BACKSTAGE: Soren Bryce
Soren Bryce is a breath of fresh air in the music industry. At only 19 years old, Bryce has already proven that she wants to do things her way - and isn't apologizing for it. With the mass talent in playing "guitar, piano, violin, banjo, cello, and some ukulele" in addition to actually writing her own music – when many artists today can't even sing live - Bryce has instantly set herself apart from her music making peers.
We first met Bryce at a bustling café in Park Slope while she was working on her self-titled debut EP in New York City. Bryce, having just shot her music video the day before, struck us immediately with her affable, warm nature. We chatted with Bryce about her musical aspirations, collaboration dreams, personal style, today’s dating world – which she says “is doomed”, and why she doesn’t want to pinhole her work into a specific genre.
A few weeks later we discovered that Bryce’s talent extended past music as we photographed her for our “In His Clothes” series in her hometown of LA. A natural in front of the camera, Bryce’s bubbly personality brought the photos to life. With glimpses of a Kendall Jenner look-alike, we couldn't help but fawn over every photo in the editing room. If for some reason music doesn't pull through, we cross our fingers she'll join the model clan of it-girls she would seamlessly fit into. However, her music speaks for itself, and after recently completing a successful first U.S tour, we don't think she'll have to start researching a fall back career anytime soon.
Labeling Men: Tell me about how you started getting into music.
Soren Bryce: Well, it started in the 5th grade where you have to pick between choir and orchestra, and I picked orchestra. I actually stuck with violin for a while and really got into it - still can play it. I did advanced orchestra for a while, did some competitions, thought I wanted to go into it. Then I met this boy that I liked and he played guitar and I wanted to be cool so I taught myself guitar. I came across a guy who owned his own studio in my hometown and he convinced me to try to write a song. Originally I said, "That's weird, I don't have anything to say, I'm just going to be a violinist at Julliard!" I tried it and I loved it! I got a bunch of positive feedback from him and he's the guy who recorded a bunch of demos with me for free; he's a super nice guy. I ended up learning to play guitar and then meeting my manager here [in NYC] who found me through references and demos that I had done in Texas. She reached out to me and said, "I want to help develop you," so she's known me for the past three years or so. I taught myself piano a couple of years ago, so that's how I've been playing mostly now. Labeling Men: So you play with the piano now? How many instruments do you play? Soren Bryce: I play guitar, piano, violin, banjo, cello, and some ukulele. Any string instrument, once you get one, it’s a lot easier to play any of the other ones. The only one I can't do is drums. I am so clumsy at them. I can't play the feet and the hands together. Labeling Men: [laughs] Me too. You can't link them up! That's still a very impressive number of instruments; do you have one that is your favorite? Soren Bryce: Well for writing, I like the piano because you have all the notes laid out in front of you and you can mess around easier. With the guitar, you can try to make up your own chords but they might not sound very good. You can support yourself with the piano because you can play the bass hand and the other hand at the same time. For a weird instrument, I would say the banjo because it’s just strange.
Labeling Men: Describe your musical sound to me. Soren Bryce: I try and not put myself into a musical genre. I write outside of a genre a lot and my influences come from various types of music. I draw from folk music. Now that I play piano, I draw from electronic influences as well, synthy stuff, piano-driven, but we also put obscure things in it like bells. My song that came out a few days ago,"Chariot," we played on a toy piano and electronic elements. Other stuff on my EP is folk, just guitar and piano and vocals, not very produced. If I had to describe it, I would say I make a lot of observations about people and I put that into a weird melodic thing. Not a very good description but if you listen to it, my music really speaks for itself.
Labeling Men: Absolutely! Would you say that's how you stand out from everybody else? You're not folk, you're not pop... Soren Bryce: Yeah. So many people these days, especially processed radio, they go into the studio just to turn it out and put it on the radio. They aren't putting much artistic value into it, which isn't bad. You make a lot of money writing pop songs for radio play, but I like the whole artistic thing where I have a voice to say something and people get to see my point of view on stuff. Where as all these songs are like, "I looooove a boy…" Labeling Men: [laughs] Soren Bryce: That's what makes me different. I like to incorporate myself into it and I focus on what I want to say and don't write for anybody, and people like it.
Labeling Men: Who are some of your musical inspirations? Soren Bryce: Right now, I'm super into 21 Pilots; I think they are amazing. They have no genre, their new album has so many different types of music on it. Originally when I started writing, my inspirations were Daughter and Ben Howard, a lot of folk artist like Princess Chelsea stuff where she puts a little weird noises in her music like robots and dropping coins on the floor, things besides drums, guitar, and bass. Labeling Men: Name one artist dead or alive that you'd love to collaborate with?
Soren Bryce: Oh gosh, this is so hard! I would say 21 Pilots because I really like them right now. Dead or alive? Labeling Men: We can do both, one dead and one alive. Soren Bryce: The dead one...Oh my god, the sounds awful! Labeling Men: [laughs] No! Soren Bryce: It would be John Lennon. I feel like he's so well-spoken and his solo stuff and the band The Beatles, they had so much to say and wrote so many songs. It was revolutionary for that time to have some sort of pop-rock, catchy rock that wasn't angry and they were great singer-songwriters. And I like his glasses! For the alive one, I would say Elena Tonra from Daughter or Tyler Joseph from 21 Pilots. So hopefully they see this and we can collab!
Labeling Men: We’re going to switch gears. Tell us a little bit about your fashion style? Soren Bryce: Well I dress for comfort mostly. I like to wear sundress-y type stuff. Floral or paisley are my favorite prints. I dress girly but also I like some rock/grunge with skinny jeans, boots, and cardigans, flannels. I love anything that is interesting looking, not necessarily weird but not just a normal t-shirt or jeans.
Labeling Men: Like different textures or types of fabrics? Soren Bryce: Yes! I also like really distressed stuff, that looks like its been worn a lot. And jackets - I have a ton of jackets and also those floral dresses, which my friends make fun of me for! Labeling Men: Would that be your one go-to item, floral dresses? Soren Bryce: Oh definitely! You can wear them for a lot of different occasions and depending on what the dress looks like, you can wear it during the day and then go out at night to a show. Labeling Men: In terms of men, what is one piece of fashion advice would you give them? Soren Bryce: I really like when a guy knows how to dress. It’s hard to explain because it’s easier for guys, but at the same time there is this whole sub-culture of men’s fashion. I like trench coats and button-up shirts, I like when a guy has a lot of different button-up shirts with different patterns but they all kind of look the same. A good pair of skinny jeans and a great pair of boots, that’s all you need.
Labeling Men: We know you grew up in Texas, live in LA, and are in New York at the moment. Would you say your style varies from city to city or stays the same? Soren Bryce: I would say it varies a bit. In Texas - I left when I was 16 - so my style did not exist at all. I would wear weird athletic shirts and shorts and a ponytail because nobody really cares over there. I went to private school where all you wore was the uniform. When I moved to LA, I had to build my repertoire of clothes. The first place I went was Old Navy because they were having a sale, but I still looked like I was wearing a uniform, so it took me two years to get my style. When I started thrifting I found a lot more clothing that I liked and it developed what I liked to wear. So it’s a process and I feel like people experiment earlier than I did. Labeling Men: You’ll be surprised at what people wear even at your age. Soren Bryce: I feel like it also changes over time. I feel like I even have a different style even here in New York. I’ve been here for a month. Labeling Men: We were talking earlier [off the record] about your music video that you just shot. Tell us about that. Soren Bryce: The video that I shot is for my single off my EP called “Ride With You,” which is going to come out a few weeks before the EP. We shot from 8 a.m. one day until 7 a.m. the next day, straight through. Labeling Men: Wow! Soren Bryce: I was so tired! But it was so much fun. The theme is about a reflection on modern day dating but it’s told through storytelling. The video is really cool. I’m waking up in a dream state, in this fog. We shot in an abandoned house.
Labeling Men: That’s really cool.
Soren Bryce: It was really creepy! No electricity or anything. Labeling Men: Where was this abandoned house? Soren Bryce: It was upstate in Unionville. What was awful is it was finished and then we had to drive back to New York City during rush hour traffic and I didn’t get home until 10 a.m., but it was a great experience. We shot in this house that was basically falling apart and I’m in this dream state, walking with my eyes closed. I see this guy in a boat chain smoking in the pond, I have a guy strapped on top of my car and I’m driving the car with no hands and he’s freaking out, while passing this girl doing yoga on the side of the road at 3 a.m., and a guy in drag shaving his face with a knife! I think it’s going to be very different than most videos because there are so many weird things going on. They gave me these treatment options and I picked it because it was the most unique and there was a lot going on. The guy who directed it, Dev Milburn, is really awesome. He had a plan but he shot things outside of his plan because he was inspired to. I liked that he was very fluid in his shooting. Labeling Men: Tell us about the single “Ride With You” and the meaning behind it. Soren Bryce: It’s about how young people treat each other really crappy, I guess. [laughs] It all feels not permanent. In the song I sing, “I’ll ride with you if only for a night or two,” but you’re still subjecting yourself to it, you’re still going along with being a part of this dating scene and you realize that you may not ever see this person. There is another one, “In two years will they remember my name?” It’s actually super depressing when you think about it. Labeling Men: It really is. Soren Bryce: The song sounds really happy but if you listen and analyze the lyrics, it’s really sad. The dating scene is doomed! Labeling Men: It is totally doomed!
[Both laugh] Labeling Men: Lastly, what can we expect from you and when can we see you go on tour? Soren Bryce: The immediate future is to get the EP out and see if people respond and how it does and start getting people to know me, because this is my first real “put-out” in the world. I’ve been in LA for about three years but I’ve had to build my fan base by just playing shows. It’ll be nice to put out stuff and see how many people come back without knowing me. A lot of people who go to my shows are my friends or people that I’ve met. I’d like to see the support strangers give me just because they like my music. Labeling Men: Are you excited to go anywhere? Soren Bryce: Not many people know this about me, but I love to travel. I love seeing new places. I went to Pennsylvania for the first time, which doesn’t sound too exciting but it was awesome just to see a new place and new people. They are so different and I’m excited to play shows and put on shows and talking to the people after and hearing what they liked about it and if they don’t like it, how they can improve upon it. I want a bunch of experiences and I’m really glad that I can do this.
Interview by Nisim Frank