Your dad, Steve, was a singer at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater in Jupiter, Florida.
44 years ago Reynolds and Dolly Parton were there for the opening night of The Music Man with Florence Henderson and Jim Nabors. The two said your dad and three other singers should stay together and form The Indian River Boys barbershop quartet. The quartet recorded an album in Los Angeles before settling back in Nashville, adding their vocals to Garth Brooks’ No Fences album among other projects. (They came back together after 30 years to sing on your debut album, There Goes the Neighborhood.) Your dad would move to the business side of the music industry, giving you an ‘insider’ view of country music growing up. Can you share a favorite memory from hanging out backstage at the Grand Ole Opry with him?
One of my favorite memories from backstage at the Opry was when I was probably 9 or 10. I was obsessed with Sara Evans and my dad knew she was going to be there that night, so I went with him, and I have this very vivid memory of seeing her come around the corner and me running to her, haha. She was on her way to the stage, so she didn’t have much time, but she was so sweet and took a moment to take a picture with me, and I just thought that was the greatest thing ever, back then.
Growing up in Nashville. At age three you began learning to play the piano by ear. By elementary school you started writing stories and creating characters. “When I was 16, I got a guitar for my birthday and that was kind of a lightbulb moment for me. It was when Taylor Swift was starting to soar and I thought, I can do that! If I put everything I love to do together, singing, playing instruments, and storytelling — writing songs, I could be a singer/songwriter. And ever since then, there’s been no looking back.” Which song of Taylor’s is your favorite to cover and why?
Honestly, I have never covered a Taylor Swift song! If I did, it would probably be an early one, maybe “Teardrops on My Guitar”– that one gets me nostalgic.
Expressing gratitude, focusing on the positive and embracing the good. “I went through an abusive relationship in my freshman year of high school. I had to go to court, I switched high schools, and I had really bad anxiety problems. I ended up dropping out of high school and graduating a year early from homeschool — just to be done with it.” You would find healing through the lyrics you wrote. “…there was this point where I was like, okay, I can sit here and wallow in this forever and feel sorry for myself or I can find a way to feel better about it. So, I started focusing on gratitude and being grateful for the things I DID have. And I found things to look forward to, and it was a really powerful tool to bring me out of this dark place.” You have fans share what they are grateful for to add to your ‘gratitude jar.’ Can you share how this jar has helped fans through their own difficult times?
One of the best things I’ve ever received at a show was a handwritten note from a fan that said they were so thankful for me bringing gratitude into their life, because they have cancer and don’t look forward to much, but those gratitude jar posts inspired them to look for the good in life. That just makes you realize that you may be doing one small thing right. I still have that note in my wallet.
Laughter is the best medicine. “…my focal point with my writing — to make people laugh and make them feel better. So, if you listen to my music, I’m always trying to have an enlightening message built in. Some of my favorite writers are Shel Silverstein, Roger Miller, and Dolly Parton, and they all have this way of saying ridiculous, wacky things, that make you laugh, but at the end of the song you’re like wait a minute, that had a really good message.” Which ‘deep song’ do you feel gets easily misinterpreted?
One of my favorites to reference is Roger Miller’s, “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd,” because it sounds completely ridiculous, and lists all of these things that are seemingly impossible, but then the hook says “but you can be happy, if you’ve a mind to.” So, saying that all of these things are impossible, and sometimes being happy seems impossible, but all it takes is you to decide that you are, and you are. Pretty deep when you think about it.
“Same Train as You.” “Dave and I wrote “Same Train as You” during our second co-writing session together, before we were together as a couple, when we hardly even knew each other yet. So, I think it’s so special that this song foreshadowed a lot of what was to come for the two of us. The magic of music!” What had inspired you two to originally write the song?
I honestly don’t remember much about writing that song, since it was so long ago. It was the second song that we ever wrote together, so I guess it must’ve been sent to us through a Time Machine by our future selves, haha.
Singing alongside Jeannie Seely (the Mayor of Jennyville) on “Who’ll Be Your Fool” (co-written with Dave and Bill Whyte) on your first album. “…you inspire and encourage me, and so many other artists. I’ve never known someone who is so genuinely happy for others, especially a legend such as you.”
If you and Jeannie were to release a cover of one of her songs, which one would you choose and why?
I would want to do “Leavin’ and Sayin’ Goodbye,” which she wrote for Faron Young. “Cause saying you’re leaving’s so much easier than leaving and saying goodbye.” I think that is such a brilliant concept and line. And very true.
Filming the video for “Watering the Weeds” at Nashville-based Thistle Farms, an organization that helps women break free from drug addiction and human trafficking. “I thought, there is something more we can do here. This song “Watering the Weeds” is a much lighter version than these women’s stories, but it’s all about how you can focus on the negative but what you focus on is going to grow and grow like weeds. Everybody’s going through something, some people’s struggles are more traumatic than others, but at the end of the day, it’s how you choose to handle it, and come out of it, that really matters.” Who came in with the idea for the co-write with Dave and Mando Saenz?
The term “watering the weeds” derived from something Dave’s friend used to say when he would smoke weed — haha, he would say “I’m gonna go water the dandelions.” We just twisted it a little to be watering the weeds and realized that was a cool way to say don’t focus on the negative, because what you water will grow.
“And she loved a boy very, very much- even more than she loved herself” — Shel Silverstein. Bear, born on New Year’s Eve. “You’ve heard the saying “save the best for last” …well, after one heck of a year of incredible moments, God had the very best saved for us on the last day of 2022- Meet our son, Bear Harrington Brainard, born on New Year’s Eve. He must know his mama loves sparkles ;)” Motherhood. “I had no concept at the time of the continuous challenge I had accepted to be this baby’s source of nourishment and life.” What is a surprising way being a mother has changed you?
Becoming a mom has had a surprising and wonderful effect — it totally kills your ego, yet instills so much confidence in you. You instantly have this thing that matters more than anything else ever has and ever will. It also gives me a renewed motivation to succeed for him, no matter what, which is truly beautiful to experience.
“Till My Tank is Empty (Broke Down).” “Introducing the “Broke Down in Jennyville Sessions.” While working on new music for y’all, Dave and I stumbled upon the earliest stripped-down recordings of the Jennyville world and I loved them so much that I wanted to share them with you as we gear up for some brand-new releases. These are the original vocals & instrumentation that were recorded for pre production demos, before all the bells & whistles (literally lol), that were never planning on seeing the light of day.”
Any plans to record an acoustic only album of new music?
Currently, I’m planning to release additional acoustic songs from both There Goes the Neighborhood and Married in a Honky Tonk but I’ve also been considering sharing some tracks that haven’t been heard before. Stay tuned!!
First new single since Bear was born, “Right Back,” is an upbeat, two-stepping song about ladies who are over being under-appreciated. What’s the backstory to your latest release?
In 2019, my husband Dave Brainard, our good friend Jeff Silbar (known for “Wind Beneath My Wings”), and I collaborated on the song “Right Back” while at Jeff’s home in LA. This marked my first visit to LA, which came about because Jeff Bridges was performing another song we had written, “My Welcome Mat,” at Lebowski Fest that same weekend. It was quite an interesting time!
The inspiration for “Right Back” was a desire to capture a specific feel, akin to “Lay Down Sally,” and the storyline flowed naturally from that. I love songs with strong female narratives, and this one is no exception. I always joke with the audience that this is the anthem for your husband if they don’t do what they’re told. 😉
Dave’s dad jokes. What are some of the favorite ones he’s shared?
Oh boy. Here’s a couple that he loves to tell everyone lately:
Two frogs are sitting on a lily pad, and one says to the other — “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.”
Why do Norwegian war ships have QR codes on them?
So they can Scan-da-navy-in (Scandinavian).