Friday, January 18, 2019

Listen Up: Bailey Bigger

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2019 at 9:06 AM

click to enlarge Bailey Bigger - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Bailey Bigger

Bailey Bigger wrote her first hit song - “Best Small Town” - when she was 12.

It was a hit in her home town of Marion, Arkansas.

“There’s still a music video that my brother made for it on YouTube,” she says. “It’s about Marion. It blew up in Marion. And I became ‘the little girl that sings,’ I would get gigs at Big John’s Shake Shack. That’s a local spot. So, everyone was there.”

Bigger, 18, currently is working on her second EP. The recording, which is slated to be released in April, is on the Blue Tom Records label at University of Memphis, where Bigger is in the music business program. She recorded her first EP, “Closer to Home,” at singer/songwriter/producer Drew Erwin’s studio, ‘The Cabin.”

The late John Denver was why Bigger begged her parents to let her take guitar lessons when she was nine years old. “I would listen to John Denver all the time. Like ‘Rocky Mountain High’ and all that. And I was like, ‘I want to play this!”

When her guitar teacher asked her what she wanted to play at her first guitar recital, Bigger said, “I want to play my song. I don’t want to play any one else’s song.’

She played “The Field,” one of her originals.

“I guess I’ve never really doubted who I was. I think music had a lot to do with that. It gave me an identity at an early age. And it was something to do that just came naturally to me. Like I didn’t really have to work at it. It felt like a part of me already.”

She liked to listen to music by country singers, including Brad Paisley. “He would do instrumental hymns on his albums. He did ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ for just the guitar. I thought that was so beautiful.”

Her singing notoriety began after she wrote “Best SmalL Town.” “They had me play it at a Chamber of Commerce meeting and they adopted it as Marion’s theme song. They put it on the website and stuff. I was officially known as ‘the musician.’ Like, ‘Bailey. She’s the singer.’ And I loved that.”

Her favorite line in the songs is, “Everybody knows everybody and you’re living in a fantasy. And I can't get away with anything 'cause somebody's always watching me."

Bigger, who describes her voice as a “front porch voice,” recalls a competition she was in when she was 15. “In Nashville outside of Franklin at the Puckett’s Grocery in Leiper’s Fork. I remember one of the judges came up to my parents afterwards and said, ‘Have you ever put her in voice lessons?’ And they said, ‘No.’ And she said, “Good. Don’t.’”

She began playing gigs through her friendship with singer/songwriter/sound engineer Kris Acklen, who originally got her to open for him at his show at Otherlands Coffee Shop.

Bigger played mostly originals, including “Winter Wheat,” which was about her first boyfriend. She met him her first year of high school and they dated for about a year. “He worked on his dad’s farm. So, when we met, he was working on the Winter wheat. And then when we broke up, he was starting to harvest again. So, basically, it’s a metaphor for how feelings change and crops change. It’s still one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written.”

Bigger, now a student at University of Memphis, met Mark Parsell, who does a monthly Songwriter’s Night at South Main Sounds. He got her gigs at the Green Beetle, Halloran Centre for the Performing Arts and the Farmer’s Market.

She went to Erwin’s show after reading about him on the Memphis Flyer website. “I Love You Goodbye,” the most popular song on the “Closer to Home” EP, is about a guy Bigger fell in love with. “We worked on a farm together in Arkansas back in this past Fall. He was there for about two months and then he moved to South Carolina for another job.”

“Wildflower” is about her “first summer love. We worked at a summer camp together. We’re still friends, though. He goes to UT Knoxville. He called me his wildflower. He’s a forestry major. He always played ‘Wildflowers’ by Tom Petty.

A recurrent theme in some of her songs is “the love you kind of had to leave behind, but didn’t go away.”

She entered “Wildflower” in an online competition sponsored by the Memphis Songwriters Association and was selected as one of eight finalists who were invited to perform their song live at Galloway Methodist Church.

The song won the Memphis Songwriters Association “Memphis Best Song of the Year” in 2017.

U of M music professor Ben Yonas was one of the judges. “That’s how he noticed me and was like, ‘Come to U of M.’”

Bigger was looking at Middle Tennessee State University, Belmont University and Appalachian State University, but she chose U of M. “I feel like the music scene here is very authentic and very raw. And we have so much history and so much culture and soul. I feel like I could stand out here better than I could in Nashville because Memphis is on the rise.”

Music is all encompassing at this point. In addition to writing and recording her music, Bigger performs several times a month around town. “I never really thought about anything else. I feel like once I started doing it and making money off of it, I was like, ‘Well, this is it.’ It’s not a hobby anymore. It’s my life.”

And, she says, “I don’t have a plan B.”

To see where Bailey Bigger will next be performing, go to

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