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Interview: Bailey Wiley Talks About Her Self-Titled EP + Release Tour

Interview: Bailey Wiley Talks About Her Self-Titled EP + Release Tour

Interview by Chelsea Prastiti / Tuesday 9th July, 2019 9:28AM

Bailey Wiley’s latest self-titled EP is her most authentic collection yet, and she’s taking her soul licks and RnB riffs on a nationwide, island-weaving tour this month. The shows kick off this Friday 12th July at Tāmaki Makaurau's Galatos, but before she was swept up in the EP tour, Bailey Wiley sat down with Chelsea Prastiti of Auckland neo-soul crew SKILAA. Prastiti dove deep into Wiley’s connection with musical theatre, taking the reigns on collaborations and her teen love of Xtina. Study up on the musings behind the music before catching Bailey Wiley live this month…

UTR proudly presents Bailey Wiley

Friday 12th July - Galatos, Auckland
Saturday 13th July - Fat Eddie’s, Christchurch
Saturday 26th July - Moon 1, Wellington

Tickets available now HERE via UTR

Chelsea Prastiti: What’s the first thing that you heard as a child? I have an obsession with childhood memories of music.

Bailey Wiley: Music? To be honest I actually grew up around a lot of musical theatre. I kind of wish it was something else but it was musical theatre and it was performance.

I’m going to get really music nerd on you about the structures that I hear you singing in your work. There's actually a lot of jazz information in there as well, and musical theatre and jazz are actually really linked in terms of how the melody structures go.

Hard, so that makes sense. My grandfather used to be a musical theatre director and so I grew up with Les Mis as the first musical I really remember. I used to sing 'Castle On A Cloud' and I used to sing Annie. I think that developed something strong inside of me and that’s why I went to NASDA [in Christchurch] because that was something that had already been a part of my life.

I’m not gonna lie, this EP is beautiful, girl. I was listening to it and you have all these beautiful details. I can hear that you’re a real fan of RnB as well as an aficionado. In ‘Zaddy’ for example you’ve got all these beautiful horn textures and flute textures and chimes is a real theme. When you were conceiving of this EP, what were you thinking in terms of those layers? How much of a hand did you have in that?

With this EP in particular, I had a lot of creative control. Sometimes it did feel like a tug of war when I was working with certain producers that I would have to put my foot down and be like this is how I foresee this song goes. I had to remind them that this was my song and take ownership over that and steer that ship. That was probably one of the hardest learnings through the EP, but at the end of the day I had to remind myself that these were my songs and this was part of my creative and it was gonna come out under my name. I think it’s taking ownership, but in a way that is respectful and it's actually about what’s best for the song and trying not to step on toes.

In ‘Sugar’ there’s this lovely production which reminds me of that era of time where Aaliyah was still alive and where there were these lovely rhythmic snares. 

It’s so cool that you feel that way because I actually wrote that song to an Aaliyah bass line. I forget what the songs called, I think it’s ‘I Need Somebody’.

There’s a lot of really beautiful writing out there and really cool stuff is happening but I feel like the problem is that everyone's put into this one particular mould.

I totally understand where you're coming from. I got to this stage where I got with the label that I’m with now, I felt like they wanted me to make a certain type of music. I was doing these sessions and they were quite poppy and I was like “oh no, no, no”. Plus I'm getting older, not like super old but I'm getting old, so I was like “I need to make shit that makes me tick”. I got to the stage where I was like “fuck it”. I didn’t know that it was going to be a self-titled EP at the beginning of the journey, but I had taken so much ownership and steered the ship on my own for the first time with this project. That’s why it was self-titled. 

Have you got another video coming out?

No, we don't have any others. We were meant to but then I called it. I think if you’re going to put anything out, you have to be really fucking proud of it. I think that’s another theme of this EP, is that it was about quality not quantity. I could’ve released an album cause there were songs there but I was like “naaah”, like I didn’t really fucking love them, some of them. It’s the same thing.

It’s come through so well on the EP. You listen to some albums and there is a lot of crap and there will be like five shining songs, but each one of the tracks on your EP is a stunner. 

It has its own moment and that’s what I wanted it to do. For it to have its own sound, its own reason, its own moment. No filler tracks man, no fucking fillers. I’m glad that you can hear that, because I fucking hate it when I have to skip a song on a project because it’s like “you don’t care about that song and neither do I”. Fuck that.

Can you tell me more about your writing process? Have you defined it for yourself? What comes to you first?

That is a very commonly asked question and it’s always different. It’s about my mood, it’s about who I’m with. I think one of the strong components about this project is that I wasn’t afraid to collaborate with people. In the past I’ve always done all of the writing on my own and been like “I’m the artist, I’ve gotta do these songs, it’s my writing” but with this one I was like “fuck that man”. It’s actually ok to share that creative process with someone else. I feel like I met a lot more for it and the songs are probably a lot stronger for it. So I co-wrote ‘Afford This Love’ with Tom Scott, which is dope. That one night we were at the studio and we got a box of beer, I had just come out of a breakup so he was like “fuck yeah, this is what I’m fucking talking about”. 

And sometimes those lyrics would be really autobiographical, where it could be almost too painful to share.

‘Yours Truly’ was like that. It’s buzzy, even when I listen to it, it takes me back to that time and it still makes me emotional and it will forever make me emotional. With every project that I’ve done, I have a selfish song. The selfish song is only for me and not for anybody else and ‘Yours Truly’ was that song. I still remember when I wrote that song, I recorded it and wrote it when I was in bed and then obviously re-recorded. It was a fast one to write and it’s a very strong song. ‘Yours Truly’ was a fast one. I think when you’re in such a painful state about something, it's much easier to lean into that hurt and be able to get the song out.

Can I ask, how do you approach chord progressions? What tones are you drawn to?

To be honest, I used to write a lot of my songs with guitar but I don’t do that anymore. In all honesty, nowadays, I write to bass lines and I write to drums and that’s it. I actually did this session a few days ago, and often when you work with beat makers they’ll start the beat and you write something to it. That’s not how I work. I work from a vocal and then I’ll get them to work around the vocal. So I came up with something and I was like “this is the melody, let’s go, we’ll work out the right chord structure for it and then go from there” and the boys, you could tell, they just spun out. I hadn't worked with them before so it was a new process for them. They were used to doing it the other way, but I was challenging them, not the other way around.

Was there any one singer in particular that captured your imagination as a child?

When I was in high school, it was Christina Aguilera. That’s why I do, well I used to do it a lot more than I do now, but a lot of trilling and that, that’s how I learnt to do that and then there was Beyonce because those were pop artists from my generation. Then as I got older it was Etta James and then it was Amy Winehouse. So all of them were very strong vocal assets. I was that classic girl in intermediate / high school that had the hairbrush singing to the album by Christina Aguilera just fuckin' loving it. I was that bitch and I wasn’t afraid to be that bitch.

Where are you touring this EP?

We’ve got shows over New Zealand... Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch... I’m just looking forward to being on stage again. I feel like it’s been a long time. I struggle being performer Bailey Wiley and then writer Bailey Wiley at the same time, I don't know why. So it’ll be nice to come out of writer Bailey and then going into performance Bailey because when I'm performance Bailey, I think Im the purest form of myself.

I have the same feeling going on stage, and being like “I don't want to leave”. I would much rather express myself this way in all situations even though that would be highly inappropriate. [laughter]. There was something you mentioned before about being able to say things through music that you could never say in real life. I think music is so important for women and any minority voice, because it’s a completely safe space to say anything you want. For me I get angry a lot, and have been socially conditioned, like all of us, to put it aside, so there’s no place you can release it other than music.

That’s some real-ass shit, 100%, nobody can tamper with that because it’s yours, it also comes back to that creative control thing. It’s yours and it sounds the way that you want it to and you talk about the things that you want to talk about. 

Bailey Wiley's lush self-titled EP is out now via A Label Called Success.


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