Our latest edition sees a meeting of minds between Folk/Rock singer Shayna Adler and Nashville singer/songwriter Brittany Bexton. Their in depth conversation touches on topics such as faith and the challenges faced in the industry by female performers.
Shayna Adler: As a woman, what’s it been like to navigate the music industry and build a career for yourself? Do you feel like you’ve encountered any obstacles or difficulties?
Brittany Bexton: It’s definitely been difficult as a woman, especially when I was marketing my music primarily country. The industry still has a pretty big good ol’ boy mentality that is not very inclusive of women. I’ve definitely had booking agents and managers turn down working with me over time either “Because I was a woman, and they couldn’t make any money off a woman.” Even after multiple people personally recommended me to them. And I’ve had managers tell me they loved everything about me but my age. I was in my mid twenties when the comment was made. There is a huge double standard with that for men. but I also think it’s character building. The way I see it is there is a market for my music, and I will get to the people that want it, regardless of obstacles. That’s part of why I just started touring. I wanted to do something to get out there that didn’t require the gate-keepers so to speak. I booked my own shows with a fill in gig here and there that a booking agent friend would throw my way. I played 50-100 shows every year booking myself, so that was pretty crazy. But the experience was great. The way I see it, as long as you make music that means something and matters there will be a market, and regardless of still running into challenges, I know I’m where I need to be and my music will somehow get to the people that need it.
Brittany Bexton: What was the first song you wrote? How would you say you’ve grown most as a songwriter over the years? How has your style morphed?
Shayna Adler: I wrote this song called “Turn the Page” in 2008(?) that’s literally just one chord throughout LOL. Not many pages to turn there…But hey! You have to start somewhere. I think my songwriting has become more intentional, and has evolved into full stories with characters. If I know exactly what I’m trying to say, what the message is, etc., the songs come really easily. I spend more time determining that over a notebook or “notes” on my iPhone before I even pick up a guitar. The music, sound, and chords follows the moods, settings, and meanings of the stories. It definitely wasn’t that way when I started.
Shayna Adler: Tell me more about your connection of music and faith. How did you begin to bring the two together? How has that influenced your songwriting?
Brittany Bexton: I grew up singing worship and hymns in church, but I have always written songs more about my own personal experiences, struggles and growth. I have written some worship tunes over the years too, but have always felt like my job as an artist is to talk about the human condition and point people back to God. The new album’s theme being Christian wasn’t really planned ahead. But, the couple of years that I wrote most of the songs on the new project, I was going through a lot of personal growth and healing. A huge part of that healing was rebuilding my faith after trauma. When I started to listen back to the songs I had been writing, they all had an inspirational tone, of empowerment, and faith. It’s still a bit of a journey for me figuring out next steps, and what that means as far as my touring goes for the next couple years. Lately I’ve been writing a lot more worship, mainly for comfort through the times. I’m not exactly sure what the next project will hold. But I think this one came out when it was needed most in the world.
Brittany Bexton: What is your favorite song to sing off of your new “Wander” Album? What song on the album is the most personal for you?
Shayna Adler: I can answer both questions in one song—it’s definitely “Dear Capricorn.” It’s immensely personal. It’s quite fun to sing, too! That song sums up a plethora of experiences meeting new potential “love interests,” but especially the ones that didn’t go anywhere…and all you remember is the intense feeling of hope, and butterflies in your stomach. It’s a subject I always wanted to write about, but the catalyst was experiencing that unrequited rush of blood to the head again with someone. It’s so bittersweet. That song was written after a lifetime of experiences and one 5-minute conversation.
Shayna Adler: What band or artist is your biggest musical hero?
Brittany Bexton That’s so hard! I’m not good at picking one! The truth is I don’t have a musical hero so much as a number of artists and writers I really respect who have shaped my music over time. Singers like Aretha Franklin, Carol King, Patsy Cline, and Bonnie Raitt. And writers like Jewel and John Prine. I can tell you that two of my all time favorite songs as a writer are, “Angel From Montgomery” by John Prine, and “To Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan. Both of those songs are so rich; I feel like I get something more out of them every time I hear them, and soak up the lyrics.
Brittany Bexton: What has been the hardest part for you about being an artist? What’s the part of it that brings you the most joy?
Shayna Adler: The part that brings me the most joy is connecting with people, and feeling some pride in that my music is offering them something fun to escape with. I really miss that about live shows: looking out into the audience and making eye contact or even talking to them from stage, and meeting everyone afterwards. It definitely soothes the soul to sit here and write or play songs by myself, but I think getting to share it all with other people is what makes it special.
Over the course of this year, I’m increasingly finding less time to enjoy the creative side of being an artist, because of the general management of everything. It’s really challenging to keep that balance. I find myself spending 8+ hours a day on my laptop between social media, managing my website, editing videos, emails, marketing, etc. I really miss just sitting and playing my guitar and being able to just focus on that alone, rather than squeeze it in when I’m either not awake in the morning or dead tired at night.
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(Right) Shayna Adler. Photo credit: Anna Azarov (Left) Brittany Bexton. Photo credit: Photo credit: Brandon Oursler