“Wish we could love each other instead of always getting into it,” Mary Bragg sings on “Love Each Other,” the album opener on her self-titled record, available now. It’s a sentiment that runs throughout the singer-songwriter’s self-produced, 11-track project as well as her personal life.
Mary Bragg follows the singer’s critically acclaimed 2019 album Violets as Camouflage, and Bragg has lived much life since then. The Georgia native, who went through a divorce from her husband and then began a new relationship with a woman, weaves her life experiences into every song.
“Writing through the hard stuff sometimes will get you to the meat of a feeling and there were a lot of feelings,” Bragg tells me. “It was a chapter with a lot of difficulty and one part isn’t worse than the next, but they all informed the other.”
Songs like the deeply personal “Same Kid” and “Nothing More to the Story” highlight Bragg’s adept songwriting and ethereal vocals as well as detail the judgement she initially experienced from her family after she came out. Meanwhile, “Please Don’t Be Perfect” was inspired by a real conversation with her partner.
“I don’t want to be perfect and have it all under control and appear to be either of those things,” Bragg says. “I don’t think that I thought I was perfect. I get wrapped up in being productive and doing good work and then if I made a mistake or disappointed someone – in this case because of my coming out experience – I actually learned for the first time in my life what it really feels like to disappoint people and that was devastating to me.”
Although there was a lot of darkness in this chapter of her life, Bragg says there also was beauty and rebirth, which can be heard on album closer “Good Side of Blue.” The song holds special meaning to the singer as her father assists on trumpet.
While the songs throughout Mary Bragg come from honest feelings, the tracks also embody a universal message that listeners can latch onto in their own lives. Bragg hopes that sharing this honesty and her own story will help others feel less alone in their own journeys.
“I don’t want to make any family dynamic worse than it already is, but the reality is also that this is something that a lot of people experience and if I squander my own truth then how am I helping the problem?” she says.
Bragg channels these emotions throughout her self-titled release, on which she also served as sole producer, a rarity only a handful of women have done before. The singer recently received a graduate degree for Music Production at Berklee NYC and now teaches the Craft of Songwriting at the university.
Well aware of the lack of female producers in popular music, Bragg uses her experience to encourage other women. The University of Southern California’s 2021 Annenberg Inclusion Initiative annual report found that women represented 2.6% of producers in popular music. Bragg says it was this statistic that convinced her to go to graduate school and to take production more seriously.
“I feel very strongly that women should have every right to call themselves producers and engineers and for other people to call them producers and engineers,” she says. “It’s just not something we’ve had a lot of examples of yet in the landscape of the record industry.
“Every opportunity I have to encourage a young woman to go down that road, I’m encouraging them. … There’s also no reason why we, too can’t be equitably represented in that part of this business.”
Bragg has learned about herself and the industry in the process. She hopes to bestow those lessons along to her students and to other women eyeing producer roles, but admits she’s still learning in this new chapter of life as well.
“The best business advice I’ve received is to learn how to set boundaries, which often includes using the word ‘no,’” Bragg, who also manages herself, says. “What ends up happening for me is just a grave sense of over-extended, crazed workflow and I have definitely learned the hard way if you don’t set boundaries, you will completely lose it and lose your ability to exist in a stable frame of mind because you can’t do it all.”
Bragg, who currently serves as Berklee professor and producer on two upcoming albums, says she’s learned to say no both in her professional and personal life. As Bragg continues to navigate some family dynamics, she knew the one thing she couldn’t say no to was sharing her life experience on Mary Bragg.
“The alternative wasn’t an option, and I was like, ‘I can’t lie about what happened,’” she says. “I could also write about other things but that’s not the artist that I am. We could shy away from these things, but it would almost negate my entire being.”
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