’s like high five. All right. Those are hard for me because I think every female on the road deserves an award. It’s so incredibly hard. But also those little wins really give you a time to pause and reflect and look back like, ‘Wow, I’ve been playing Steamboat Music Fest for ten years’ and all the different band members I’ve had, all the songs I put out. And I think it just makes you kind of like reflect on your career and really appreciate what you’ve done because it’s go, go, go. It’s a hundred miles an hour all the time. And so those things that even when I glance at it on the shelf occasionally, it’s like, ‘I’ve really made this a career for ten years.’ And that’s, that’s something to be proud of. I may not be Kacey Musgraves, but I’ve also been able to just make it work for that long. So that’s what those awards mean to me. Just a little validation that I’ve been able to keep going all this time.
Nicolia Wiles: You’ve just come out of what is quite potentially some of the weirdest two years in the music industry. And obviously a lot of artists have been hit really hard with the pandemic and COVID overall. What was your strategy? To really come through that and come out better.
Bri Bagwell: COVID was rough. Coming from someone who plays full time and has that’s my only job — I stopped counting canceled shows at 100 and we actually had one cancel a couple of weeks ago, a private party. So like the cancelations are not over. We’re not done dealing with it, but it feels like we’re at least on the tail end. But I think it was like one or two things. You can give up and be sad or you can adapt and change. And so I started playing the live streams and that was fun. And for a little while that really worked for our revenue. But then had to do something else. So I did. I did two things. I launched my own clothing collection with one of my friends at the Glam Wagon. We did like a whole line of Bri Bagwell clothing, so that was cool. I mean, I’m not doing that anymore, but it was just something for COVID and it was a total blast is something I’ve always wanted to do and make money, like by wearing clothes and you’re kidding me. So that was really fun. And the other thing I did was start a Patreon account. So it’s just a platform called Patreon, and I release one song a month to my subscribers, so you can subscribe for $5 a month up to a lot more if you would like to do that. And then I just release exclusive content to my Patreon subscribers. So it’s a monthly fee and I get a monthly deposit in my bank account and it’s been really, really exciting because I’ve been able to cover my expenses and now I’m recording my record with that, with that money. So, so thank you to my Patreon members. And if you if have an extra $5 a month, I would sure appreciate it [laughs].
Nicolia Wiles: To those real top-level fans that want to see more Bri Bagwell music come out, obviously that Patreon helps record new songs. How would a fan get to be a Patreon member?
Bri Bagwell: Yeah, just go to Patreon.com and search Bri Bagwell. You can link to my Patreon and all you have to do is sign up and enter that credit card and then you’ll be charged monthly. And I’ve been releasing just my little raw work tapes, me and a guitar, and I’m fixing to start releasing new songs off my record that nobody’s heard yet. So I really think it’s a good thing because I feel like I’m giving something of value, maybe a pre-show meet and greet so you don’t have to stand in the long line at the end of the show to say hi. So instead of me just being like ‘please give me money’ because we, we really feel like, as musicians, we’re just always asking for money. And so to be able to have something that makes me feel like I’m giving back, what I’m getting, it’s such a great relationship to have.
Nicolia Wiles: Excellent. So now with that, what is the next big thing for Bri Bagwell?
Bri Bagwell: Well, I am doing the thing that everyone’s like, ‘don’t do that.’ I’m going to do it. I was telling my producer, Rachel Loy, I want to make a record. I haven’t had a full-length record come out since 2018. And I was telling her all these reasons and she stopped me and she was like, ‘You don’t have to convince me to make a record. Like, if you want to make a record, let’s make a record. Like, it’s not that hard.’ And I was like, okay. And it’s just a complicated thing because it’s right after COVID, after we lost all of our income for a couple of years. And then also the cost of recording has gone up. But with streaming and everything, our income has kind of gone down. And so it’s not the smartest money decision, but I have hundreds of songs. I write every week religiously. So I write a new song every week or every two weeks for the past three or four years of my life. So I just have tons of songs to choose from. So we picked 11 and I’m doing a full length record and it’s going to be out in September, but we’re going to start releasing songs off of it pretty soon. So I just can’t believe I’m even saying I have a record come out because it’s it feels like a dream because it’s been so long since I had had an album come out. It’s very, very exciting.
Nicolia Wiles: Excellent. Well, I know I personally, and the rest of the fans watching today will be definitely looking for that. But now to end things, with the most important question — what is your favorite bourbon?
Bri Bagwell: My favorite bourbon? Well, free bourbon is mostly my favorite. I love free bourbon, but free good bourbon is really right up there, too. I’ve been drinking a lot of Rebecca Creek through the years. They were an amazing sponsor for me for eight years, but now I like to try anything. So give me a call if you’d like me to try your bourbon. Is that a bad answer? [laughs].
Nicolia Wiles: I’m Nicolia Wiles, and this has been a closer look.
Bri Bagwell: With Bri Bagwell…