Reluctant At First - Ready, Willing And Able Right Now
April 24, 2014
Years ago when I started in radio - which is to say, when dinosaurs ruled the earth - I wanted it so bad I could taste it. I dreamt of being in the biz from an early age while listening to radio incessantly; I became a true student of the medium, an aficionado if you will; certain fate would shine upon me, bringing eventual success.
During this quest, I met guys who stumbled blindly into radio, who'd previously never given it so much as a thought. They weren't even big radio fans, yet somehow were naturally brilliant without really trying or thinking and caring about it too much.
I hated those guys.
I wonder if other new artists, specifically females, feel the same way about Big Machine's Danielle Bradbery. Oh, not the hating part, don't get me wrong. My goodness, this teenager from Cypress, Texas is a nice kid. Polite, patient and sweet as can be.
It's just that Bradbery, only 16 when she auditioned for NBC-TV's mega-hit show "The Voice," had never, ever sung before an audience, unless you count whatever stuffed animals and/or dolls lived in her bedroom. She not only killed at "The Voice" audition, but went on to win the whole damned season-four competition.
And like those naturally, uber-talented radio guys I knew (and resented) back in the day, Bradbery never really had designs on a career in music prior to that experience. That's why I think her journey thus far is unique from the other talented new ladies in our format.
Therefore, Danielle Bradbery the ideal candidate for #4 in my series taking a closer look at Country's new female artist contenders; let's call this edition Reluctant At First, Ready, Willing And Able Right Now.
"I didn't have any interest in trying out for a TV show," Bradbery told me this week." My mom always heard me sing in my room, so she thought it would be awesome to sign me up for 'The Voice.' She knew how terrified I was but (laughing) I don't think she cared. I had no choice but to go; it was very overwhelming. I can laugh about it now but I wasn't laughing then!"
Don't you love a proud, perceptive mom with a cruel sense of humor?
Flash forward to right now: Bradbery has a deal with Big Machine Records, a top-15 song under her belt ("Heart Of Dixie"), an album which came in November and her second single, "Young In America," just impacted on Monday, April 21st. She's already been on tour with Brad Paisley and is currently out with Hunter Hayes and Dan + Shay.
And how did YOUR resume look before you could vote and drink legally?
Those are solid credentials already for somebody who had no designs on a career in music.
Well, she does now. "When I started 'The Voice' I realized it was moving fast," Bradbery recalls. "All of this was not what I expected it to be; I didn't know what any of it would be like. At the beginning I honestly had no interest in going all the way, but of course now I'm loving it."
Let me tell you who Bradbery reminds me of on several different levels: Carrie Underwood. By that I don't mean Bradbery is an Underwood knock-off, but consider their similar career launches.
Both were propelled by the most popular television singing competition of their time. Like Underwood, Bradbery can flat-out sing and their special talent is no more evident than when you see them perform live. I watched -- rather, was privileged to watch -- Underwood sing her tail off night after night when I handled promotion for Arista and I never ceased to be amazed at her voice, range and sheer athletic ability as a vocalist.
I saw Bradbery at the Big Machine extravaganza during CRS week. Then I watched her open for Brad Paisley two days later at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena; earlier this month she played an "Outnumber Hunger" event in Las Vegas prior to the ACM Awards. I witnessed this artist gain substantial confidence, savvy and swagger each time out in the span of just six weeks. Bradbery's voice is powerful and her singing appears effortless. Like Underwood, you watch and marvel at how that much controlled volume can come from a near wisp of a human being
Finally, Bradbery is still a work in progress on stage at this point. Remember, she's only 17 and NEVER sang to an audience prior to her run on "The Voice." She's most in her wheelhouse when singing and this is another area where she most resembles the early version of Underwood. Fresh off "Idol," Carrie was very timid offstage and at first, perceived to be stand-offish. Now she co-hosts the CMA Awards every year, flashing a quick, clever wit, great sense of humor and genuine warmth. Underwood went on the road immediately following "Idol" and was quickly playing small stadiums with Kenny Chesney. Initially unsure onstage - tell me who wouldn't be when suddenly thrust into a stadium setting with 20,000-plus people who specifically came to see Chesney - Underwood wisely let her voice do the talking, so to speak. Watching Bradbery now, one can see signs of her evolving into the dynamic live performer and offstage personality Underwood soon became.
I got the impression from Danielle that she's self-aware of what needs to be accomplished in the live setting.
"I am naturally a very shy person," she told me. "I will try and be as outgoing as I possibly can. Some of my friends who have been out to see me perform for the first time told me afterward, 'You totally turned into a different person on stage compared to who you are now.' And that's kind of how it feels to me. When I'm singing, a different person or artist comes out and I just love being in the song."
When we spoke, I promised Danielle I wouldnâ€™t keep bringing up the fact sheâ€™s just 17 â€“ I know from personal experience teens pretty much hate that. It is a fact though and since Bradbery is now serious about â€œgoing all the wayâ€ with a career in music, as she put it, we could be just scratching the surface here.
With 12-24 year olds the fastest growing sector for Country in recent years, Bradbery is literally embedded in that demo, better able to speak to that crowd while aging into the format with them, creating lifelong fans.
Her new single, â€œYoung In Americaâ€ does that in both title and theme. We already know one person in that fast-growing demo who relates to it big time: Danielle Bradbery. â€œI personally would put this on if I was hanging out on the lake or just outside,â€ she admits. â€œOf course, young, teen-aged years and the early 20s can also relate; itâ€™s about having fun and perfect timing with summer coming. It feels like that hang-out kind of song.â€
Last but not least, here's something else this 17-year-old already knows: The enormous challenge facing the current class of females working to break through.
"Yes, I have been thinking about that a lot; hearing how tough it is for female artists to have their moment. I have been listening as hard as I can to figure out a way for me to have my own unique sound. The girls - and I have it sometimes, too - of course, tend to have the heartbreak songs other girls can relate to. We notice every feeling and detail so we want to sing about it. There's a lot of the same sound out there; I want to be the one who's different."