TikTok Music Sensation Brye Talks About Surviving When ‘Nothing is Normal’

On our Tower Instagram Live show, Whitney Moore hosted singer and songwriter Brye, who started releasing songs in 2018 and recently released the demo “Lemons” to a big reaction on TikTok and Spotify at the age of just 17 years old.

Asked about how quarantine has been treating her, Brye, said that it’s been very “weird” for her because it’s been a time that her music has been blowing up. It’s been a hard time to write, but she’s learned to write more about herself during this time, rather than talking more about her relationships with other people as she has done in the past.

She’s been spending a lot of time Facetiming friends, and she thrives off interacting with other people, so staying in touch has been important. She’s been making a lot of music and is not trying to think right now about whether it’s good enough. Music has always been about “writing to cope with things” for her, so it still is, though things are a little different with studios closed.

Has she been informed by the things happening in the world? Brye has been trying to avoid the stress of life and stay more positive, but she’s also been writing a lot of instrumentals during this time. She actually taught herself how to produce music on Garage Band and Logic. She’s been trying to make sure that she’s doing things correctly, since self-taught often includes mistakes. It’s a big “learning curve” that she’s been taking on.

Moore observed that it’s great that she’s not “passive about her own success” but is really going after self-education in music. At first, she was just “messing around” with music sampling and producing, Brye said, and there’s no “right way” to produce, though it’s a lot easier when you learn how to organize files, at least. She’s starting to use midi recorders and is learning how to mix vocals at the moment. She’s exploring Logic’s instrument sounds, since there’s so much to go through.

“Lemons” has had over 8 and a half million listeners, and Brye did not expect that to happen! She wrote it a month before posting about it, and had posted it to a private account for friends who liked it, then she posted it on TikTok, expecting only a few views. From which it has continued growing and growing. It was released as a “demo” and they thought it would eventually be mixed professionally, but since it’s so popular now, they may not change it.

Moore asked more about TikTok and its role in the lives of musicians, and Brye said that it’s both “awesome” and “insane”. It gives an opportunity to any person who wants to put music out there, Brye said. Now people are going on TikTok to find new music, and it’s a “symbiotic relationship” for musicians.

Most songs get attention because people make dances for them on TikTok, but for her and “Lemons”, most people have used the song for POV videos, where people tell stories with music in the background.

The song calls out toxic masculinity and abusive men, Moore observed, and asked Brye why she chose this topic. Brye said that she got a lot of bullying from older men online a few years ago, and she became aware that it happened because she was easy to target. Once feelings about this had “built up”, she decided to write about it. She thought it would be a private way of dealing with the issue, but then it became a public song.

Why does Brye think it’s a bigger public subject now, and that people talk about mental health more now, too? Brye said that her generation processes information the way that they want to, and use access to the internet to find ideas and connect with others. Whole communities online “support each other and try to talk about mental health” which increases “visibility”. These issues feel isolating, and to find other people in the same boat “helps you grow”.

Are there any negative aspects to social media being a constant part of life? Brye said that it can affect self esteem, but also, she was bullied online on social media. The same mode that brought that experience has also empowered her, so it can be a “love and hate” relationship. That can be hard to deal with.

Does Brye limit her time on social media? She said she’s not on there that often, though she is on her phone a lot, using it for music and other things. She didn’t grow up with social media, and was introduced to it relatively late, so she feels she’s “not quite as attached to it” to others.

Brye is glad she didn’t have social media in middle school, or she’d still be living it down, she feels. Moore agrees and is glad TikTok wasn’t around when she was young.

Brye is celebrating her one year anniversary as coming out as a bisexual person. Moore asked what led up to her decision to come out, and Brye said it was a small, non-dramatic thing to come out to family and friends. She went to a Pride parade, and the experience prompted her to make the decision to come out. She’s relived that she came out before she gained a musical audience, since it would have been a little different to come out to fans. Yes, she does have some songs in the works that will address her bisexuality.

Asked about the lyric video for “Lemons”, Brye said that her friend Justin Wood 3D rendered the entire thing. Brye had an idea for a girl with a lemonade stand that a guy kicks down, and then she goes and burns his house down. They started with that idea and Justin 3D rendered it all rather than shooting footage, because of the limitations of social distancing.

Does she have any songs that she has in mind for a video next? There are two in the works, and Brye is still an independent artist, so she’s still “going with the flow” because of uncertain times. There’s no rush, really.

Brye recently released a live version of a song that was written for a musical in high school. She’s written three musicals for her high school, with one underway right now. Her first one was about a girl coming out. Then she co-wrote one with a friend about a girl who wants to be a Knight but can’t because of her gender. Brye loves writing stories, and she loves writing music from the point of view of characters.

Theater was her introduction to music, starting at age 7, and she hopes her high school will be able to do Les Miserables this year. The Last Five Years is her favorite musical. As far as school goes, they had a month of school left when school shut down, and the government deemed that any work done afterward cannot bring your grades down, but only raise them, which is a relief. This year they are supposed to go back to school, and she hopes so, because she finds online schooling confusing.

Asked about why she prioritizes looking after her mental health, Brye said that she has struggled in the past, and has been diagnosed with ADHD and OCD. In high school, she felt like she put way too much on her plate, and it “hit her hard”, so it’s a lesson that she’s still trying to keep learning.

“No one should be putting pressure on themselves right now.”, Brye said, “Because nothing is normal.”

Does she have goals or ideas for the next five years? Brye wants to graduate high school and thinks she’ll be staying in Chicago for a while, but they have been thinking about a move to Nashville, where her manager is. Someday, she’d like to go on tour, but there’s no pressure right now about that. She’s hoping to “put out a lot more independently” and then get signed somewhere. She’d like to develop her brand more before “moving into a business model”.

Does this success with “Lemon” create pressure about future releases? Yes, Brye wrestles with that. She doesn’t want to compare other songs she might put out with “Lemons” because all songs are different. She does tend to compare her present self to her past self, so she’s going to approach that carefully.

Asked if she’d collaborate with Billie Eilish, Brye said, “Who wouldn’t collaborate with Billie Eilish??” She gets compared to Eilish, and she finds that flattering, and Brye sees her work as a “blueprint” for what Brye is working on in some ways. Brye loves how well-spoken Billie Eilish is, too.

Asked about the Tower Records motto, No Music, No Life, Brye said her whole family is musical and her childhood was totally music-related, so she doesn’t know how life would be without it.

Does Brye have anything she’d like to share with fans? “There’s no pressure, don’t be comparing yourself to your friends.”, she advised. Some people might look like workaholics, but internally, they are struggling. You might be struggling outwardly, but that’s okay, too. 

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