Sussex Sounds: Fairytale come true for Nell Bryden
With her recent flight of success, Nell has not let her association with the stars let her forget those early days struggling to be heard amongst the crowd.
Growing up in a Brooklyn loft apartment with parents both working in the creative arts - Nell was subjected to her mother performing at Carnegie Hall as a soprano singer, and recalls glamorous parties at their home with the likes of Mary Travers in attendance.
“I loved growing up there, but then my parents got divorced and my mom moved to Massachusetts, so I went to live with her which was very difficult. I didn’t really fit in with the kids. I felt like I didn’t belong there,” Nell admits as she talks to me from her Notting Hill Gate home.
But Nell found solace by hitting the road and tuning in to her inspirations, including the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.
Although she had studied classical music and played the cello for 12 years, Nell came to the realisation that she was not cut out for traditional western music, but could not deny her passion for singing.
“It was never a question as to whether I was going to do music, it was just what style,” says the 37-year-old.
Whilst travelling across Australia, Nell says she would compose songs in her head and sing them to other backpackers.
“In the company of strangers I realised I wanted to be a singer/songwriter. I bought a cheap guitar for 25 Australian dollars and started trying to learn how to play it and that’s when the bug got me.”
Eventually living in Greenwich Village in New York, just a mile from where the Twin Towers once stood, and trying to promote a band she was in, Nell recalls the day of 9/11 and describes the moment she heard the sound and found her home city covered in dust, something which changed her outlook on life and her career choices.
“To look around at all of it and be so incredibly, immeasurably sad - after that the band I was with just seemed totally superfluous,” divulges Nell. “Why would I just do some stupid band that would require all this hyping? I wasn’t able to express what I wanted to emotionally and be true. So I then forged ahead on a solo career.”
To get herself noticed, Nell decided to take a giant leap of faith and abandoned pursuing a career in the States to focus on Europe.
“I’d gotten disillusioned with the business - waiting around for a booking agent to find me in America, but it never happened. I thought what am I going to do, and it suddenly occurred to me that I could start touring in Europe because so many of the artists that I love like Jimi Hendrix had a career over here first.”
Putting on a Brooklyn accent, Nell pretended to be her own booking agent and organised an entire tour.
“I ended up touring about 250 shows a year for about five years all around Europe, which was pretty intense.”
I tell Nell that arranging a tour across Europe was a bold move and one that could be foreboding to many naive artists starting out.
“I realised at one point as I was flying to Denmark from New York - I had set up this thing through MySpace and I had never seen this guy before who was meeting me at the airport and who had helped me set up this whole tour. He was going to be the drummer in the band, and I was going to be staying at his house.
“So I suddenly realised not only do I not know who he is, I don’t even know whose going to be meeting me at the airport, and if my mother knew she’d probably have a heart attack.
“I was lucky that I got through it in one piece, but I was so determined to get out there and play music.”
Now under her own record label, 157 Records, Nell has released her third studio album this month and is set take on a UK tour, all whilst being pregnant.
“My life has changed pretty dramatically in the last two years. London has become more of a home to me now as I’m married and we’re having a child.
“It’s going to be an interesting proposition because I’m five months pregnant now,” she laughs, “I’m due on November 27 and the last tour date is November 1.”
Having just returned from her honeymoon and with a busy schedule lying ahead, nothing can stop Nell in her path to success, not even losing her hair to alopecia a few years ago was enough to dissuade her from her dream.
“Losing my hair was actually a wonderful thing that happened to me, because it made me take a really hard look at my life and I realised I want to have a partner, have a life and a family.
“Low and behold this fairytale continues. And when you read Disney the girl is so pretty and conventional, but it was really the opposite for me with losing my hair.
“I’ve now found this person that really accepts me as I am and my fans have also gone with me on this journey.”
Nell is a regular songstress on BBC Radio 2 and favoured by many stars, like Gary Barlow who pulled over on the side of the road to Shazam one of her tracks.
“He heard my song come on the radio. He Tweeted about me, and then there was an email in my inbox from Gary Barlow asking me to come on tour with him.
“But he said there’s one condition, if you do I want you to come onto the main stage and do a duet with me. I was like, really? This seems like a hoax. It was incredible.
“I think you find the people at the top, like Gary Barlow, are the nicest. He’s an incredibly generous guy.”
Nell’s new album Wayfarer and single (by the same name) is a very personal but upbeat song that relates to her days of travelling and trying to find her voice.
A stunning music video is available to watch now on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkBbM9QJJW8).
Wayfarer, the album, is out now and her new single will be released on August 4.
Now you know who Nell Bryden is, you will not forget. To learn more, visit http://nellbryden.com for tour dates.