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Introducing... Bryony Williams

Every now and then an artist comes along who excites you and just grabs your attention, Bryony Williams is that artist. Her music covers many different sub genres of pop that conclude in a riveting and wholesome experience. Her latest EP, 'Conscience', sees her exploit a darker and yet in many ways more uplifting sound. Seeing an artist find their feet in such a way is always such an exciting prospect. But not only is Bryony an enormously talented singer-songwriter, she's also a phenomenally talented photographer hellbent on making her Grrrl Groannn brand become something more than a zine, something that will help many talented women gain the exposure they deserve. I was lucky enough to chat with the Birmingham based singer-songwriter regarding why her new EP is her best work yet, why experimenting with sounds is better than playing it safe and her self-proclaimed second home - The Sunflower Lounge...

Question: Hi Bryony, what first made you want to start making music?
Bryony Williams: I honestly think it's because of my up-bringing. My dad is a huge music lover and spoon-fed me The Beatles, Nirvana, Blur, Empire of the Sun... and I just remember that from a young age that I wanted to be a 'Rockstar' with a red electric guitar, and that somewhat happened - I acquired a 3/4 red Squire guitar at the age of 9, but I'm still working on the 'Rockstar' part.
Q. Has the start of your music career been as you expected it to be?
Bryony Williams: The start of my music career I was pretty clueless. I had the necessary guidance from a few elder individuals who helped shape how I approached the recording and release of my first EP, my live performances, and a rough idea of how the music business operated for independent labels/artists. So, really, I'm not sure what I thought to expect. But I can definitely look back on my journey so far and recognise my successes or mistakes.

Q. At what age did you start writing and recording music?
Bryony Williams: I started writing from a young age, writing sad poetry in my childhood diaries. But it wasn't until my early teens that I realised that these words could be translated into song lyrics. During this time, I set up a YouTube channel where I recorded acoustic covers and sometimes the occasional original (only a couple remain open to the public, as embarrassingly, I can't actually access the account and my old Wolverhampton accent can be cringed at). All this happened roughly between the ages of 13-16.

Q. Who has inspired you the most?
Bryony Williams: This question always baffles me as my extent of musical knowledge and history, plus my memory in general is quite... weak. But what I can pinpoint for my influences is the powerful and vocal female artists across the times: PJ Harvey, Kim Gordon, Tori Amos, St. Vincent, Laura Marling, Lucy Rose, Wolf Alice, Chastity Belt, Grimes.

Q. You've supported the likes of Isaac Gracie, Stevie Parker and Mellow Gang. How do you feel that has helped you to elevate your career?
Bryony Williams: By supporting such names, I've become more confident on stage as a solo performer, and interacting with fellow musicians and other personnel i.e. sound engineers, sessions musicians, promoters, and the crowd itself. Unfortunately I haven't stayed in contact with most, but it is nice to be able to observe their progress from afar. This gives me hope in some ways, that maybe I'll be at their level of music success someday.

Q. Did any of them give you any tips or advice in particular that have helped you out?
Bryony Williams: Isaac Gracie gave me his BOSS TU-3 Tuner after our gig together and Martha Ffion gave me a cute shout out mid-performance and has kept in touch via Twitter. Those little details stick in my mind because they're acts of kindness which they didn't have to do, and it reminds me that it's nice to be nice, what's to lose?

Q. And you've just released your EP, 'Conscious', what has been the response so far?
Bryony Williams: Well, it's been less than a week and it's been great! The reality of releasing music is a harsh one. Did you know 11,000 songs a day are released worldwide? So to take that into account... releasing, and especially self-releasing music is very daunting. But it's so exciting. The responses I've received have proven how far I have progressed in a professional context and as an artist. And with Conscious, there's something there for everyone. My sad, self-reflective lyrics still primarily exist but the record infuses signs of electronica/pop with tracks such as 'Honey' and 'Amber'. The record is truly showcasing my versatility and my journey in life as a person and musician, and I think people are waking up to my potential.
In the run-up to my release and the aftermath, I've definitely asserted my presence within the local scene (West Midlands) and my name is starting to leak into outside audiences through the interest of online publications and playlists.

Q. The cover EP is yourself as a child, was there a reason that you chose that?
Bryony Williams: To me, this record signifies a coming-of-age soundtrack and while recording, I became defeated by the idea of visioning myself as I am now on the front cover of the EP. I just don't think my image fits in with what my music is proposing. So, one day I was sat in my home studio completely stumped, when I had the idea of rummaging through old film images from childhood. There were a bunch I scanned into my computer, but straight away when I came across the chosen image I knew in my gut that that was the one. It energises themes of nostalgia and innocence, yet with a hint of cheekiness, which I think sums me up pretty well. Also, for me personally, I like to think of it as a nod to my dad as he most likely took that photograph, and I wanted to make a connection between my work and my up-bringing.

Q. The sound of the EP is definitely more polished and crisper than anything you've made before. How have you managed to do that?
Bryony Williams: Well, for this EP I pumped some hard earned cash into it.
I've used producer, Matthew Pinfield, Grandflat Recordings in his home studio in Wolverhampton. We've had a working relationship prior to this project but from start to finish, I think it's safe to say that we've learned a lot from one another throughout this process and have introduced each other to new ways of approaching music. In contrast to 'Wanderlust' my first EP, this was recorded over a period of months, whereas 'Wanderlust' was recorded within two weeks. By giving myself this space to balance university life, my job at the time, and recording/performing music, this project was allowed to breathe, to relax, to become more open to interpretation.
The final mixes were then sent to West West Side Music (New York) where the wonderful Alan Douches polished the tracks into their final mastered form. This was my first experience with the negotiation of mastering and now I for sure understand why this element is so crucial.

Q. I'm a huge fan of the 'Narrative Form' video, can you tell me the thoughts, ideas and concepts behind that?
Bryony Williams: Ah, I'm glad you've asked!
There was a day in March, back when it was hella snowing and I was on a train back from Liverpool. While I most likely zoned out while looking into the bleak yet beautiful landscapes of snowy countryside I was listening to Narrative Form through my headphones and that whole 'pretending you're in a music video' imagery came upon me and I started storyboarding a few ideas for the track, completely inspired by the snow. But I had such immediacy for the video because who knew how long the snow would stick around for. So, while imagining bright, white shots for the video, I knew there had to be a dark contrast also. I'm not sure what made me think of using a bath or having liquid dripping down my body. But it definitely shines light on visual influences such as Neon Demon by having almost a thriller-edge with a narcissistic twist.
Narrative Form itself is not a conventional song and I just wanted to continue the experimentation.
The visual idea of the girl in the woods was derived from a short film idea I had around a year ago... though the idea actually had the girl naked and covered in dirt. However on this occasion I decided to play it safe, though I do have my jean and shirt buttons undone to replicate the original idea of being sexually objectified but embracing that through self-empowerment and ownership. So I guess the video and song also portray themes of lust, feminism, experimentation, and objectification. But it's completely open to interpretation.

Q. Some of your songs feel so personal, almost like a snapshot of your life. Is it harder putting out songs that mean more to you personally?
Bryony Williams: The only reason I may find it hard to openly present my music is in case somebody genuinely believes that there's something deeply disturbing me. Though I also take some sort of joy in that idea. But really, whenever I write lyrics they do have to be personal, it's how I truly express myself, even through persona's that might not make initial sense on the surface and in fact, sometimes I find it difficult to explain myself. But I know I can't do myself a disservice by being brutally honest and confrontational.

Q. How do you feel that the sound of 'Conscious' varies from 'Wanderlust'?
Bryony Williams: The difference between 'Wanderlust' and 'Conscious' is crazy. Not only was the whole recording approach different, but in the three years between each record, I've become exposed to new sounds and my song writing has significantly changed. 'Conscious' is more brave more than anything. Whereas though 'Wanderlust' marks a proud milestone for me, it was almost me playing it safe, which as a timid 18-year-old, that makes sense. But I've moved away from referring my life vulnerabilities through metaphors of the outside world/nature, and I'm almost aggressively showing people that this is me, this is my life, I want it to be raw, I want it to scare people into confronting what's around them, it's a statement and this record will always signify that for me. 'Conscious' marks the true beginning.

Q. What's been your favourite part of making the EP?
Bryony Williams: Overall, it's got to be the testing of new musical bounds for me, such as exploring my sensual side in 'Honey' and using spoken word as an element. These things can be scary! But it's about breaking out of your comfort zone and exposing new sides of your personality. There's also a vocal part in 'Hypnosis' which we (me and Matt) call the "Kate Bush Wail". That was a particularly proud moment for me as I managed to hit a high A note - something I'm unsure I could do so easily next time. That song though is a particular highlight for me though. Because I wrote my favourite lyric of all time, "You may think you know me, but I can only portray a fraction of me", which is followed by "Become Conscious", which cemented the EP's title and encapsulates the EP's mantra.

Q. You've made a fair few appearances at The Sunflower Lounge, how do you think these independent venues are helping artists like yourself to spread their music?
Bryony Williams: Independent venues are so sacred to us artists! It allows local promoters to utilise the spaces around them which in turn, creates a cultural hub for creatives to hang out and to network, and most importantly, have fun! The Sunflower Lounge is basically my second home. I don't know where I or many other individuals would be without it.

Q. And what can you tell me about Grrrl Groannn?
Bryony Williams: The idea behind GRRRL GROANNN is to be a female collective where female-identifying persons can input their creative skillsets to help circulate and represent the female creatives in Birmingham.
It's business plan is incredibly ambitious. With hopes to branch into monthly podcasts, seasonal music zines, to host its own music/art events and to ultimately act as a DIY record label, offering its services to female musicians who don't really know where to start I guess. I suppose it's something that I would have liked to been part of when I was growing up as a teen and young adult (and still now), to be surrounded or at least exposed to strong and ambitious creative women and the notion of feminism. I'm still learning, and so far GRRRL GROANNN has produced its first music zine!

Q. Are you worried that with Grrrl Groannn and your music that one may take over all of your time?
Bryony Williams: Well, already my music has overtaken GRRRLGROANNN not as a priority, but simply time. It's proven hard to keep up with juggling the two though this is something I am determined to balance out as not only do I enjoy it and that it would be a total shame if it just became forgotten about, but it's contributing to my presence within music by meeting other artists from across the globe, to exposing my ears to new music also.

Q. Now that 'Conscious' has been released what do you have in store, what gigs do you have lined up?
Bryony Williams: I'm in fact going on my first UK tour this July! I'm accompanying a musician named Joe Booley where we will be playing:

4th July - Cafe Kino, Bristol
5th July - House Show, Cardiff
6th July - The Talking Heads, Southampton
8th July - Good Neighbour, London
9th July - SingleShot Vinyl Records & Coffeehouse, Leeds
10th July - Centrala, Birmingham (EP Launch)

I will be performing solo for these dates except for the Birmingham date. That will be with a band behind me to really showcase Conscious in its prime.

Purchase the first volume of Grrrl Groannn HERE


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