Until Taylor Swift came along, country music had always primarily been music made by adults, for adults and about adults. It was never really set up to be music for teenagers.
Women, in particular, were given the space to tackle adult subjects like the workplace, motherhood, marriage and divorce, and ageing, while songs like Mary Chapin Carpenter’s ‘He Thinks He’ll Keep Her’ or Reba McEntire’s ‘The Day She Got Divorced’ explicitly went to places other musical genres couldn’t reach.
Taylor Swift gave a much needed voice in country to young girls everywhere, but that space that country music had always provided for stories that were peculiar to adulthood is just as important as it ever was.
The latest single from Sandy Bailey - a soft-country power ballad about mortality and heartbreak and everyday existentialism - is the kind of song that country music was built on. .
“I microwave my dinner tonight, sit in a chair and start to scroll,” she sings, forlornly. “Maybe I could comment on your picture / ‘I can’t believe how much your baby’s grown’ / Maybe I could write you a letter or maybe it’s just been too long.”
Delivered with a faux breeziness, it’s both painfully real and bleakly comical. Her almost throwaway, conversational delivery making the lines land even harder as she ponders her grown up children leaving home, while the song slowly spirals towards a deeper truth about how disconnected and isolated we become from each other as adults. If Alex Cameron or John Grant put out a song like this everyone would be wetting themselves.
“These clothes that I wear don’t fit like they used to / and even my hair has gone grey on the sides,” she sings, as the chorus swells beneath her. “I just sit, and I stare / It’s so easy to reach you but this lonely heart of mine can’t seem to get the message through.”
It’s like if an AI music generator had been tasked to come up with a Carole King song that perfectly tapped into the futility of doom scrolling and the existential dread of the pre-apocalypse.
“A headline caught my eye in The Wall Street Journal that read ‘Moms in Middle Age: Rarely Alone, Often Online and Increasingly Lonely,’” Sandy Bailey explained to us about the song’s origins. “I thought about my love/hate relationship with social media and wrote a song about the irony of the current environment that we live in, where we are more connected than ever through the internet but also lonelier than ever.”
Taken from Sandy Bailey’s forthcoming album, Daughter Of Abraham, out on August 18th via Red Parlor Records. An alluringly moody, genre-defying album, that alternates in tone between the laid-back cool of Bonnie Raitt and the no-fucks-given fire of Joni Mitchell, tempered with moments of genuine, heartbreaking vulnerability.
As is a biracial single mom who left her Pentecostal upbringing to play in rock bands and wait tables in a brew pub, the album tells Bailey's story - of being a working class American woman, exploring themes of loneliness, survival, getting lost, and finding your way again - in a ten-song collection, expertly produced by her, that showcases her signature sound, but with a bolder, more idiosyncratic attention to detail. .
It's lead single, 'Get The Message Through' came about almost be chance, after she wrote it during NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest and decided to submit it on a whim.
“Then a few days later I took it down to Nashville for a workshop with Mary Gauthier. She gave me advice on how I could improve a few things and so I took it home and rewrote it and recorded it to put on the album. Then several months later I learned that WBUR (the Boston chapter of NPR) selected my original version as one of the 21 best Tiny Desk entries in Massachusetts.”
The video is premiering exclusively at Holler below.
Like the song, the video feels like an affectionate pastiche of a late seventies MOR pop performance.
“I called on my friends for help and put a team together from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art,” Bailey says. “We shot the video in one day in late February. The sun set at 6pm so we had to do our best to take advantage of the light. We knew we wanted the video to have a throwback 70's feel. In going through a bunch of vintage stock footage for ideas, the director Sofi Taylor was inspired by a video of a clean, empty kitchen. The contrast of a once vibrant house now unlived in was our inspiration for showing change, loneliness, and the passage of time.”
Daughter Of Abraham is released on August 18th via Red Parlor Records. ‘Get The Message Through’ is out on June 16th