Those stinging words from a Nashville music executive to wet-behind-the-ears singer-songwriter Mary Bragg years ago couldn’t have stung more. But she took that blow-off advice into a journey that transformed the south Georgia native from pop-country wannabe into the striking, vulnerable voice she wears on her new album, Edge of This Town, drawing comparisons to Americana luminaries Patty Griffin and Shawn Colvin.
But her story, and her songs are her own.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but a little rejection was just what I needed,” Bragg said.
Barely out of high school, Bragg spent six months in Nashville as a sprite, eager singer, chasing the dream. Like so many do.
Sent on her way to the University of Georgia where she was classically trained in voice, she put Nashville behind her and focused on developing her craft on her own terms. After college, New York became her muse, her trouble, her chaperone. Several years into growing acclaim in Brooklyn’s Americana scene, she attracted overflow crowds for a yearlong residency at New York City’s famed venue The Living Room. She has been honored in such prestigious songwriting contests as Kerrville New Folk, Telluride Troubadour, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Wildflower! Festival, and the International Songwriting Competition.
Now having recently been accepted into the world-renowned circle of songwriters at The Bluebird Cafe after a 60-second audition, Bragg finally has been embraced in Nashville. The 2011 release of her Lee Alexander-produced album Tattoos & Bruises, met with critical acclaim by USA Today, No Depression magazine and others, didn’t hurt.
With themes of longing, trying relationships, and wistfulness, the ethereal, alt-country Edge of This Town was released April 7. Bragg takes her listeners to nostalgic, emotional places through her pointed lyrics and powerful melodies. On the opening track, Bragg describes a woman unwilling to give up on her crumbling marriage. “Hollywood’ll say go on and walk away, that it ain’t worth all these tears, but Hollywood ain’t here,” Bragg sings, a lilting slide guitar bending its way across the evocative timbre of Bragg’s voice. She produced the EP together with guitarist Rich Hinman and her bassist/husband Jimmy Sullivan.
Bragg recorded the album after winning the inaugural BandPage/Zoo Labs Music Residency Contest, which enabled her to create the album at Zoo Labs Studios in Oakland, California in November 2014. This is Bragg’s fourth studio recording and her first since moving to Nashville in December 2013. The Zoo Labs Music Residency is an immersive program that supports entrepreneurial music-making teams in bringing their creative power to their business plans. Bragg brought her long-time band along to the Bay area for the experience – Jimmy Sullivan (co-producer, bass), Rich Hinman (co-producer, guitars), Mike Cassedy (piano, organ), Johnny Duke (mandolin, guitar), and Andrew Laubacher (drums).
Her sophomore release, Sugar (2007), was produced by Darius Jones and recorded in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her debut album, Certain Simple Things (2004), was co-written, engineered and produced in Athens, Georgia, by Dave Haywood (Lady Antebellum).
With more dates being added, her U.S. tour continues through 2015 with stops in Nashville, Atlanta, Knoxville, Greenville, Charleston, Cincinnati, New York City, Long Island, and Philadelphia.