Beatrice Brigitte doesn’t like to follow formulas. The 25-year-old singer rejects the lush production and auto-tuned, anthemic vocals that rule the pop charts in the American Idol era, in favor of a simpler, more organic sound. On many of the songs she writes (such as “The Day”), her voice floats like a ghost through spare, quiet string arrangements.
Brigitte paints textured landscapes that combine a dreamy, otherworldly sound (think Mazzy Star) with lyrics exploring dark themes such as fear, personal betrayal, and suicide. In these themes the listener can detect the imprint of one of her influences, Jim Morrison (“Ode to End,” which contemplates suicide, thematically evokes the death wish of “Yes the River Knows” by the Doors).
I discovered her music on Global 14, Jermaine Dupri’s social community where members share interests ranging from music to sports (and it’s an excellent platform for emerging artists). In the following Q&A, Brigitte shares her story and provides a glimpse into life as an emerging artist. Make sure you experience her music on Soundcloud and get to know her on Global 14 and Facebook.
Let’s talk about your background — who you are and how you got into music.
Who am I? Well . . . I’m me. An entrepreneur, an artist, spiritual-being, a wife, an old soul; I have many roles.
To me, music is more of an art form than a way to be famous. I come from two artists who were both painters, and I love painting. I was born in Berlin. My father passed away a month before my seventh birthday, and my mom moved me to San Diego, where she remarried. I grew up in sunny San Diego for most of my life, but my parents moved to Phoenix while I was in high school. At age 17, unlike your conventional rebellion as a teen, mine was discovering music and using it as therapy. I never partied, drank, or did drugs growing up. I was that kid who would be at each concert and festival, standing there in awe.
I have been writing forever, but I did not always want to pursue music. The turning point was watching the band Brand New live in Phoenix. The performance by their lead singer, Jesse Lacey, blew me away. His music was honest, with no bullshit, and very bold. The band’s guitar riffs were very emotional. The experience changed my entire perspective on music.
At age 19 I moved to Los Angeles to work for a tech start-up, which I was working nonstop. I was making a lot of money but not doing what I really wanted to do, which was making music, finding my true self. My first day off occurred when I was 21. I asked, “What the hell am I doing?” I realized how blinded I was by social constraints, and that I can’t be a follower.
I began my journey as a musician by experimenting with being in bands and creating an alter ego, and then concluding that I just have to be a solo artist . . . just to be me, not to hide behind a band or an alter ego. It’s been a great journey and growth process.
Who are your musical influences?
A long time ago, I was really into Jim Morrison. I went into a whole Doors phase. He was into writing poems and turning them into songs, not writing lyrics in the conventional sense. And he has hidden meanings and analogies in his songs, which is how I write. I also enjoyed the melodies and organic pop style of the Spice Girls growing up. And Winston Churchill is a huge influence on everything I do. Yes, Winston Churchill. He was not only a leader — he was an artist, too. Did you know he was a painter?
You mention Morrison’s use of multiple meanings and analogies as an influence. What’s an example?
There’s an older song I did called “Strange Moon,” about new beginnings. It’s the first song I did when I killed my alter ego and decided to take off the mask and be me. But at the same time I am killing off my alter ego, I am also challenging you to do the same. If you don’t change, you’re dead. The song title refers to the phases of the moon. With each phase of the moon, there is always a new beginning. Removing your mask is about finding a new beginning.
Your music is also bold because the arrangements are so spare: in songs like “The Day” and “Land of the Sinful,” you’re challenging the listener to focus on a single instrument or your voice, rather than giving us a palette of instruments to hear.
If I’m not challenging you in some way, then what will you take from it? Better to challenge then to not.
It’s funny, because I had full control over both those songs you mention. I arranged them. I produced them. I played the instruments on them. It was a challenge for me, and a great one at that.
Each song is a little canvas for me to paint. I want to be simple. I want the listener to focus and feel intrigued. I don’t want people to think, “Oh, that song of hers sounds just like this one. Next.” I write the kinds of songs where the second or third time you listen to them, you’re pulled in.
Producers and musicians have a formula for how to do a verse, chorus, and a bridge — a very outdated, overused formula. I don’t like to follow formulas. I like to play with my instincts. I am very intuitive. I play what feels right. Musicians often approach a song with the beat — they start with the drum and build off that beat. I start with a guitar or piano. I build on top of that and sing over it. I come up with the lyrics as I am singing. I write down what works and do the vocal once from start to finish. I don’t build songs from multiple takes. I don’t use auto tune. I keep it very real.
There is a spooky, ethereal quality to your songs, especially with the way your voice echoes throughout. How did you figure out that particular approach?
I am completely following an instinct. There are singers out there who can do great covers of other songs, and I truly respect that. But I can’t cover someone else’s song. I have to follow an instinct, and the song has to come out naturally.
Death has haunted most of my life due to losing my father. Not to say that in a bad way, I am thankful for what it has taught me in a strange way as well. When I first started singing, I was very insecure about myself as a singer, but I kept going and going . . . and so writing and singing helped me heal and become more confident with my music, which needed to happen for me to embrace the loose flow you feel in my songs.
“The Day” caught my attention right away because it starts with the vocal melody, not the lead. What inspired you to open up the song that way?
I was just sitting down at the piano messing around, and I had that opening melody going through my head. So I recorded it first. Then I recorded the lead vocal and built the piano. That melody you hear was like a sad but beautiful, broken love story of emotion coming out of me. I wanted to scream but be gentle at the same time.
“Ode to End” is very dark, with a death wish like Morrison’s “Moonlight Drive.” What’s going on there?
I call it the antidote to suicide. My solution is to vent — to take the darkest possible thought and get that darkness off my chest. I am a very positive person, but getting rid of dark thoughts is part of being positive. The antidote to darkness is to write about it, sing it, and create. Let it all out. And by all means, I am not as dark as I used to be . . . but I wouldn’t be here thinking so clearly if I never cleared out my mind and soul of all those cluttered thoughts. You grow and evolve, and it’s a great song to look back at and think, wow I let it out and I came out on top.
“No One Knows the Pain” has a harder edge to it. What’s that song about?
We all face some sort of hurdles in the road, and that’s what builds our character, our backbone, but at times it can hurt like hell. This song is pretty much about no one knowing what you’re going through but yourself, and to know that it’ll be all right in the end. As Winston Churchill used to say, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Let’s talk about “Are You Listening.” I hear a great electronic vibe, like something Royksopp would do. The production is different from many of your more spare songs.
Well, I had the pleasure of doing that song with two talented gentlemen, one being my husband, Damiano who produced it, and two the one and only Kyle Even who used to sing with the band Breathe Carolina. Damiano did a great job taking Kyle’s style and meshing it with mine. It was a great collaboration all around. We all pushed each other and what came out was a beautiful song, one of the most fun times I’ve had creating. The song just flew out of us quite quickly and it was all so real. It just worked magically.
Where do you get inspiration for your songs? Where do the ideas come from?
My life’s experiences. My background. Day-to-day things that I face. Inner un-awareness that one needs to face . . . instead of going crazy, I write a song. I have hundreds of recordings on my iPhone. I record everyday on it. Not all of it becomes a song. I sit down at a piano and start playing. If something moves me emotionally, I start recording.
How do you market yourself and find an audience?
I am really good when it comes to marketing technology but not marketing my music (laughs). I would love to perform and travel and tour.
Bottom line: why do you do what you do?
Because I want people to be honest with themselves and face their truth. I have been struggling to face my own truth all my life. Music helps me be honest with myself and to challenge you to be honest with yourself. Really just be you.