As well as bringing you news and interviews from all of the biggest names on the country scene today, we here at HEM Country love nothing more than to be able to give you guys a heads-up on artists we feel sure will become the stars of tomorrow, too. One such young lady is Nashville-based singer/songwriter Bryce Hitchcock, who has some ‘live’ dates coming up in Ireland very soon. I had the opportunity to chat with Bryce recently, and here’s how it went.
So, fans of country music in Ireland and the UK, it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to….Bryce Hitchcock!
So, Bryce, you’ve just recently released your new album, ‘I Wonder.’ And what I was wondering is, when it comes to putting your new material out there, handing your songs over to the wider world for whatever kind of judgement or reaction might follow, is that something that makes you excited, or more so nervous? How do you prepare yourself, both as a songwriter, but also just as a person, for that moment when, that’s it…they’re gone…, they’re OUT THERE?!
“I’m always excited to release new music. I don’t think all that much about the judgement in a negative way. When I release a song, it’s already passed my harshest critic.. myself. Everyone will have his/her own opinion but if I make a positive impact on even one person, I’ve done my job. I’m proud of my music but I’m always learning and growing as an artist. The hard part is getting the song completed in a way that represents my original vision. That’s where a great producer like Stuart Gray comes in. He’s awesome to work with because he’s an incredibly talented musician and he respects my vision for the songs. The hardest part in the actual release of the song is making sure the music gets heard by as many people as possible.”
Now you’re a singer/songwriter, and you’re based out of Nashville, so there are definitely a couple of big clues there as to the kind of artist you are. And yet, having had the pleasure of already seeing you perform ‘live’ myself, I don’t think either fact mentioned goes anywhere near being enough to give an accurate picture of you. So for anyone who hasn’t heard you yet, how would you, Bryce, describe you, Bryce?
“I love a good story. I try to write songs that tell a story. That’s the Nashville in me. Since I was born in Nashville, I guess I’ll always have a hint of Country but without the twang. Growing up, I listened to every kind of music imaginable from jazz, blues, rock and musical theater. I think all of these genres have had a profound influence on my music style.”
When it comes to songs, I have to admit I’m a big titles person myself. The first thing I always do is check out the tracklisting to see what titles catch my eye, and also, of course, what songwriters might be involved in an album. I love some of the titles on ‘I Wonder’, including the title track, but also Backspin, My Muse, and Stardust. But tell me, how does your songwriting process normally work; does your title come first and everything follows from there? Do you write lyrics and music at the same time, or does one tend to follow after the other? How does the ‘magic’ happen for you?
“Usually I have a concept for a song based on something I’ve watched on TV or in a movie. I binge watch a lot of Netflix! Other concepts come from observing people around me and some are my own life experiences. In general, I have a concept, write lyrics and then the music. Sometimes, it all comes to me at once. Occasionally, I will have a melody in my head that I write to.”
There’s a strong Irish connection to ‘I Wonder’, too, isn’t there. You worked on this album with a very talented chap we’re both lucky enough to know, the one and only Stuart Gray : )
So how did you guys meet up in the first place, Bryce? And what made you want to work with Stuart here in Ireland, as opposed to recording at home in Nashville? Because that’s where so many artists from this side of the world dream of recording someday.
“Yes. Stuart is amazing. He produced my album and prior to that an EP called ‘Clear.’ I met Stuart through Phin Daly, a friend of mine in Nashville who is a manager. He met Stuart through some other artists that he worked with and knew that I was looking for something different and that I love to travel. There are some great producers in Nashville and I have lots of connections there, but the thing I love about coming to Ireland is that I can focus on just music. There are no distractions. Your lifestyle is much simpler in Ireland and the vibe is much more laid back.”
Speaking of Nashville, one of your good friends there, Summer Overstreet – herself a very talented songwriter too – is the daughter of songwriting great Paul Overstreet, an N.S.A.I. Hall of Famer, two-time Grammy winner, and a five-time recipient of BMI Songwriter of the Year awards. How much of an influence on you as a songwriter was growing up in a town like Nashville, where music is built into the fabric of almost everything that happens, and songwriting is the ‘day-job’ for so many, and the dream-job for so many more?
“Summer is a very talented songwriter and such a lovely person. We wrote Bandaid together and it’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever worked on. The whole family is amazingly talented. Her brother Nash and I have written a couple of songs together – Tango and Not Let Go, and he produced one of my EPs. Her other brother, Chord, was on the TV show Glee and has just signed as a solo artist.”
I love the quote on your Facebook page; “Stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth.” It sounds very much like a lesson someone much older than yourself might want to share after learning this truth the hard way, but I think it indicates a maturity and a confidence in your writing, and probably in you as a person, that belies your youth. If I’m right, what is it that gives you that sense of strength, of knowing yourself so well?
“Unfortunately, we live in a social media soundbite world now. There is so much social pressure on people to look like the photos on Instagram, [or] to be “interesting”, to constantly have to say where we are, [and] what we like, [and] where we stand on issues, [and] what group we fit into. Nothing is private anymore. I don’t let it rule me. The song Wildflower on my new album also speaks to who I am as a person and not just how I am perceived. My parents have always said that I don’t need to be concerned about whether I make them happy with my choices, but that I can live with those choices myself.”
We’ve already mentioned the fact that you’re a singer/songwriter, that you’re based in Nashville, and, as anyone can see from your photos, you have a beautiful, natural, contemporary but approachable style about you. So the first person to come to mind if most people were to consider co-writing partners for you, probably wouldn’t be Tom Petersson from Cheap Trick! And yet….!! So how did you guys meet up? And also, do you find that you tend to learn something different or new from everyone you write with? And if so, what did you learn from working with Tom?
“Funny! Living in Nashville is certainly not boring. You never know who you will be eating dinner next to in a restaurant, or with whom you will be going to church or school. In the case of Tom Petersson, we have the same entertainment attorney. I was selected to play a showcase in Nashville for NAMM. I had briefly met Tom and his family prior to the event. Tom and a group of my friends came out to support me. Our families became good friends and one day I was at their house with my mom and Tom and I decided to write a song. We went into his home studio and came out with “Be My Memory”. We both really liked it and Tom produced the song for me shortly after that. He’s so incredibly talented and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He’s so genuine and funny. There is always so much to learn from artists who have been at this longer than myself. He has so many years of experience and the stories are great!! One thing that I take away from my time with Tom is to understand what a privilege it is to be included in this diverse, talented group of people.”
For anyone just discovering you for the first time, there sure is a lot to find out about! : ) Not only are you a singer, and a songwriter, and of course a really talented guitarist as well, but you’re also an actress! And you’ve done some pretty cool voice work, which means some people might actually know you already, but in a way they wouldn’t perhaps expect to.
~ How did all of those sides of your professional life get started?
“My mom was a costumer for a lot of local theater productions. I hung around with her a lot on set. I loved being around all of the talented, creative people. I guess you could say I caught the bug for acting and performing. I did a play that broadcast on a local TV station. When I saw myself, then 6 years old, I said to my mom “Don’t you just live for this kind of thing?”. She said “What?”. I responded “Being on TV!”. She knew she was in trouble. She said if you want to do more I will ask around. I signed with a talent agent, worked on my acting and voiceover skills and booked work in the Nashville area. Later, we went out to Los Angeles and I worked a lot of really fun jobs. When I was 13, I started really growing tall. I was taller than a lot of the actresses that play moms on TV and in film. That’s when I started really writing music. I was also fortunate to book quite a few voiceover jobs. I worked for Disney, Honda, Clear Station, Sea World and many others. My most known job was as Deuce for the Final Fantasy Type-0 HD video game.”
Last question for now, Bryce : ) You have a song called Happy Being Me, and it has the most brilliant video to go along with! I love that video, and I love that song! And when I’m telling people about you, I can’t help but point them in that direction! Tell me about how the whole idea for the Happy Being Me video came about?
“I’ve always liked writing sad songs. My grandmother was a little worried about me [laughs]. I’m a happy person. I’m happy with who I am. I wrote that song when I was 13 years old and it still stands today. I embrace my quirks and idiosyncrasies because they are what make me.. me. I have performed that song for young children to encourage them to feel good about what makes them different. How boring would this world be if everyone was the same???”
For more info on Bryce check out brycehitchcock.com. Also catch Bryce live in Ireland, dates below.
- 20th May, Birr Theatre & Arts Centre, Offaly
- 21st May, The Workman’s Club, Dublin
His contribution to the Irish music scene has been recognised by his inclusion in the entertainment industry directory, the Hot Press Yearbook 2017, which is the essential music and media who's-who in Ireland. Anthony was also asked to present John Farry (Nathan Carter's manager) with his award for Best Original Album at the 2017 Hot Country Awards and in 2015 presented Lisa McHugh with her Female Entertainer of the Year award.
In his role with HEM Country, Anthony has interviewed many artists who are well known names on the international stage, among them Clare Bowen, Imelda May, and Una Healy, as well as rising stars like Courtney Marie Andrews. Anthony's features for HEM Country have also helped to shine a spotlight on many of the best Irish country acts like Robert Mizzell, Cliona Hagan, Barry Kirwan, Bernie Heaney, and Hurricane Highway, bringing their talent and achievements to an even wider audience.
During his time writing 'On The Right TRAX', Anthony has interviewed most of the biggest stars on the Irish country scene, including Mike Denver, Nathan Carter, Lisa McHugh, Philomena Begley, Sandy Kelly, and Derek Ryan. He has also chatted with international artists such as Sunny Sweeney, Jim Rooney, Max T. Barnes, the late George Hamilton IV, and Tony Christie.
Anthony's sphere of influence extends well past the boundaries of country music, however, with time spent in conversation with international popstar Kiesza also to his credit. He has also shared time with several other artists from the Emerald Isle whose fame reaches beyond those shores, including Mundy, The Fureys, Frances Black, Pete Kennedy, Rackhouse Pilfer, The 4 of Us, Roisin O, Ham Sandwich and Mick Flannery.
As a writer, lyricist, and poet himself, however, songwriters have a very special place in Anthony's heart and some of his favourite interviews (together with the songwriters already mentioned) include those with Jimmy McCarthy, Johnny McEvoy, Charlie McGettigan, Kieran Goss, and Niall Toner.
Other household names whom Anthony has interviewed for 'On The Right TRAX' are the famous comedians Tommy Tiernan, Des Bishop, Neil Delamere, Jason Byrne, Andrew Maxwell, and Brendan Grace, as well as celebrity chef Rachel Allen, and television presenter Kathryn Thomas.
Anthony also does some artist representation and PR work, and has successfully secured national television and radio appearances for Irish and American artists.