Bridgit Mendler on taking chances on and off-screen and watching a more authentic self-unfold in the process

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photos/ Jason Rodgers @ The Brooks Agency   

story/ Megan Laber

makeup/ Faye Lauren @ Grid Agency  

hair/ Ryan Austin

styling / Jonatan Mejia

photo assistant/ Emily Metzguer

BTS video / Noah Rodriguez

If you are unaware of Bridgit Mendler, maybe there is a generational gap. Upon review, her 2012 “Ready or Not” music video has almost 150 million views on Youtube. Back then Mendler was 20 years old and fresh off her acting stint with the Disney Channel as a regular alongside the likes of Selena Gomez. Since the big record label contract post-Disney, and some big TV spots on NBC’s Undateable, as well as guest roles on Nashville and Degrassi, Mendler has stayed busy looking to get back to the roots of her creativity; songwriting. Her lyrics are vulnerable and her pop beats are dancey. She is just as drawing with her voice as she is in her depiction of various characters. Working with two producers to chase after a new sound that combines a soulful voice with modern electronics, Mendler is the type of triple threat Hollywood hopefuls envy to be. Luckily for this starlet, she’s already made it up the mountain that is the City of Stars and is waving down and observing it for inspiration to add to her next music project. Where she goes after this is all dependent on Mendler. She is taking chances on and off-screen and is watching a more authentic self-unfold in the process.

Where did the love for music begin with you, and was this always the main goal of getting into performing?

Music has been a way of how I function forever. I look at it through the lens of writing, so I would tell my friends that if they were having a bad day they should put it in a song. It’s how I’ve always kind of processed things. Hollywood Records was the first to extend me a record deal and it was a chance to kind of expose more of my personal self to this fan base I’d been growing when I was younger. It’s a different side from acting where I’m putting on a persona. The music, especially in the indie projects, is fun because I get to portray a very real me. 

How is the current writing process going for this new music project?

It’s super personal and solitary, where I’ll write a song into my journal and sort through what I’m feeling. Last year I was working with Spencer Bastian, and it was the first time I’d been outside working with people from the big label. I was so used to being told to write a certain way that I intentionally made it a point to go into the session doing everything my way. I presented a song that I saw as something that would have been rejected previously, and I did it because I was afraid to. It was a starting point and he embraced it. It might not be on the album but starting the tone there allowed me to be more expressive. Mischa Chillak was then brought on, and all three of us have a love for the same sound.

How did you come to this new sound?

I was first impacted by Bob Dylan and Fiona Apple, but through my first album, there was a hip-hop sound we were kind of trying to get at with a track like “Ready or Not”, where we extrapolated The Fugees. Spencer and Mischa come from an electronic background, and Spencer showed me Detroit’s J Dilla, where Misha brought in this Toronto sound. That has had a big influence on our process. There was an excitement about creating something new that’s fresh.

You have a huge fanbase that stems from acting, but the focus now is on the music. Do you feel like this is a step away from acting for good?

It’s interesting because I’ve had a bunch of acting jobs pop up. I filmed a pilot for Fox this year, and I’m traveling soon to film a Netflix movie. With acting it’s spontaneous with when you get your next project. I’ve stayed focused on writing and kind of planning what I want to talk about for the next album. I want to continue to improve the music with each project, and it’s really exciting to have the independence to approach it how I want.

SXSW was a chance for you to share your sound to a bigger audience for the first time. What was the reception like?

There were a lot of people who knew my first album surprisingly. They were singing along. It showed me how my fans have grown up and how we’re growing together.

You’re taking this album on tour. How do you like performing in that format?

These songs are so personal for me, so when I have people respond emotionally to them it’s extremely meaningful. I’m not hiding myself anymore, and not that I was in the past, but I’m a new level of vulnerable now. At the same time, I feel like I’ve been identifying with LA more than ever. I want to put roots in somewhere and I get a lot of inspiration from this city and feel at home here.

After listening to your newest stuff I think you’ll likely attract a new audience that you didn’t have in the past, just because the sound is so different. How would you describe what you are going for those who haven’t explored you as an artist yet?

I think somewhere between soulful and electronic. It’s definitely something we tried to make unique, so I’m excited to see how new and old fans take it live, or respond after they listen.

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