MC Speaks with Bridgit Mendler at SXSW 2017

MC: The music that you’re working on now--you released an EP, Nemesis, in 2016--how has the learning process--whether it’s Disney Channel, your debut album, maturing--influence the EP?
BM:
I think I was dealing with a lot of fear of doing the wrong thing, and I’ve heard other people say this about the second album, you have your first project and you’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to mess up the second one in some way.” So I think that was inhibiting me for a while, and that’s why the project wound up being called Nemesis, was because I didn’t want to be afraid. I wanted to be like, “Well, okay writing these kind of more introspective, down-tempo songs, err alright, I don’t know if people are going to like it but this is what is authentic so I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna put it out.”

MC: Everyone talks about the sophomore album curse--they put a lot of pressure on that second album. The lead single, “Atlantis,” is very different from anything you had released in the past; very down-tempo, experimental, alternative pop. What was that thought process like and why was “Atlantis” the lead effort for that kind of project?
BM:
I am a feeler, just in general, and I’m a feeler especially when it comes to music. There was something that I wanted to resonate deeply as feeling right when putting out my next project. I held out for so long because things didn’t feel right. And when “Atlantis” came along, it was this song that just kind of settled right in my heart, so I knew that it was the right one to share with people. It’s cool because it’s something I think a lot of people have attached to even though it is a more down-tempo song just because it captures an emotion and that that’s the most important thing, delivering a feeling to the audience.

MC: With “Atlantis” or “Do You Miss Me At All?”—some of these songs have more of an alternative pop kinda feel with a hip-hop vibe to it. Do you feel like the EP was a natural progression for you? Do people get a better sense of Bridgit Mendler with this EP?
BM:
Definitely. Growing up, you increase in complexity and that means complexity in terms of your songwriting subjects as well as the sounds that you infused the music with. So I see it as a pop project that is continued to add more dimensions to it with more alternative or hip-hop sounds.

MC: How has it been for you to experiment with different styles?
BM:
It’s so fun! It feels very scary--uncharted territory--but in a great way! I don’t wanna be afraid of a sound or subject, I just wanna do what the moment calls for.

MC: And you’re not afraid that maybe the fans, who did come to you with Hello My Name Is, [are] turned off by a new sound?
BM:
It can be scary but it’s also something that’s not worth being afraid of. The point of doing music is to share what’s authentic and what you feel—that’s the gratifying part as an artist, so what is there to be afraid of if people don’t like it.

MC: Your latest release, a song called “Temperamental Love,” features a rap artist Devontée. How did that collaboration come about?
BM:
It’s funny that it feels like my first venture with hip-hop because I feel like I’ve been doing with hip-hop for so long just cause I’ve been collaborating but not releasing anything. Just musically collaborating with hip-hop artists for a while, and Devontée and I had met last year through this charity event and we ended up connecting. I said, “Oh my gosh, your song was one of the first songs that I liked on SoundCloud when I first got my account.” He said that was cool and we wrote together. We actually wrote this song started at one of these jam nights at my house with a bunch of friends over. He brought in his track and my bass player laid bass over it, and the next day I had some time and I knew Devontée was leaving town so I decided to arrange the track and put a force to it. He came over and he laid his rap on it, and we all do it from my home studio so it feels intimate and scary in the sense of, “Is this allowed? Is this right? Is this song done?”

I come from a polished background it feels like there needs to be a few hoops to jump through before something is done. But once you’re done searching for the right feeling with music, it just might be done when you’re done in the studio!

MC: What can you discuss about the upcoming project coming in 2017? Song titles, direction of expectation, title for the album?
BM:
We don’t have a title that we’re sharing. But there’s a song with this rapper, Pell, and it’s called “Can’t Bring This Down,” and we’re actually sharing it today at Bangers at SX.

MC: We mentioned you have a new show coming up, a new pilot, for FOX with the creator of New Girl. What else we can expect from Bridgit in the future?
BM:
Probably more philanthropic activity; that’s something that’s close to my heart—I’m pursuing different ways to incorporate that more heavily into what I do. If you have a business, such as being an independent artist, it’s an important opportunity to show people how your business can directly make an impact in people’s lives that need help.

MC: What advice would you have for an artist who’s thinking of planning to perform at SXSW or any other major festival?
BM:
I have no idea what the other festivals are like, but in terms of SX, I would say to just have fun with it. Don’t be thrown by the various, random curveballs. Enjoy the opportunity to learn and share your music. Have fun! Go on stage and sing that music for you, do it for you. That’s the biggest thing: do it for you. Because you don’t need to worry about who’s going to see the show or if the sound going to be right? It’s chaos here, so have a fun time here!

Interview by Luis Gonzales | Photos by Jody Domingue

For more information on Bridgit Mendler, visit bridgitmendler.me.

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