From all the songs out there, why did you choose to cover No Doubt’s “Just A Girl“?
The idea to cover this song actually came back in 2012, Gwen’s version is punk and raw, you can hear the anger and frustration in her voice. But the concept and lyrics of this song are even bigger than that and don’t rely on any style. We decided to slow our version down, and give these lyrics power in a new way, from a different angle.
I found it interesting that some Youtubers were commenting on how the song lost its “power” when we slowed it down and took my vocal style approach. But, many others were quick to defend our artistic choices claiming both versions were powerful in their own way. Just because I’m singing a little sweeter and more angelic doesn’t actually take anything away from the lyrics. You don’t necessarily have to sing angry to sing angry. The lyrics have the power in any context.
Gwen Stefani’s writing has inspired me since I was a kid listening to No Doubt alone in my bedroom and screaming the lyrics. One of the only posters in my room was actually No Doubt that I had bought at Record World, our local CD store at the time. “Just A Girl” has been my own feminist anthem since basically before I could even really understand what it meant. I am honored to be a tiny part of bringing this incredible & powerful song to the forefront of conversation again.
She didn’t call it “I’m a Girl”, she called it “I’m Just a Girl”. And “Just” is funny little word, whenever put it in front of something it makes whatever you are talking about seem smaller, as if we have something to prove. Like “don’t worry, I’m harmless, it’s just little old me.” I read a great article about how one should never use this word “Just” in an email. That when you put “just” in front of something, it’s almost like what you are saying needs an apology.
Did you approach the cover in a very cinematic way or did the movie trailer inclusion come about coincidentally?
I recorded this cover for a YouTube video almost 6 years ago. As artists, and people in this business, we create a lot, we write a lot, we play a lot. Sometimes we forget what it’s even for or why we even do it. It can feel confusing at times and it’s easy to get lost in the why. But this opportunity has really reminded me that it is all journey and you really never know what road a creation of yours will take and where it will end up. Here’s a song I listened to on repeat at age 14, and then years later I record a version of it for a Youtube video and it’s not until now that it’s discovered. Lukas Burton, a music supervisor from Cavalry music found my song on YouTube and from there pitched it to Disney for The Nutcracker. That’s not usually how it happens, but this time it was a happy little accident.
The single comes off your new album Broken Vessel – what’s the story behind the title?
“Broken Vessel” is the title track of the EP and it is a phrase that came from my dad who had a profound impact on my life. At a young age he gave me the gift of music. Growing up, he used to sit next to me every night, while I’d practice my piano and sing along to silly songs I was learning like “Hot Crossed Buns”. We lost him to cancer about 4 years ago, diagnosis to death only being 6 weeks. The experience of watching him get sick, and being there for his last breaths changed me forever. When he was sick, he would say, “My body just doesn’t work anymore, I’m just a broken vessel now”.
The song Broken Vessel is almost like a love letter I wrote from my dad to myself. The lyrics are written in his perspective as he examines and faces his own mortality. He questions himself, wishes he could turn back the clock, wants us to know he tried, but ultimately says “I will still love you when I’m gone”. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to watch your once super hero dad face his own death and leave behind his family. We will all die, it’s literally the last thing hard thing we all have to do on this earth, but I feel like as a society we don’t talk about it enough. I am extremely open with my experience, because I don’t know any other way to be about it. It is the hardest and most significant thing I have ever been through, and as an artist I’ve had to learn how to use that or else grieving and moving on would’ve been nearly impossible.
Even though the EP title/song has an extremely personal meaning to me, I also love how many different meanings “Broken Vessel” can embody. Someone about to give up, a broken heart, the physical feeling of hitting rock bottom.
How was the writing and recording process?
That’s an interesting question because this EP has been a long time in the making. I’ve been making music for almost 15 years, but never released my own body of work. My early 20’s was spent playing shows in the typical Lower East Side spots. I signed a horrible record deal, made a lot of mistakes, but ultimately realized my true passion was as a writer. When I finally gave up the notion of being an artist was when my first real opportunity as an artist happened. I co-wrote a song, sang the demo, and it was pitched to Hollywood Records artist Cole Plante. He ended up cutting it on his record and instead of replacing my vocals with another singer, featured Brix as the singer on the track. I spent later years developing and writing for other young artists, releasing other artist’s records, writing songs for film and commercials and writing a musical called POPSTAR. Although I had records worth of my own songs, it never felt like the right time to record and release an album of my own. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if it was fear or just timing that was holding me back.
My cover of “Just A Girl” that was recently featured in The Nutcracker and The Four Realms trailer was the first time, as an artist, I felt an identity and home with the sound we had created. I wanted my EP to embody that same discovery. In the end the songs we chose to include on Broken Vessel reflect very influential periods in my life. A 20 something-year-old struggling to make it work in NYC, a more adult version of that girl trapped in a toxic relationship and a 27 year old too young to lose her dad. It’s all in there, and it’s very real to me. I hope these personal experiences of my life can mirror fragments of what someone else may be going through too.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
When I first started writing songs for myself, I had to rely on specific events that were happening in my life. As I started to write songs for other artists and projects, I had to learn how to look beyond my immediate experiences. I learned how to see the world through others’ eyes and tell stories from their perspective, or from my imagination. The songs on Broken Vessel happen to be from very personal things I’ve been through, but that isn’t always the case for a lot of my writing. Besides my life, I try to find inspiration everywhere from a conversation overheard on the subway, to a friend’s break-up, to an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. It’s all right there for us to write about.
Do you tend to take a different approach when you are writing for someone else rather than for your own?
After so many years of being a writer behind the songs, it was scary to step back into the artist role. It was easy to hide behind the face of another artist. As the songwriter and the singer, I feel more vulnerable delivering the song. It’s my words for the world to hear next to my face and my name. It feels good, different, different good, scary good, it’s a lot of feelings at once. In the end though, writing is writing is writing to me. Whether I’m writing for someone else’s project or my own, I go to the same, sometimes uncomfortable place of feelings. Some artists or writers get really precious about their songs, not wanting other artists to sing them and honestly I don’t. Every artist approaches a song so differently and I find it fascinating to watch another artist make a song I’ve written their own. They are stories and whether I’m singing them or someone else is, the story is still being told and that is the special part to me.
Any plans to hit the road?
Not now, however if the opportunity presents itself, then sure! Honestly, for me writing the songs and creating meaningful art to go along with them is most fulfilling. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with performing.
What else is happening next in Brix’s world?
Recently my cover of “Just A Girl” was featured in the trailer of “The Nutcracker and The Four Realms”. It was so exciting to see people respond to Disney’s choice to use this song to empower Clara, their female lead. For me, 6 years after recording this, it was as if new life was breathed into that song. It took on a whole new meaning for me, given the landscape of our society, politics, the recent events with Christine Blasey Ford, the fact that our rights as women are being threatened, and our country is run by a man that has no moral compass.
Suddenly this song was waking me up in new ways as a woman. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of guilt that I had been passive with my beliefs. That I hadn’t done enough to contribute to the conversation. That I should’ve felt an urgency a long time ago to do my part to try and make change for women. And then I realized I had to make a music video that would do just that, and so we did!
The moment my director Ben Tedesco and I hopped on the phone, there was an instant energy and artistic connection. Ben is passionate about making things that “need to be made” and “people should see”.
I will never forget the feeling I had on set with those 10 young girls. I look at them and I see innocence, possibility, strength, uninhibited confidence. They are girls, that will become women, and I have to believe that things will be better for them. We fight for them.
I have to believe that they will never lose their right to make a choice about their own body. That they will be paid equally to a man. That they can be sexually liberated without being slut-shamed. That we will always believe them. And that they can be Moms and CEOS or just moms or whatever they damn well please.
I can only hope this video educates more people on the issues women continually face, and that the video inspires more people to make their voices heard. And lastly, that change will happen, but we have to show up. Our votes count more than ever right now.
Ben Tedesco (the director) and I had a vision for “Just A Girl” and with a limited budget, that vision relied solely on talented human beings that were also motivated and willing to put their heart into something they believed in too. I’ve never worked on a project where more things just fell into place. Where strangers, both male and female came together, offered their talents and time to create something inspiring. To fight for a cause that isn’t just a battle for women’s rights but a battle for human rights.