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Bailey Bryan is a self-proclaimed sensitive bad bitch, which a therapist might term anxious-avoidant attachment. But for us, it means an album whose lyrics are close to home, and whose sound is heartily pop. Though Bailey’s musical roots are in the homegrown country music of Nashville, she, like her paragon Taylor Swift, made the move to pop music and LA. Now, in a neon-green bikini and cargo pants, Bailey is fully embodying the cosmopolitan, 20-something energy of LA pop, but she hasn’t lost the tenderness of her country days. Her EP Sensitive Bad Bitch Music Vol. 1, released last month as an independent artist, is a Sharpie portrait of a woman brave and bold enough to uproot her life for her career, and vulnerable enough to put her heart into her work. 

This conversation has been edited for clarity.

When did you move to Nashville and LA?

I was 17. I started traveling there to write songs when I was 15. That’s when I signed my first deal with a family friend’s publishing company, and they said I had to move there. My family moved with me for six months. I moved to LA almost a year ago; I transitioned into pop in 2020. But I wrote my first pop project in Nashville and released it during the pandemic when I was still living there. 

What was the inspiration for this album?

The overarching inspiration for this album was the transition period I was going through in my life. I was making the decision to move to LA— I’ve always wanted to live in LA, and it’s definitely better for my career— but that was a big transition for me, because I’ve been in Nashville for so long. Then I moved to LA, and my label drops me and I had some songs that I really wanted to put out. There was this fire under my butt about getting my sound and my sensitive bad bitch message across with this EP. I was clinging on to my confidence and self-assuredness for dear life, navigating living in a new city, putting together a project as an independent artist for the first time. 

Why did you and your label part ways?

The music industry, it just changes all the time. The parting ways made a lot of sense, but it was still really tough. I didn’t see it coming right after I moved to LA. And we had songs ready to go, that we were going to put out and then I had to wait to put them out. All the vibes were good, they set me up for a lot of success, even after being signed to them. It just takes time, but it hurt because I was signed to this label longer than I’ve ever been in a relationship, you know. So it kind of felt like I was grieving a breakup with somebody that I’d outgrown. You know that it’s the right thing. But you still have to grieve the future that you saw with somebody. And that’s actually what I wrote the very last track on the project about, parting ways with a label and how it felt like a breakup.

As a sensitive bad bitch, do you catch feelings often? What are you like when in love?

I fall in love with everybody. That’s why I’m always crying. I want love and I fall hard. But then, I get close to having it, and it scares the shit out of me, and I want to run, and I want to ruin it. But I realize I have that feeling and that tendency to self-sabotage. The realization came from the period of growth that I was in when I was writing this project. I feel like when your life is turned upside down and everything is changing, you learn so much about yourself. It can be sad and it’s vulnerable, but then in a sensitive bad bitch fashion, I feel like there’s a little bit of confidence involved in it. There’s a little bit of like, Oh, you want a bitch with long hair? I’ll cut it off so you don’t chase after me. I’m still kind of in my hyper-independent, self-sabotaging ways.

What has your sensitive self been experiencing lately, that has been playing into your music?

I’ve been in my situationship era. And that’s not great for the head, the heart. But it is right for songwriting. That definitely inspired a lot of my projects. I’m just trying to figure out what I want as a very emotional, romantic person. Like, I want someone to be obsessed with me. That’s what “Passion” is about, a carefree sexy song. But at its core, it’s me being vulnerable. Like how badly I just want to be loved. I want a big special love, I think everybody does. And I’m scared I’m never gonna find it.

Now I have to know your astrology sign.

I’m an Aquarius. My moon is Aries and my rising is Cancer.

I totally see the sensitive bad bitch in your astrology. When did “sensitive bad bitch” become a catchphrase for you?

I started coining my music as “sensitive bad bitch music” when I was writing my very first pop project, probably in 2018, when I really started leaning into pop. I’ve always made sensitive bad bitch music even when my sound was way different. But it came about because I was really sick of trying to label my shit, especially when I made country music. Everybody told me I wasn’t country enough. I’m from Washington state. I can’t quote a George Strait lyric. I never knew what to call my music, there were people telling me I was either too much of something or not enough of something else. So I was really fed up with trying to call it anything, even going into pop. My shit is very heavily influenced by 90s R&B, hip hop, and funk. Pop music, I like it because it’s such a broad category, it can be anything, but I still didn’t want the focus to be on the label or the sound of the music for me. I think that my sound is always going to evolve and change in big and little ways. I want the focus always to be on the overarching message, and the way that it makes you feel, and I want to send the message that your vulnerabilities and your sensitivities don’t disqualify you from being confident and independent and a bad bitch. I used to think that my emotions and my messiness, really the things that fuel most of my songwriting and my dramatic tendencies, all of that disqualified me from being a competent, have-my-shit-together, bad bitch type of person. Then I realized, if you can publicly be vulnerable, and you can own your shit, that’s actually the most badass thing that you can do. 

There’s a trend of stoicism going on, with influencers like TheWizardLiz and just boss-bitch culture in general, which seems to be tapped into what you’re talking about, because sometimes that culture can vilify vulnerability.

Exactly. Having this vibe of like, I don’t need a man, I’m a boss, I get my money, give me some bread, run me some head, and leave— I love that shit. Like I will sing that at the top of my lungs. But for some reason, I used to think that I can’t embody that if I’m also feeling my feelings and crying, like a real multi-dimensional vulnerable person, you know, and that’s not true. All my favorite artists are artists that span the spectrum of human emotion within one song, within one album.


Story / JoAnn Zhang

Photos / Slater Goodson

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