Holler are proud to present a monthly series of live sessions in proud partnership with Under The Apple Tree.
Each month we'll share some of the exciting mainstays and rising stars within the country, Americana and roots scenes, as picked by Holler's own Head of Music, Baylen Leonard.
This February, it's a pleasure to introduce you to British songwriter Bailey Tomkinson. Watch her live session performing 'California Fire' below:
You know you're onto something when such a renowned star as Brad Paisley describes you as "Britain's answer to Taylor Swift". It's certainly not a comparison that's offered too readily, but in Bailey Tomkinson's case, it's entirely deserved.
Hailing from sunny St Ives in Cornwall, England, Bailey has been rapidly building a name for herself as one of the most promising young songwriters on the UK circuit and beyond. With a unique approach to fusing her eclectic influences - from Bruce Springsteen and Carole King to Weezer and Taylor Swift - Bailey's surf-rock infused Americana/pop has come to sit at the helm of the 'Kernowfornia' scene.
We caught up with Bailey to chat about her artistry, the power of cathartic songwriting and what she's got in store for 2022.
Your songwriting seems to balance itself between vivid imagery and brazen, at times humorously quippy, points of view in response. Is it important that you don’t have to sacrifice that range of emotion within your writing?
That’s a really good observation. I’m a visual thinker, so in many ways, my writing process is a bit like watching a movie in my head. Songwriting is essentially a storytelling medium, and good stories aren’t just descriptive - to resonate it can’t be just ‘say what you see’, the story needs to evoke emotion.
Pathos does that, that’s where empathy builds from in my view. So, having that balance is really important to me. I think it helps the listener see and feel themselves in the song. My favourite writers like Bruce Springsteen and Carole King are fantastic at doing this, they make you feel understood.
There’s a lot of range between your songs musically as well – is this your way of showing your progression as a songwriter, or do you simply enjoy the freedom of such an approach?
A little bit from column A and a little bit from column B, I guess… Something that’s so great about modern songwriting is that you don’t just have to fit in one genre box. People listen and build playlists by mood, not just by genre, and I’m influenced by so many different styles of music: artists from Frank Sinatra to Taylor Swift to Nirvana.
My music has definitely developed as I’ve grown up and progressed into the sound of my EP, which excitingly will be out early this year. I’ve been writing music since I was 11 and releasing it since I was 17. I’m now 22 and have experienced a lot of different things since then, and have discovered so many different artists that have inspired me musically and lyrically. It's definitely translated into my music and helped me discover and create my own sound.
You recently released your new single ‘Skin’. It feels like you’re exorcising not only a relationship that’s weighed you down, but also a part of yourself that was vulnerable in that position. Was it emotionally pacifying for you to be able to write this song?
I wrote this song from a place of anger. I had a friend who completely changed into someone I no longer recognised, someone that wasn’t very nice. Whenever I write a vulnerable song like this one, it feels like a massive weight off my shoulders. Writing has always been my way of processing things; my outlet. Lots of songs about failed relationships tend to be about romantic relationships but many of my most important relationships are actually my friendships, so I thought why not process that too?
This song was produced by BJ Jackson, he did an amazing job of making it sound like how I imagined the song to be set visually, if that makes sense? I always thought the song was quite dark and wanted it to sound a bit like you were walking into somewhere really uninviting, like an abandoned mansion in the middle of nowhere. He nailed this, especially just after the first chorus, there’s an echoey sound that really fits the vibe of the song.
Writing a song like ‘Bright Red’ - driven by a desire and yearning for change in the world around us – must be similarly challenging as capturing more internal, personal reflections. What impact has the song had on you and your audiences?
The starting point for ‘Bright Red’ was actually a place of self-reflection and sort of expanded outwards. I felt personally affronted by the fact that the G7 leaders were going to be meeting and talking about sustainability in a location that had decided - without planning permission - to concrete over the Cornish headland, destroying natural habitats, ripping up trees, etc.
I paddle board round there all summer, so I could see what they were doing. It felt like, once again, financial interests were just running roughshod over what’s right. So it was a song that started with a smaller intention and grew from there, offering me the platform to talk about wider inequalities and climate destruction. At the end of the day, all politics is local politics, right?
The response I got from the song was amazing and it’s been so special to connect with people on such a personal level, not just people who were affected but people who care about our planet as much as I do. I had veteran news presenters telling me how the lyrics resonated with them, even local policeman approaching me in the street cheering the message on.
I don’t know if this is true or not, but I was told that the attention we were able to focus on issues of inequality at that time, meant that Angela Merkel actually asked to be taken to and subsequently visited some of the local estates where in 1 in 3 children are born into poverty. That meant something.
Talk us through your playlist of influences – what do you feel connects these artists as a whole to you?
There would definitely be some Joni Mitchell and Neil Young on there, but they’ve just left Spotify!
One of the things all these artists have in common is that they’re all songwriters. I’m going through a bit of a Phoebe Bridgers phase at the moment, so I had to include her. The Cardigans were a massive inspiration to me when we were working on the EP, especially their album Long Gone Before Daylight - something about this album is so timeless. Some current favourites include Sam Fender, Japanese Breakfast and Wolf Alice. Not to forget The Eagles, who I’ll be seeing this year - they’re one band that I’ve loved for a very long time.
What’s next for Bailey Tomkinson?
I’m about to go on my debut UK tour! I can’t wait! Most the dates are solo but there are a couple of band shows and a duo show. I’ll also be releasing an EP in the next few weeks, so look out for that. The band and I worked incredibly hard on it. It's produced by Gareth Young, mixed by John Cornfield (Oasis, Muse) and features Michael Underwood (Rex Orange County) on saxophone.
The EP is a sound we’ve worked on for the past year, performing it at festivals throughout summer and religiously rehearsing it and going to pre-production.
Watch Bailey's Under the Apple Tree x Holler Session above, and subscribe and listen to her Deep Cuts playlist below:
Under The Apple Tree is home to the best sessions in country, Americana and roots, both in the UK and across the pond. You can find more sessions from them, including recordings with Tenille Townes, Colter Wall and more, right here.