Who’s New: Mary Bragg

Who’s New: Mary Bragg

Born: Swainsboro, Ga.
Lives: Nashville
Current Single: “Lucky Strike”
Influences: Kathy Mattea, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams
Twitter: @marybragg

Mary Bragg grew up surrounded by music at her home in Georgia. Her father is a musician and choir director at her hometown church, so she and her family spent Sunday mornings singing together. While she credits church for her musical education, she also has vivid memories singing along to the radio and trying to harmonize Alabama songs as a youngster. It wasn’t until her first trip to Nashville following high school graduation that Mary was introduced to Americana music. A colleague at an internship handed her a Patty Griffin album and soon she delved into the works of other artists like Emmylou Harris, Townes Van Zandt and Lucinda Williams. After 10 years living in New York City and navigating the music scene there, Mary moved to Nashville and will release her latest project, Lucky Strike, on Friday, May 5. Her fourth full-length project, Lucky Strike, is her first album recorded in Music City.

Navigating Nashville

“When I first came to Nashville, I just wanted to write great songs. I did continue playing shows and toured, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make a career as an artist work. I’d go to shows all the time and it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the amount of talent here. What I’ve learned from writing every day was that writing is just as fulfilling to me as playing shows and so I let that temporarily dictate how I directed my time. I continued writing every day, not thinking about touring as much, and really not thinking about making records. It was Jim [Reilley], my co-producer [who said], ‘Stop it. It doesn’t have to be this or that. You are great and you need to make this record.’”

The Big Apple

“As much as I loved living in New York City for so long, I did feel like an afterthought to the city, because really everything is an afterthought to the city. [The song] ‘Lucky Strike’ is how I feel about my career and my struggle because it’s about believing in something despite not being dealt the hand that you wanted to have been dealt. Somehow you’re still believing that it is possible, that it can happen, that you can find some semblance of success as you go along. It’s not that you’re suddenly successful, it’s that your definition of success is changing. I feel like my current measure of success is unrelated to what the outward impression of success appears like.”

Honest Writing

“In pinpointing sadness, which can often feel isolating, we’re telling that listener out there, ‘Hey, you’re not alone. You’re not the only person who’s felt invisible in a sea of 8 million people in New York City. You’re not the only person who’s lost a parent.’ That’s the beauty of music—that people can feel comforted by hearing someone else’s pain, which might be much like their own. Every now and then, somebody’s listening close enough where they’re like, ‘Oh, man. That really got me just then,’ and that’s the moment that I’m always looking for.”

Finding That “Wildfire”

“I grew up in the South, the deep South, where it’s not unusual for people to get married before they’re 24. Telling people they should get married so young, I think, for me, was a distraction from things I should have been focusing on in my life. What was interesting about writing ‘Wildfire’ with Liz [Longley] was, because a lot of my friends ask me about my marriage or what it was like in the beginning, usually this question comes up when somebody is not really sure about the person they are with. I instantly tell that person, ‘Get out! This is not it. You might think it is right now, and you might think you might regret it later, but if it’s meant to be, you guys will get back together.’ I think that the person you are partnered with for the rest of your life should be somebody that you have no doubt about. Of course your relationship will be difficult at times, it is totally work, but I think you have to be crazy about that person. It has to be like a wildfire. It has to be a bit out of control.”

Songwriting Advice

“Often, the thing that I enjoy the most is when someone asks the question, ‘What is it you’re really trying to say?’ We can spend hours and hours writing and still not say what we’re trying to say. I’m always trying to get better at really looking at the lyric as I go and seeing how much attention is given to one particular thought or feeling and if that’s what I’m going for then great but if it’s not, then why is it in that place? The most important thing in writing is rewriting. In conversation we ramble on, but in a song you have three minutes so you better hurry up and get to it!”

Mary Bragg 2017 Tour Schedule

  • 4/30 Nashville, TN – The Bluebird Cafe
  • 5/5 Nashville, TN – The Family Wash
  • 5/8 Knoxville, TN – Blue Plate Special
  • 5/9 Nashville, TN – The Bluebird Cafe
  • 5/12 New York, NY – Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3
  • 5/13 Newtown Square, PA – Burlap & Bean
  • 5/18 Nashville, TN – The Family Wash
  • 5/23 Harlingen, TX – The Prelude Songwriters Club
  • 5/28 Kerrville, TX – Kerrville Folk Festival – New Folk Competition
  • 6/1 Elgin, TX – The Liberty Tree
  • 6/13 Cambridge, MA – Club Passim
  • 6/14 Westerly, RI – Perks & Corks
  • 6/16 Middletown, CT – The Buttonwood Tree
  • 7/21 Minneapolis, MN – The Warming House
  • 7/23 Seward, NE – Red Path Gallery
  • 7/28 Swainsboro, GA – The Wrens Nest
  • 7/30 Decatur, GA – Eddie’s Attic

photo by Alex Berger

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Volunteer Jam XX: A Tribute to Charlie Daniels will air on AXS TV on Aug. 19 at 10 p.m. ET. The broadcast features performances by Chris Young, Travis Tritt, Alabama, Chris Janson, Skynyrd & more.