Having grown up in an Oregon religious cult led by her father, losing her Mom at the tender age of six, and being thrown on the street by the age of seventeen, musician and guitarist Bree, found herself in Music City, aka. Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville treated her well, and she was named Nashville Artist of the Year by international spotlight organization, RAW. She then traveled across the pond (UK) and performed three separate tours with The Parlotones, The Supersuckers and The Lottery Winners, and her performances were met with much success and a new audience that continues to grow.
With her new single, “Damn, I’m Being Me Again,” Bree evokes lyrically and musically what it’s like being your own worst enemy, yet her music and lyrics make it enjoyable. The music video features Bree’s impressive vocal range, and her band, David J. Castello (drums) and Maryk on bass, rounding out the fiery single. This is the first single from the trio’s upcoming LP, New Skin, produced by Justin Cortelyou (Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Alice Cooper, Ke$ha). The music video portrays Bree and her bandmates rocking out and playing with all their muster. Read our interview with Bree, where she talks to us about her humble beginnings in Nashville, playing guitar and piano, her band’s latest single and music video along with new album, and five fast and interesting facts about Bree.
You ventured out to Nashville at a young age. What drew you to Music City USA, aka., Nashville, originally?
Bree: I never considered Nashville until I was twenty-one-years old. I met David (David J. Castello, my manager/drummer) on my 21st birthday in Palm Springs, California and this is where it ALL began! Shortly after meeting, we fell in love and were inseparable, so I moved in with him. It didn’t take long for him to notice my musical abilities so he began to encourage me to pick up the guitar again. At first I fought it, the memories I had of playing guitar were all in the cult I grew up in and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I eventually picked up the guitar, agreeing that I shouldn’t let my past dictate my future. I even learned how to use a drum machine! (laughs) Suddenly, I was a happy teenager again, obsessively listening to all my rock ‘n’ roll heroes and soaking up their mojo the best I could with dreams of touring the world dancing around in my head. I practiced Pete Townshend’s windmill move in the mirror and puzzled over what I’d look like with an Annie Lennox haircut. Those early days in Palm Springs really make my heart smile. We all start somewhere, right? I was shocked with myself! Little, sweet, quiet Bree from tiny Harrisburg, Oregon doing all of this? I still shock myself. And honestly, there’s no way in hell I could’ve done it without David. I was SO shy. David believing in me made me believe in myself, and that still holds true today.
As the new songs began to pile up, we realized Palm Springs wasn’t our forever home. We needed to find a scene. We flew to David’s birthplace NYC, which I found to be one of the most inspiring, exciting and electric places I’ve ever been. Not to mention home to one of my favorite legendary eras when the Ramones, Talking Heads, and Blondie were rocking the paint off of CBGBs! Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a scene there in 2011. And now CBGBs is a clothing boutique. As time went on, we started to hear about an alternative rock ‘n’ roll scene in East Nashville and went there to check it out. My guitar style is influenced by English guitarists such as Mick Ronson, Peter Townshend and George Harrison, but my vocal hero is Patsy Cline, so I was enamored by the thought of moving to Nashville. At that time, Nashville wasn’t the glammed out city you see today. There wasn’t more than a handful of good restaurants and downtown was known for nothing but bums, honky-tonk bars and tourists.
We found a nice spot to rehearse at Diamond Sound Studios where David and I had our very first rehearsal on July 22nd, 2011 – my 22nd birthday. (smiles)
What drew you to play guitar and the piano? Are there any other instruments that you can and/or want to play?
Bree: When I was eight-years-old, I was classically trained on piano and started playing every Sunday and Wednesday for the church in my father’s cult. When I was in the 4th grade, I learned the violin and was in love with it. I actually wanted to join the Eugene Symphony one day, but I quit because I didn’t agree with how my teacher taught his class. I was one of the few who went home and practiced their instrument and I nailed the solo audition from the movie “Babe” only to watch him give the part to another kid who couldn’t have cared less. I said “Screw this” and joined the 5th grade band where I learned the clarinet and became 1st chair until my (horrible and evil) stepmother, Valerie, pulled me from class because she discovered I had stayed to watch a band-based movie during band class instead of walking home. In my teens, I played a candy apple red Epiphone SG guitar that I’d bought with babysitting/lawn mowing money in our (embarrassing) family band with my parents and siblings, but I wasn’t allowed to play with any overdrive or distortion. Here I was with this badass guitar, a teenage girl’s dream, and I had to play it with a wimpy, clean tone. I dabbled with the saxophone a bit, but I mostly stuck to piano and writing pages of sad, deep poems and hate letters about my stepmother (that I, of course, disposed of, but really wish I would’ve kept!).
Your latest single, “Damn, I’m Being Me Again,” is a powerful anthem. What was the idea and/or inspiration behind the song?
Thank you! I live every word of that song every damn day of my life. (laughs) I was truly frustrated with myself when I wrote that song. I’ve always been a walking, talking paradox. Having conflicting personalities makes for a very adventurous and frustrating life with many ups and downs. I have the tendency to stand in my way, which drives me absolutely crazy. The good thing about it all is that it gives me plenty to write about! It’s amazing how much growth comes from falling on your face. One of my biggest adult life lessons has been learning how to balance these opposing sides of my personality. I’m the world’s best fence sitter, yet I can make rash decisions based on little logic and whatever emotion I’m feeling in the moment. I can’t make decisions about certain things, yet I’m too opinionated about other things. Regardless, this song was written in the heat of the moment when I was complaining about myself to David. That’s when I wrote, “Sometimes I wanna punch myself in the face” and “I vacillate, I’m all over the place.” It just kind of all snowballed from there!
The music video is just as infectious as the song. What was the collaboration like working with director, Casey Culver?
When I first met Casey I was a little intimidated by him. I can’t remember if it was because I was too stoned or if I was just being me again or because he looked like a model. He is super stoic in a very artsy way. The intimidation factor went away the moment he started laughing at my quirks. Then I became super comfortable. Casey made the entire experience so much fun for me! I told him what I envisioned in my head and he’d make it happen.
After taking a little break, you’ve released your latest album, New Skin. Tell us about the writing and recording process this time around.
I write when I’m either inspired or need to purge an emotion. In Nashville, everyone co-writes. It’s practically an industry there, but I wrote every song on New Skin by myself. My songs tend to be autobiographical and the experience is much too personal. Our producer is Justin Cortelyou, the exclusive engineer for the legendary producer Bob Ezrin. New Skin is the second album we’ve recorded with Justin. I could go on and on about him, but I’ll just say that when we record with Justin it’s like being in another world. The man is so talented and such a joy to work with it makes me want to cry when we finish recording. I get choked up just thinking about working with him again! I did a funny interview with him that reveals a lot about the New Skin album, check it out here!
Having successful tours previously, do you plan to tour the US and/or the UK this upcoming new year?
I’m currently in the midst of writing my third album, but I miss touring, terribly. Put it this way, if I don’t perform I’ll go crazy and I’ve already had enough crazy in my life to last ten life times. There is absolutely no substitute for performing on stage. You’re naked out there without a net and I’m addicted to it. On another note, any band or artist who performs with any kind of tapes or lip-synching should either quit or hand out refunds.
Who was your first concert, and who has been your favorite so far?
Bree: My first concert was “The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies” at the Eugene Festival! I loved that band and still do! I think I was around ten or eleven-years-old. My dad took me and put me on his shoulders so I could see. I’ll never forget when the lead singer, Steve Perry gave me a double high-five! It made my whole childhood and only added to my dream of rocking the stage myself some day. Choosing a favorite is so hard, but I’d say my top faves have been Cheap Trick (I still have a bunch of guitar pics), Flogging Molly, Paul McCartney at Bonnaroo 2013 (Mentally in another galaxy. Mind blowing!), Garth Brooks and my friends in the English band, The Lottery Winners (witty, endearing, talented AF and so loving every second of it you can’t help but get into it tenfold. Loved opening for them on our last U.K. tour, and I love that we still keep in touch).
What was your first album on cassette, CD and/or vinyl?
The first CD I bought with my own money when I was a kid was Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. I was obsessed with Brian Wilson’s harmonies and catchy melodies!
Which five albums and/or artists would you not want to live without?
Bree: I would not want to live in a world without the likes of Dean Martin, Patsy Cline, Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins is my hero), The Beatles, Barbara Streisand, The Who, David Bowie, T-Rex, Relient K, Save Ferris (oh God, I wanted to BE that lead singer!), and last, but not least, Cheap Trick!
Do you have a guilty music and/or entertainment pleasure?
Bree: I’m kind of used to being pretty weird, so, instead of feeling guilty I just fly the ol’ freak flag, you know? But sometimes I do get embarrassed with how much I truly love pop. Yes, I’m a pop tart. I love ABBA, Katy Perry and even some Taylor Swift songs. P!nk is awesome too, I just wish people would stop saying I look like her.
It’s okay, you can judge me, I do it all the time, too. (laughs)
And I will always be a Disney kid! Obsessed. I know every song and still fan girl when I go to Disney. “Shining, shimmering, splendid….”
What are five, fast facts you can share with us about you and/or your music?
1. I’m obsessed with gelato and want to make the hashtag #chickseatinggelato go viral for fun.
2. I enjoy ironing. I find it extremely therapeutic.
3. Mary Jane for life!
4. I could exclusively live off of sashimi and Lambrusco and be so happy.
5. Disingenuous people give me extreme anxiety.