Nell Bryden at The Apex...
Singer-songwriter, Nell Bryden makes her first visit to Bury St Edmunds on 16 May. Nell is best known for her blues & country inspired rock & pop, and her soaring vocal style, which is reminiscent of classic Annie Lennox in her 'Diva' heyday.
The journey from Nell’s birthplace in Brooklyn to a career-redefining fifth album ‘Wayfarer,’ and a virtual residency on the BBC Radio 2 playlist has been long, rarely without incident, and often rather strange.
Nell’s childhood was filled with music and art. Her father was an artist and sculptor, while “My mum was a classical soprano,” she says. “At eight and a half months, she was singing in Carnegie Hall with me in utero. Then a month after I was born, she was out touring again, taking me with her… I grew up in this family, thinking that the arts are a normal thing to do.” By seven, she’d moved through violin to piano to cello and started singing at 18.
She flirted with jazz, classical and even opera, taking a long time to find her niche. “As a songwriter, that’s great, because the more time you put in […] figuring out your life and travelling, the more you have to draw on. But as a person trying to be an artist and establish a career, I really didn’t go the easy route at all.”
Nell eventually went to Nashville to record what would become her first album, 2003’s ‘Day For Night,’ a self-funded project that she admits was “a massive flop because I never did anything with it, I didn’t even know how to shop it to labels. I thought, I’ll just make and they’ll find out about it somehow.”
She supported KT Tunstall and the Counting Crows and did two tours of Iraq to perform for the Armed Forces. Word about which reached Nile Rodgers, who seized on the idea of music as a unifying force and made a documentary of Bryden’s second visit to Iraq called ‘Striking A Chord.’
Nell’s third album 2009’s ‘What Does It Take’ found support from BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris and Janice Long, but the stress of laying herself on the line for so many years manifested itself in a shocking way.
“I lost my hair in a matter of two weeks, and it was terrifying. That was the first time in 15 years that I had to stop and say ‘Maybe I’m doing too much.’ They know very little about what causes alopecia, but probably the biggest thing is stress. It made me get off the treadmill and start thinking about myself emotionally.”
‘Buildings and Treetops’ (from album ‘Shake The Tree’) cruised onto the Radio 2 A-list. She decided to go public about her trauma and, ultimately, to perform without a wig, to huge public acceptance and further airplay and acclaim. Gary Barlow heard her singing ‘Sirens,’ Shazam’d it and asked her to open for him on tour. Further affirmation of her songwriting skills arrived when Cher covered ‘Sirens’ on her 2013 album ‘Closer To The Truth.’ She has also supported Jools Holland, Chris Rea and Duane Eddy, alongside festival performances at V Festival, Cornbury, Hyde Park, Guilfest and Bluesfest.
2014 saw the release of ‘Wayfarer’ which became Radio 2 Album of the Week, and her first Christmas single, ‘May You Never Be Alone’, became her 13th consecutively playlisted single at Radio 2 over the last six years. She’s also recorded a jingle for Bob Harris! In 2015 she returned to Nashville for a songwriting trip to write for other artists.
Expect to hear many songs you’ve heard on the radio - including 'Not Like Loving You', 'Buildings & Treetops' and 'Sirens' – plus new tracks and plenty of story-telling.
Nell Bryden plays at The Apex on Monday 16 May at 7.30pm. Tickets are £16.50, Ring The Apex box office on 01284 758000 or see www.theapex.co.uk for more details or to book.