Last month, we introduced you to the sensational singer-songwriter Brynn Elliott, who had just released her new single ‘Time Of Our Lives’.
As the first release from a joint deal between Atlantic Records and Big Yellow Dog Music, ‘Time Of Our Lives’ is the perfect anthem which encourages us to live in the moment. Armed with Brynn’s soaring vocals, an infectious driving beat and empowering lyrics, the uplifting offering is sure to resonate with many.
Brynn’s single release served as a double celebration as she also graduated from Harvard University on the very same day. Her four years of studying philosophy has without doubt impacted on her music and we can look forward to hearing even more new material from Brynn later this year when she releases her new EP.
We recently hopped on the phone with Brynn to discuss ‘Time Of Our Lives’ in detail, the impact of studying philosophy at Harvard on her music, being out on the road and much, much more.
First off, congratulations on the release of your new single ‘Time Of Our Lives’, we’re really loving it here at CelebMix as it’s such an empowering anthem. What has the reaction to it been like so far?
Amazing, I’m glad you love it, thank you! Well I released it on the day of my graduation so it was just the most insane day because I was getting my diploma and also releasing a song. It was really fun because I got to release it with all my friends around me. I would see people at my graduation and they would be so nice about the song and say they love it. It’s really an anthem about being present in the moment and taking in the beauty of life. I think we were all really feeling that on graduation day so that was exciting.
I’ve had people online who had heard me play it live last summer when I was on the road touring and now they’re excited to have a produced version of it. There’s been a lot of good energy surrounding it and I’m just feeling so grateful to have it out there.
It was definitely the perfect soundtrack to your graduation!
It really was. That’s what I wrote it about – I wrote it before senior year, after deciding to be really present in every single moment for the last year of college. It was inspired by conversations that I was having with my friends. A lot of us were very uncertain about the future and we didn’t really know where we were going. We didn’t know if we were going to be together in the same space like we were in college. I just wrote it about taking those moments to take deep breaths and appreciate where you’re at and not thinking about the goodbyes in the future but just to take it all in. I’m quickly learning that it’s a lesson that applies to all of life, not just graduation.
What was the creative process like? How long did it take for the song to come to life?
It took us four days to write the song. I was writing with my friend Nathan Chapman and I came into the writing session like “I need to define who I am as an artist, I need this next song to really be one that sums everything up”. The song is an anthem and we went down a lot of different roads with different sounds but then we landed on this sound which is exactly the kind of song I wanted to write. I’m really inspired by older rock music so my songs definitely lend themselves towards those big power anthems. That’s what ‘Times Of Our Lives’ is, it just took a few minutes to realise that’s where my heart and head was.
Do you have a favourite lyric from the song or one that stands out the most for you?
I do! Last summer I was playing the song where I was repeating the first verse twice, when I wrote it I thought it was cool as I really loved the message of the first verse. But then in January my grandfather was really really sick and we weren’t sure if he was going to make it so my parents and I went to Florida to see him. We were just talking and he looked at me and said “I don’t believe in a goodbye” – that just really set off a spark and I thought to myself, “I just have to write about this”.
The second verse of the song starts off with “I don’t believe in a goodbye, what we have’s out of reach in the hands of time”. That was sort of me looking into my grandfather’s eyes and realising how timeless everything is and how the moments I have with him will stay with me forever. It was a really harrowing experience but also really beautiful to be able to share that moment with him and then to write that second verse. I think I had to have that experience to actually be able to say “this needs to go into the song”. He is also still alive which is wonderful. The song is about taking in every moment and holding onto your memories.
Are there any plans for a music video? If so, what can we expect from it?
We are thinking about it…I’ll be releasing an EP later this year so there will be a music video but I can’t say what. With the EP release we’ll be releasing more life stories from school, and talking about my experience there and ‘Time Of Our Lives’ is about that. There are visuals coming for sure.
Well we can’t wait to see them when they’re released! As you mentioned earlier, the release of the track was also a double celebration as you graduated from Harvard on the same day – congratulations! What was the biggest lesson that you learnt during your time at Harvard?
The biggest lesson that I learnt was to be true to myself. I was sitting in one of my freshman year classes, a writing requirement class which had a focus on Shakespeare. We were reading Hamlet and the professor said that the biggest point of the play was about this guy who goes to college, and his dad said to him “to thine own self be true”. The professor said that’s where you all are, and as a freshman I just thought that it was something that they tell everyone, “you’re going to learn about who you are in college and experience all these things and do all this stuff” etc but after these four years I really think that sentiment is true.
I had so many experiences where I had to put myself out there and say “this is who I am, whether you like it or not”. I had to try and own it, and that kinda goes into the people that are around you and your friends, the picking of people who will always bring you back to yourself. The biggest lesson I learnt was definitely being true to myself and embracing parts of me that have always been there since I was a child. A lot of my friends felt the same but that was definitely my biggest lesson.
You studied philosophy which is pretty heavy going to say the least. How did you find balancing your studies and music?
There were definitely a lot of late nights, some nights I didn’t sleep but at the same time it was honestly one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I travelled a bunch on the weekends for music. I was usually playing shows, or I would hop on a tour on the weekends, especially a lot of Northeastern shows, and it was funny as I’d be submitting papers in the green room before I went on stage or I’d be doing it right after I got off stage. I was constantly doing work even if I was on the road with music. It was definitely a balancing act but it also opened me up to the idea that I could do whatever I want if I put my mind to it. It sounds so cliche but I was really determined to do both at once because I felt like they both spoke to each other. For me it was all one thing even though they were pulling me in different places. I’m truly grateful that I was able to do both and it was the time of my life!
Your studies have certainly shaped the themes of your songs, but did it also influence your songwriting process?
Yeah it really has actually. Studying philosophy is what inspired me to start writing pop music specifically, because philosophy is the subject where you’re trying to understand universal ideas and you’re trying to communicate them in a simple way. When you walk into a room to write a song, that’s exactly what you’re doing. It’s a little more poetic and there’s obviously other elements involved but when you’re writing a pop song you’re trying to identify that feeling or experience that every person has.
I was actually taking a particular class which I ended up writing my thesis about [one of these women that I studied] when I wrote my song ‘Might Not Like Me’. I was going through a personal experience, a break up but I was also doing a class about these women who self published their own philosophies in the 1500’s, even though that isn’t something which they normally did then. A lot of my songs that I’ve written came from a philosophy class or idea and trying to communicate those things in a pop song. To sum it up, my studies hugely influenced my songwriting.
We’ll get to hear some of these songs soon as you mentioned earlier you’ll be releasing your EP later this year. What can we expect from it?
You can expect songs which are deeply personal to me, experiences that I’ve lived and felt but also come from this other side of me which has been sat in a philosophy class for four years. There’s a mixture of feelings of growing up, nostalgia, feelings of empowerment and feminism, and then there are also songs which deal with the biggest things I feel that my generation is dealing with, such as the internet and what it means for us to be a world online. You’ll get a nice sampling platter of things that I like to write and think about.
The EP was co-written with Nathan Chapman, best known for working with the likes of Kylie and Taylor Swift. I can only imagine that working with him was a surreal experience?
Oh my goodness, yes! The first day that I wrote with him I was just shaking, I was so nervous because I was such a huge fan. He truly is the most amazing songwriter that I know and the coolest thing about Nathan is that he’s an incredible listener. When I go in to write a song with him or produce something with him, he’s always like “tell me what’s going on” and he takes the time to listen. I think that’s the magic of his work so it’s been an honour to work with him.
What do you hope that people will take away from your music?
I hope that I can inspire people to embrace themselves, to embrace what’s true about them. I want to talk about the real things in life, the things that we experience. I always want there to be a hopeful take-away – if the song I write is sad, I still want there to be a positive in the song. I hope that my songs will help them with whatever they’re going through.
‘Time Of Our Lives’ was released through Atlantic Records and Big Yellow Dog Music, the first single through the joint venture. How does it feel to be at the forefront of this new movement?
It’s a dream! It’s just the craziest thing in the world. If you’d asked me a year ago if this would be my life right now, I would not have believed it. It’s just surreal and the timing of everything has been so perfect. Atlantic and Big Yellow Dog have some of the most incredible artists [on their roster] who I look up to so much. It’s funny because last summer I was writing pop music and asking myself who are the artists I love because they’re just themselves. I was saying Ed Sheeran, Meghan Trainor…what’s incredible is that Ed is on Atlantic and Meghan is with Big Yellow Dog so it’s just surreal for me to have a spot amongst them, it’s the only word to describe it.
You mentioned there some of the incredible artists that they have on their rosters – is there anyone in particular that you’d love to collaborate with one day?
I would love to collaborate with Ed Sheeran, hands down. I have been such a fan and to get to write a song with him would be the be all, end all for me.
You’ve spent a lot of time on the road, performing your own shows in addition to supporting the likes of Alanis Morissette. What do you enjoy the most about performing?
There’s so many things! I think for me, the most enjoyable part about performing is that moment when you really feel that you and the audience are part of this bigger thing. I think music can really take us there and it’s that moment when myself and the audience just forget about everything else and all that you are doing is existing for that moment of being taken in by music which is such a hard thing to define. My favourite thing about performing is just trying to curate and capture those moments. I’m constantly trying to experiment – maybe it’s something I say or the way I move across the stage or sitting on the side of the stage for a song. Whatever I can do to bring the audience into it, to make us feel like one. It’s what I’ve enjoyed over the past few years and I can’t wait to explore more of those moments.
Now that you’ve graduated, can we expect to see more of you on the road?
Yes, absolutely! I’m trying to get on the road as soon as possible. It’s the thing that made me want to be an artist. I was in the studio for nine months when I first started writing songs and when I played my first live show I was like “yes, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”. Hopefully in the next few months, maybe Fall, I’ll be back on the road.
What would you say are your top three must-have items for when you’re out on the road?
A good book is number one, I’m reading Jane Eyre right now. A cup of coffee, even if it’s instant coffee, I always have it with me. Number three is probably a guitar. I’m always trying to come up with song ideas and my guitar is my sacred place for writing and I always use it when trying to write songs.
Growing up in Atlanta, what was the music scene like there?
I feel like I was so young that I didn’t really know it but hip hop was and is so huge in Atlanta. I think that’s kind of why I’m interested in all kinds of music, I love hip hop, I also love more country music as Atlanta’s close to Nashville so I grew up listening to that. Atlanta is a beautifully diverse city with a lot happening, it has been hugely inspiring and a city which has a lot of art going on.
What would you say is your earliest musical memory, a moment where you thought to yourself that you wanted to start doing music?
When I was in fourth grade, my mom actually had several health issues when I was growing up and spent a lot of time in hospital. My grandparents would come and stay to take care of my brother and I. I remember one night they were in the kitchen cooking dinner and I heard them singing to each other, these old 40’s songs that they heard growing up. They were just singing to each other and into each other’s eyes, it was so gorgeous. I remember watching from the sidelines and thinking, whatever they’re doing, I want that to be my life. I want to have those moments in everything that I do. I think that’s my earliest memory of when I became totally infatuated with music.
We also read that you taught yourself the guitar using YouTube? Why did you choose the guitar out of all instruments?
That is true! When I was 15 I had decided that I wanted to apply to college. Neither of my parents went to college, no-one really in my whole family had ever gone. When I came to them and said I wanted to go, they were like “okay, let’s call the school and get a college application”. I started off building a resume and really working very hard on my studies, it was a lot of long days, weeks, months of just trying to apply, my life felt like a resume.
My dad had this old guitar in the corner and one day I just asked him if I could look at it and he said “sure”, so I took it out and was like “I wanna play this thing!” so I Googled how to play the guitar and some YouTube videos came up and I just started. Two years later, and I would play every single night. I would take some deep breaths from the long days, and from that I would channel all of these songs that I used as therapy to talk about what I was going through in high school. One of the first songs that I ever wrote was about a character in a novel that I loved, it was one of those things where music and school went hand in hand for me.
When you’re not writing music, you also write articles about feminism. How important is it for you to use your platform in a positive manner?
I love writing articles, and writing about what I’m thinking of. I try to think about feminism and what it’s like to be a woman in 2018 and use my writing skills, which is one of my greatest joys and could be my greatest contribution, to write about issues that are important to me. I will always try and take that opportunity.
What would be your ultimate achievement as an artist?
My ultimate achievement would be still playing shows 20 years from now. Still having that live performance and having my music help other people and inspire them to be themselves and to put their whole selves into what they wanna do.
What’s next for Brynn Elliott?
Hopefully in the next couple of months I will be releasing my EP, that’s the plan. Then I’ll be on the road doing lots of things, before writing my album for next year. A little bit of everything!
We’re really looking forward to hearing more from you, if ‘Time Of Our Lives’ is anything to go by then we know we’re going to love your new work!
Thank you so much! I really appreciate the interview and thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
Thank you so much to Brynn for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk to us. We cannot wait to continue following her exciting journey.
‘Time Of Our Lives’ is available now.
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