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It was bold to move from sleepy Rhode Island to Queens, New York, but singer-songwriter Bria Lee was determined to fulfill her artistic potential and took the leap of faith. Upon arriving on the thriving Gotham music scene, she soon found herself aimless in an 80-hour grind. Between waiting tables and working at a Italian bakery, Bria wedged in restaurant gigs.
Bria’s signature aesthetic is eclectic, but hallmarks of her artistry are a sensually emotive sensibility that fuses a splash of R&B with sublime, edgy pop. It would be one fateful record label showcase that changed everything for her. After the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Bria signed to Republic Records, and issued a brace of vibrantly expressive singles, featuring guest artists like Fat Joe and Pitbull. She has performed at NYC’s Fashion Week for designer Andres Aquino’s collection, and she sang the national anthem for the Jets vs. Patriots game. In October 2019, Bria stepped forward with her seven-song debut EP, Little Room.
Recently, Bria garnered mass exposure for her cameo appearance on clever-flowing rapper Chris Webby’s heartfelt, environmentally conscious jam, “Our Planet (feat. Bria Lee).” Here, she sweetly sings the hook which is the main melody and lyrics to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” All proceeds for the track will go The Rainforest Trust and The Big Life Foundation. Bria also appears alongside Chris in the song’s rousing video. Towards the end of the short, the pair poignantly discuss the dire epidemic.
Bria sang before she could talk, and, through hard work, made good on her gifts in music. Growing up in a musical household in Providence, Rhode Island, her mother sang and played guitar and her father was fascinated with artists and musicians. It was a warm and nurturing atmosphere that allowed Bria to hone her prodigious talents. Her father would drive her to lessons and auditions, and he always urged her to not let her God-given talents go to waste. At the age of 17, she matriculated at New York’s Manhattan School of Music where she studied classical piano, quickly becoming a fixture on the NYC jazz scene as a singer.
Though she prefers not to dwell on it, a galvanizing moment came when her father was sick, and she paused everything to be with him back home in Rhode Island. “My dad and I related to each other through music. When he died, it was too painful to keep doing music—I was heartbroken—but then I found it to be more painful to not do music,” she confesses.
Bria’s musicality fuses the sultriness of soulful singer-songwriters like Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill, and Alicia Keys with splashes of R&B and sublime edgy pop. It’s a smooth topline set over a grimy 808 thump with touches of jazz and organic instrument for added flair. As a singer, Bria’s soulfulness manages to conjure the smoky expressiveness of a jazz vocalist and the confidence and swagger of a poet. As a lyricist, Bria favors candor and impressionism, always seeking to capture the moment.
Previously, Bria has issued the intoxicatingly soulful singles “Purple Clouds,” “Piece By Piece,” “One Shot” [feat. Fat Joe], and a new version of “One Shot” imaginatively remixed featuring Pitbull. Her debut EP, Little Room, is a carefully-crafted collection of seven songs written in during about of fevered creativity while laboring in cramped quarters. Select standouts include “Forget Me” and “Nowhere.” The slow-burn track, “Forget Me,” frames her honeyed raspy vocals with elegantly ethereal touches. The overall effect is if a 1950s-style lovelorn ballad mashed-up with a seductive “done wrong” slow jam. “Nowhere” wafts smoked-a-blunt swagger and sleek sophistication courtesy of stately strings. Here, Bria’s sensual vocals convey a deep sensitivity without losing her detached cool.
Reflecting on her path and the future, Bria says, “I will never forget where I came from. I want to stay humble, and work hard.” These experiences have inspired her music, as she continues, “I write about my experiences, and I want my songs to be relatable. At the end of the day, we don’t want to feel alone. I want to reach people through being honest.”
How did you come by your stage name?
My first name is Brianna (Bria for short), and my middle name is Lee.
When did you discover your love for your craft and what made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in it?
My mother is a singer and a painter. I think that growing up constantly surrounded by her creativity is what really inspired me to be an artist. I never wanted to do anything else. I started singing before I could speak, and I started playing the piano when I was 5 years old. I always knew that I would make a career out of being an artist. There was never a doubt in my mind. I feel like I was born for this.
To what or whom do you accredit your sense of style?
I’ve always had a very unique sense of style. I like to be different. Growing up I was very inspired by Lady Gaga, Sarah Jessica Parker and David Bowie. I was always intrigued by anyone who thought outside of the box with their fashion.
On your current project, how did you come up with the concept?
My EP is entitled “Little Room.” The concept is simple: when I was younger, I spent hours every day practicing my craft in a little room with a piano. My father would lay on the couch and listen to me for hours. I developed as an artist in this room. Sometimes it was beautiful, and other times it was frustrating and painful.
Once I got signed, I found myself in a different kind of little room. A recording both in various studios around the country. My biggest accomplishments have been made in these little rooms. Hours upon hours of writing, practicing, laughing and crying. It all happened in a little room, so I felt like I was only fitting to make that the name of my first project.
What are some of your greatest challenges, and what is your greatest attribute when it comes to your work ethic?
My greatest challenge would probably be dealing with low self-esteem sometimes. I am a perfectionist, and I pick myself apart too much. I feel that’s what makes me great, but it also can take a toll on my mental health. In this industry, there can be a lot of pressure to look a certain way or sound a certain way.
The key is to stay true to yourself and always strive to be your own personal best. My greatest attribute would be that I never give up. Even when it gets hard and I want to quit, that’s when I just keep on working. I constantly urge myself to work harder than everyone around me. That’s what keeps me going.
Are you the best at what you do in your opinion?
I’m always working to be my own personal best. I want to get better every single day. I’m the only competition.
What are your plans for the near future?
I’ve been in the studio for the last few months working on some new music that I plan to release. I’m also doing a Sofar Sounds tour starting in April, and I am excited to get out on the road and introduce myself and my music to so many new fans.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank, any shout outs?
My mom is the person who inspires me the most. She worked so hard for me to be the artist that I am today and I am so thankful that she never gave up on me. I also am very grateful for my team for always believing in me. I am very blessed to have that kind of support.
How can fans find you?
You can follow me on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter at @iambrialee. I list all of my show dates on social media and you can also go to my website www.brialeemusic.com for more information. My EP ‘Little Room” is available on all of the streaming services.
What suggestions do you have for other artists like yourself?
My suggestion is to always know what’s going on with your brand and to remember that once you start making noise in this industry, there will be many people in your ears telling you what they think you should do. Do your research, read blogs, books on the music business, ask questions and make informed decisions that feel right to you.
Never let anyone make you feel uncomfortable or like you are not in control. Most importantly, always ALWAYS practice. Don’t get wrapped up in the hype and forget about the music. Your art has to always come first. Even when times get hard and you want to give up, just let it all out in your music.
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