Bri Bagwell – a force to be reckoned with

Bri & Whiskey (foto von Bri's FB Page)
Her first studio album was released in 2011 and her latest, Corazon Y Cabeza, came out in 2022. During the years in between, Bri Bagwell collected several accolades, landed several Nr. 1-Hits in the Texas Charts and wrote many songs. Hailing from Las Cruces, New Mexico, she didn’t have to go far to get to Texas. During her university time in Austin, she started to play gigs in local clubs and her fan base grew quickly. At her gig at Buck’s Backyard in Buda, Texas, I sat down with her to ask a few questions.

Bruno Michel: Bri, you won Female Artist of the Year for several years and also earned many other awards. Your fan base is ever growing. Did you, as the 14-year-old playing in the band of your two older brothers in Las Cruces, ever think that you make it this far? Bri Bagwell: I never even thought I’d be a fulltime musician. But I loved music, was young and hungry, and ready for performances of any size. At the beginning, I was happy if I made fifty bucks a night playing somewhere. I am so happy about the success I enjoy now and where I am today already exceeds all I ever dreamed of.

You wrote a song about your home town Las Cruces in New Mexico. The city managers declared it as the official hymn of the city. And also, your entire family still lives there. But as a teenager, you were infected with the honky tonk virus. Was that the reason for your move to Texas? More options to get gigs? I love my home town and, yes, all my family still lives in Las Cruces. But my brothers, who are seven years older than me, had a love for Texas music. Many times, we drove down to El Paso (about 1 hour south) to see Cory Morrow, Pat Green or Jason Boland play. The move to Austin was kind of natural. After all, it’s still called the music capital of the world. Meanwhile we have moved to New Braunfels where we are building a house. I can’t imagine to do anything other than Texas Music.

Now that you enjoy one success after another, where do you see Bri Bagwell in ten years from now? Sure, it would be cool to have a standing like Miranda Lambert one day. But I see myself more like someone living in the moment. And right now, there’s nothing I would rather do than what I do. A more comfortable tour bus would be great (laughs). Would make it easier to travel. I will certainly continue to produce albums. I also want to write a book and just show the people that a woman can absolutely be successful in this business. Beside that, I have many ideas and hope to be able to look back in ten years and find, that I realized many of those ideas. In the beginning I was told by many so-called experts, that there would never be a female star in the Texas Music scene and that I would have to go to Nashville like Miranda or Maren Morris to achieve that. But my entire career so far has proven them wrong.

More success often requires an artist to adapt to the requirements of the music industry. Where do you draw a line between fame and fortune or to continue to write your own songs and stay true to your style? Well, even if I would adapt to such requirements, it would not be a guarantee for success or to become the next big star. So, the question is, would it be worth the risk? I am ready to compromise a little bit but I could never record songs that I don’t like. If you do that, you may wake up the next morning and still find yourself without a label contract. My integrity is more important to me.

And that is exactly why two of my favorite tracks on your current album are Cowboy Cold and Josefina. What comes to your mind first when you write songs? The melody or the lyrics? Mostly it’s both at the same time. Sometimes friends are sending me great lyrics but I can’t get the melody to make it fit. Also, the time I need to write songs is very different. Cowboy Cold took me almost two years, while I wrote Josefina in about half an hour. I can never predict how long it will take to turn an idea into a song.

Augie Meyers told me once that sometimes he wakes up at 3am and has to get up to write down an idea from a dream he had. Does this happen to you as well? (laughs). I had a similar situation recently. But I didn’t get up and, in the morning, I had forgotten about what it was. That made me angry. But I can also start a song, get stuck, and then Paul (Paul Eason, also Texas musician) or my producer help me to finish it.

You played with many of the Texas icons, among others with Willie Nelson. Is there kind of a dream act you would still like to share the stage with one day? Oh my god. Many. Unfortunately, some of them have already passed away. Johnny Cash and my grandma were 2nd grade cousins. To play with him or Merle Haggard would have been a big dream. I was already lucky to open for Miranda Lambert. She’s also one I’d like to sing a duet with. And, of course, my absolute favorite: Elvis Presley.

On one hand, you mentioned in a recent interview that you try to be nice to everyone. On the other hand, you also said that you’re not afraid to kick somebody’s a.. if needed. To be nice to everyone is certainly not getting easier with growing success, because more people are requesting something from you. True. My mom always said: Be nice and stay nice. That’s kind of in my DNA. But I have to adapt. In recent times, the lines of fans who also want an autograph or a picture are getting longer and longer. That’s great but thanks to social media, everyone thinks the have a right to request your attention. So, I try to be careful how deep I want to dive into this.

Up to now it always took around four years until you put out a new album. But you have a ton of new songs ready to go. What can your fans expect to be next? Right now, I am still digesting the success of the current album. But in the summertime, there will be a couple new singles and in 2024 also a new album. However, it got quite expensive to put out a new record. You need sponsors. I know that many believe the time to produce albums are over because everyone is simply streaming today. But I grew up with real records and I will continue to bring music that you can actually touch.

A duet album or a Best Of vinyl LP would be a great idea, would it not? The Greatest Hits thing needs to wait a while for now, I guess (laughs). But I like the idea of a duet album. My friend Paul and I recorded a classic by Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, which turned out to be quite successful. I can imagine to realize a full record with him. Or with fellow songwriters from Texas for that matter.

Is there something you would do different if you could start all over again? Maybe. How about only starting once I would be able to spend a million dollars? Just kidding. But today I would not take some of the things so seriously, if they go the wrong way. There were things that made me sad if they didn’t go the way I had planned. Today I know from experience that not everything is as bad as it may look at first glance.

Which question would you ask Bri Bagwell in an interview that I did not ask? I would ask myself about my dog Whiskey. I never thought I would have a dog but when I found her on the street and prevented her from being run over, my heart melted. She is with me on all my travels and all my gigs. And should it get too noisy sometimes I have a special headset for her in my bag (laughs).

Thank you very much for the interview and I wish you continued success.