Sometimes artistry brings a certain level of power. Such is true for San Antonio’s Vanessa Lynn Bird.
With the release of her debut EP “Burn Brighter,” Bird has found her voice, and found it in a big way.
Though she was once someone to keep what she was feeling inside, “Burn Brighter” gave Bird the opportunity to let herself be heard.
In her first interview since the EP’s release in mid-January, hear from Bird all about the EP, the pressures she felt as she prepared to release it, the stories behind many of the songs on the EP, and more!
Pro Country: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Vanessa Lynn Bird: I grew up in a conservative Christian household, so I listened to a lot of contemporary Christian music and whatever my parents loved, like Phil Collins and The Carpenters. I fell in love with Linda Ronstadt and Patty Griffin when I was first introduced to them, and grew up on Shania Twain, of course. Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson were my idols from the moment I first heard them, and I vowed to sing like them someday.
PC: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to make music for a living?
VLB: When I was 4 years old, a preacher told my parents that I would be an amazing singer someday. I think I already knew it inside before he said it, because I loved singing already, but from that moment, it felt like it was my calling to be a professional singer when I grew up. Through many twists and turns, I didn’t begin my music career until 8 years ago, but when I did, I knew it’s where I was meant to be all my life.
PC: You released your first single, “Break Away” in 2017. It has gone on to earn almost 10,000 streams on Spotify and thousands of views on YouTube. What kind of validation is it for you as an artist, to see your debut release achieve that level of success?
VLB: I had so many insecurities before releasing “Break Away.” I’d heard many rumors that people thought I wasn’t a good singer. My producer told me that my good taste in music was my own worst enemy, because few are born great singers, most people work at it. I worked my tail off, and “Break Away’s” success showed me that people were starting to see what I’m capable of. That was a powerful feeling, and it lit a fire under me to work harder. I didn’t write on “Break Away.” I had two very talented writers, Sam Watson and Mack Damon, who captured my personality perfectly. Mack and I also wrote my title track together, “Burn Brighter.”
PC: Your second single, “Castaway,” is a really powerful song that deals with suicide and suicide prevention. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song? What does it mean to you when you hear from people who have been touched by both the song and music video?
VLB: “Castaway” seems to have struck a chord with many, but in different ways. For me, it’s about my struggle with depending on others for happiness, only to realize I can only be truly happy if I find it within myself. Losing a loved one can shake you to your core, and it can feel like there’s no way to go on, but this song is about the struggle and triumph of overcoming the despair of grief, and realizing that you are strong and can find hope and joy again. We have been using the music video and message of “Castaway” to encourage people to reach out when they see a friend struggling with these thoughts and let them know they’re not alone. We have teamed up with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and placed their information at the end of the video letting people know there is someone to talk to. Since San Antonio doesn’t have an affiliated crisis counseling center, we teamed up locally with the David’s Legacy Foundation in SA to help promote support for those in need and raise awareness about the subject.
PC: Were you feeling any pressure, internally or externally, as you were preparing to release music for the first time with the “Burn Brighter” EP?
VLB: There was definitely pressure. Will people like the music? The lyrics, message, my voice? Is it memorable? The only thing to do was to give it my best shot. A friend introduced me to San Antonio’s top producer, Mack Damon, and we started on a journey showing people who I am with this EP. I wanted songs that encouraged people to be strong, kind, and enjoy life. We had a group of close friends write on most of the songs, and Mack and I wrote “Burn Brighter” together. I think the EP captures many sides of my personality and some of the struggles I’ve been dealing with.
PC: The song “Burn Brighter” leads off the EP. What led you to name the EP after this song and have it as a duet with Ryan Garrett?
VLB: “Burn Brighter” is about two people being stronger together than on their own. It’s not just about the butterflies of falling in love, it’s also about a relationship standing strong through the fires life puts you through and the twists and turns that are thrown your way. The song title stands on its own as my encouragement to people to be their best self, so that’s why the EP is named after it. Ryan Garrett is a very talented country artist who co-wrote my single “Castaway” with Matt Zavala. The first time I heard his voice, I felt like we were destined to sing a duet together, and this song was the perfect fit because he’s a very strong and determined artist who recently made the brave choice to move to Nashville and pursue his career there.
PC: “Made to Forget” is one of the standout tracks on the EP. What drew you to record that song?
VLB: “Made to Forget” was co-written by my friend Sam Watson and my producer Mack Damon. It tells the story of a love that’s so painful that you wish you could erase it from your memory. I was drawn to the song because I’ve been there; in fact, most of us probably have. You have a love that you fall deeply into, you’re consumed by it, and that person becomes your whole world. Before you know it, the love somehow turns toxic, and your personalities become destructive to each other. This kind of love is hard to escape, and it takes a long time to recover from. This song echoed my desire to forget my own tragic love story.
PC: You worked with Mack Damon and Ilya Toshinskiy on the “Burn Brighter” EP. How did working with people with the collective success of Mack and Ilya help you as you were putting the EP together and recording the songs?
VLB: Mack helped me put my message and personality to words with many co-writes with other talented writers and myself. He saw what I wanted to tell my fans, and helped me create beautiful words and melodies to share those messages. We flew out to Nashville together with several of those writers and demo-ed all the songs to Ilya. Ilya and Mack put their heads strategizing about what vibe each song should have, and Ilya put his creative spin on each of the songs and brought them to life. You’ll notice that no two songs sound alike. That’s the brilliance of these two producers blending their ears and visions for each of the songs.
PC: What do you hope people take away from the “Burn Brighter” EP?
VLB: “Burn Brighter” is my first chance to tell everyone who I am and what I think. I don’t often speak up about how I feel, I try to let others express their opinions and be open to what they’re saying. “Burn Brighter” allows me to tell people to give each other a chance, and not judge based on assumptions (“At the Heart”), that we all suffer loss and can find beauty in the memories we make with our loved ones (“Halfway There”), to have hope in the midst of darkness (“Castaway”), that with someone by our side we can be even more powerful (“Burn Brighter”), and that sometimes you need to let loose and just have fun no matter what is going on because life is too short not to (“Break Away”).
PC: You’ve performed on songs that ended up charting at number 5 and number 1 on iTunes for Rich O’ Toole. When you look at the iTunes charts and see songs you performed on amongst some of the genre’s biggest names, what does that mean to you?
VLB: It was a huge honor that Rich O’Toole gave an opportunity to an artist like me, new to the scene, to record background vocals on both his “American Kid” album and his recent #1 single, “God & George Strait.” Being a part of projects at that level pushed me to develop my harmonizing and blending skills, and also taught me how to enter a studio as a vocal professional and deliver on Rich and his producer’s vision. It’s a different ballgame when you’re recording vocals for someone else. You have a set of requirements and a mold you need to fit into. It’s harder than recording your own music in some senses, but it’s really rewarding to hear how my vocals became a part of the overall sound of Rich’s music and to hear those songs spinning on major radio stations.
PC: What are your plans for the near future?
VLB: I’m working on a new single to release in the next few months, so stay tuned for news on that. I also have a busy festival season coming up. You’ll be seeing me at a lot of the major events happening in San Antonio and the surrounding areas in the next few months, including YOSA’s “Thriller Live!” at the Tobin Center on March 11th. I’ll also be making a cameo appearance and performing my music in a new film called “Sidestep” this spring. It was filmed partially in San Antonio at a dancehall called “Midnight Rodeo.”
PC: Additional comments:
VLB: This is the first exclusive interview I’ve given since my EP was released. I’m so excited to get a chance to share what’s on my heart as I’m releasing this new music. I have many exciting plans for this year, and I can’t wait to experience them with my faithful and growing fanbase. Much love to all of you for showing your continued support in my career!
*All images courtesy of Vanessa Lynn Bird Facebook Page*