How music is therapy for neo-soul singer Bailey Wiley

by India Hendrikse / 13 December, 2017

Take it from me

Neo-soul singer Bailey Wiley is playing at Wondergarden. With a new album on the way, she’s got a lot to share.

What have you been doing lately?
I just got back from America recently, that was amazing. We played support for Syd Tha Kyd [lead vocalist for The Internet] in Chicago, it was incredible. We had some troubles with our visa which was fucking hectic so we missed our first flight and then the next day we get a phone call and they’re like, “yo, your visa’s ready, come in.” That was an hour before our check-in, so we literally went to the US Embassy, got the passports, went straight to the airport, got on the plane and then travelled for 24 hours, had a five-minute shower in Chicago and got straight on stage. I don’t even know how we pulled it out but we fucking pulled it together and got the show done. Apart from America, I’ve been in the studio. I’m writing for the next album. I think I’m gonna call it 50/50... it’s about relationships and friendships, and trying to find a balance with how much I should invest and how much I shouldn’t, and about trust.

You describe your music as neo-soul classicism. What does that mean to you?
Neo-soul could be anything, any BPM [beats per minute], whatever. My whole thing is that I’m a singer, so it means that if someone sent me a hip-hop beat or a soul beat or a jazz beat, the vocal will always stay the same. I also have this fear that people will know me as an R&B singer and I’m not an R&B singer. I sing all types of music, you know?

Musically, who are you inspired by?
 It’s always evolving because I’ll tap into different music at a certain place in my life. I listen to a lot of female vocalists. My favourite projects of all time would be Frank by Amy Winehouse, Undone by The Roots and ATLiens by Outkast. I tap into hip-hop more so than other genres. I love Etta James, Erykah Badu – all the classics, that feel-good music. I think it’s that thing when you listen to songs that other people have written and you’re like, “fuck I feel like they’re singing about my journey.” I listen to music and if I get that buzz from them that’s when I feel that person’s lit.

With your new album, what experiences have you incorporated into the music?
I went through a break-up a year ago and it’s kind of about that. Once the music comes out people are going to be like, “yo we feel sorry for your ex, you just laid shit out like that.” But that’s my therapy and if people date me they know I’m going to take those experiences and write about them because it keeps my mind healthy. Obviously, you write about things that you know and I think when you’ve been in a relationship for so long, you can get stuck and you can lose yourself. When I was with him I didn’t write much music and I know that’s a sure sign that I’m unhappy.

You’ve done a lot of collaborations. Do you have some favourite collabs to date? 
The only feature that we’ve got on this album is a guy called Noah Sly and he’s based in Berlin. He’s from Tonga [and] was brought up here in Auckland, so I’m really excited to see that collaboration. For me, collaboration isn’t about the other person and how big they are, it’s more about that relationship that you have with them in the studio and the vibe. I wouldn’t collaborate with someone if it felt like bad juju. It’s more about the process and if the process is super healthy and dope, the song’s gonna be lit because there’s chemistry with certain people – you’ll feel it within five minutes and if it’s there, it’s there and if it’s not, it’s not.

How does music on this album differ to your previous music?
We took a different approach to the songwriting because I’ve never been one to do the pop formula, but with this album I wanted to test myself and see if I could write stuff that’s more upbeat and got more groove. And I’ve worked with a female producer [Soraya La Pread] for three of the tracks, which is super dope because normally I’m working with men in the studio. It was so special to me that I could share this project with another woman.

Who are you excited to see at Wondergarden?
Leisure is my favourite boy band of all time… Backstreet Boys used to be lit when I was a kid, but Leisure is definitely my favourite boy band now.  

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