Los Angeles is never exactly bereft of aspiring musicians and entertainers; you can't walk down Hollywood Blvd. without tripping over the dozens of up-and-comers peddling their newest songs. It's only too easy, then, to shrug off and ignore suggestions of the newest up-and-coming talent with the same ambivalence of stumbling across a new fro-yo place. But when I heard Chariot, the debut single off of Soren Bryce's brand new EP, I began to pay attention. With a maturity far beyond her 18 years, Soren serenades her listener with an ethereal but substantive sound that is pop, melodic, and vocally driven.
Contributor Lindsay Rose got a chance to sit down the rising star, chatting with her about the development of her sound, her big move to LA, and her musical inspirations.
Lindsay Rose- So let’s start at the beginning...where are you from?
Soren Bryce - I was born in a town called Amarillo, Texas.
LR – And when did you move to LA?
SB - I lived there till I was 16 and then moved permanently with my friend to Glendale. Then my family moved here.
LR – Did you move out with a plan and a place to stay?
SB – I had no idea it was going to be so long. I had a job hosting a web show which made me come to LA from Texas. So I had sort of a plan but I had no idea I would stay that long and I had no idea if my parents were even gonna move here or not.
LR – Did being out here on your own, forced to grow up quicker than the average kid excite you or leave you terrified?
SB - I was always very serious, which is awful thing to say. I can have fun too. I was just always very introspective. I was a big reader. Moving here at a young age probably helped the adulthood process but I’ve always thought in a more serious way than a lot of people my age.
LR - You said that you were a big reader, what would you read?
SB - I read the Series of Unfortunate Events books. I’d wait for them to come out. I also read C.S. Lewis, Harry Potter.
LR - So a lot of fantasy.
SB – I think just cause that’s what was in my library at the time. Wow I never realized that. All of them are fantasy books. I guess I just find them interesting.
LR – I can see the influence in your music. Your lyrics can have a lot of mystical imagery that provide momentary snapshots into another world. Especially in your song “Sirens” which was featured on NPR’s All Songs Considered. Can you tell me what inspired that song?
SB – What’s so funny to me is when people ask, “Why did you write that?” Sometimes I word vomit. Honestly it just comes out and it sounds cool but I don’t know what the meaning is. But then I’ll go back and realize what I was writing about. I was writing about it subconsciously. It’s kind of like an out of body experience
LR – When did you first start writing songs?
SB – My parents claim I started when I was 10. But I didn’t start writing until I was 14.
LR – What was the first song you wrote?
SB – It’s called “Distorted.”
LR – Distorted. Sounds emo.
SB – It was emo. It was!
LR – Did you write that on guitar, piano, something else?
SB - Well I played violin. Violin is my first instrument. I was in the advanced orchestra throughout middle school. I thought that’s my talent. But then I learned guitar because I liked a boy who played guitar.
LR – What about singing? Have you always been singing too?
SB – I didn’t even know I could sing. I went to this guy who owned a studio in Texas. His name is Jonathan Cunningham and he produced my first EP pro-bono. He was the one who told me to try writing and singing. I discovered that I really liked writing. That’s when I started developing everything.
LR – So you recorded a full EP with Jonathan. How did you get it out there?
SB – Just Soundcloud. I never put it up for sale or anything.
LR – This is before you moved to LA, so you were how old?
SB – This is when I was 14.
LR – And after you recorded this 1st EP did you play local shows?
SB – I did these shows at a place called Cowboy Gelato, It’s like an Italian gelato place but the size of the cups are “The good” “the bad” and “the ugly.” It’s very western. I played three-hour sets there. It was crazy, tiring. All I got paid was a meal. But I was doing it but I wanted the experience.
LR – And when you moved out to LA, did you move out here for music or acting?
SB – No I moved out here to act cause I had that web series job. But by around when I was 16 I realized I really just wanted to do music. That’s what I really loved. I liked acting but when I started doing music I didn’t want to do anything else.
LR – So you’re in LA, you have this job, did you start writing the songs that would become your 2nd EP right away?
SB – You know I wrote a couple songs from the EP. I wrote “Stick It” and “Newport.” I wrote “Stick It” the earliest. I don’t remember exactly when. I wrote “Newport” on a trip to Newport Beach after my boyfriend’s prom a group of us went to Newport Beach and I was just sitting on the porch of the beach house while everyone was asleep at like 5 in the morning staying up all night playing this riff. I called it “Newport” cause that’s where I was and that’s where I was thinking about everything that’s in the song.
LR – What is that song about for you?
SB – For me, it’s about knowing when to stop trying. Giving up is sometimes the best thing. Everyone tells you not give up or you’ll be a quitter. But sometimes it’s better to stop.
LR – Like the violin.
SB – Right. And I still play. I don’t practice for three hours a day but if I hadn’t given up that time and attention I wouldn’t be here.
LR – So let’s talk about David Kahne for a minute.
SB – Love him.
LR – David Kahne is a big deal. He’s worked with some of the most acclaimed singer-songwriters of the past decade like Lana Del Rey, Regina Spektor, Ingrid Michaelson. How did you two get introduced?
SB – Beth, my manager, had his contact info and he asked me to record some home demos of songs I wanted to put on the EP. I recorded 10 to pick from and I put it on my private Soundcloud. Well, I actually couldn’t figure out how to make it private. I thought it was on private but then it accidentally started to get hundreds of plays and I was like help! I don’t know how to make this private. I don’t know how people were finding it. It was weird. But anyways, he [David] listened to those and we picked four songs and did them. We went back another week and did the two other songs.
LR – So David Kahne is not just some random guy. He’s produced big name artists. Did it hit you that you needed to take this opportunity seriously?
SB – That’s when I started having a lot of confidence in what I was writing. In Texas I’d play shows to my friends and people enjoyed it but you don’t know if they’re gonna be honest with you. Cause they’re your friends. But when you start garnering attention from people who don’t know you and they’re just impressed by your music, that’s when I started getting more confidence in my writing. And when I found out David was going to produce my EP, I wrote four of the songs the week before I sent him the home recordings. I was super inspired and I knew I needed to bring him my best. So I wrote “Chariot,” “Sirens,” “Ride with You,” and “Gelatin” all in the same time period.
LR – So this is a specific moment, this EP. Was there anything going on personally in your life that made you this inspired?
SB – Everything was just happening. It started feeling bigger and bigger. Now I’m going to New York. Now I’m recording with David. So many things were happening and I wanted to say a lot. I say a lot of things but I needed to find a way to make it all concise. This EP was cutting everything down, thoughts and opinions, into something I could present.
LR – Trimming the fat, I can see that. Specifically with “Chariot,” that song to me makes me think of letting go of someone or something that’s holding you back.
SB – It’s that back and forth. Trying to convince yourself you don’t need someone. The choruses say I don’t need this person. But the verses are about how you love this person. By the end of the song you’re not sure what you’re trying to say. It’s something that goes through a lot of people’s minds. Especially young relationships, people go back and forth a lot.
LR – Did you have any specific artists in mind as you were recording or writing that really inspired you?
SB – Lana Del Rey a bit. When I found out I was working with David I went back and listened to Born To Die. That album lyrically inspired me. My music doesn’t really sound like hers but my lyrics. I tried to put some more confidence or even female “swag” into it. Especially in “Sirens” which is just a bunch of words but I’m confident in what I’m saying.
LR – It helps at this time when all the external things are developing for you and you’re finally allowing yourself to develop them internally.
SB - Definitely.
LR – What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday afternoon, besides music?
SB – Hm. I like hiking. I like hiking in Valencia a lot. It’s really pretty up there but here in LA I really like the Tree of Life. I guess it’s called the Wisdom Tree now. They’re making it all popular. The way you used to get there was illegal. You’d have to go through a chain link fence and climb up these rocks and then you get to the trail. Or that’s the shortcut I guess. But I like that hike. I also really like museums. I just went to the Getty for the first time.
LR – What’s your favorite part about LA?
SB – I like how you can go to different parts of town and get different vibes. You’ll be in Burbank and feel super relaxed and then go to Silverlake and feel very creative and Los Feliz you’ll feel energized and around a bunch of cool people. And here [downtown] it reminds me of New York.
LR – Now you’re only 18, so do you ever play at a venue you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get into?
SB – Ugh yes, all the time!
LR – What’s your favorite spot to play in LA?
SB – I’ve only played there one time, but Hotel Café. It was super fun to play and it’s 21 and up but I love the sound there and everybody comes there to listen. Another place that I like, and I can get into, is Room 5. It’s sad cause I would honestly get a fake ID just to see shows. I can’t even go see some of my favorite bands cause they’re in 21 and up venues. It’s not fair dang it!
LR – Do you use clothing to just put something on in the morning or do you like to have fun with it?
SB – Sometimes I plan outfits, if I know I’m going somewhere special but mostly I have my few pairs of jeans that I wear and basic tops. I like big baggy clothes and boots. The most I have is boots. But I don’t shop that often. It took me a long time to develop a style cause I went to a school with uniform clothes till I was 16.
LR – Where do you find stuff in LA?
SB – I like to thrift. There’s a store on Magnolia Boulevard in North Hollywood called the Yard Sale. And every Sunday everything outside is a dollar. When I first moved here I went there and got a lot of clothes cause I was living alone and didn’t have a lot of money. My friend I was living with also gave me a lot of clothes. And I’ve slowly been building my wardrobe with a couple pieces here and there when I actually go shopping.
LR – Alright back to music. When you look towards the future with your first official EP release, what are you hoping will happen in the upcoming year?
SB – I want to tour...I have a band here and they’re really good. Hopefully I can take some musicians with me.
LR – If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
SB – Probably Twenty One Pilots. People say I talk about them too much but I keep shouting them out hoping they’ll notice me. I also want to write with Austin Plaine, who is on my Label, Washington Square.
LR – Are you going to keep writing and hide it away for your next project or will we get to hear some of it?
SB – You know I don’t know. I just take it as it comes.
You can stream Soren Bryce’s self-titled debut EP on Spotify (check it out below!) or download it at iTunes here.