Brady Lee, Kelsey Lamb Embrace Curiosity in “Strangers In a Photograph” [Exclusive Premiere]

Brady Lee is letting curiosity take the lead with his song, “Strangers in a Photograph” featuring Kelsey Lamb, premiering exclusively with American Songwriter.  

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The son of a military vet, Lee spent his childhood living all over the U.S., changing states and cities every three years before settling in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he graduated from high school. The constant movement didn’t allow Lee to form lasting bonds with the people he met, but it did give him a unique perspective.

“I don’t have a lot of simple childhood friends, what I have is this load of memories,” Lee expresses to American Songwriter. “I have this huge open palette because not only do I have real-life stories from growing up, but I also have all of these blends of stories from a piece of my life. The other thing that I have, which is different, is when you move away from people, you immediately start thinking of what could have been and how the story could have gone if I would’ve stayed here.”

Lee got to experience this interesting blend of memory meeting reality when he attended his high school reunion. He noticed how much his former peers had changed. They were also surprised to learn that Lee had married and was a country artist.

“Nobody’s life turned out the way that you thought it was going to turn out,” Lee says of his realization after the reunion. “The people that I knew, they were memories of people. I did not know the people that I was with.” 

Lee channeled this perspective into “Strangers.” The first verse was prompted when Lee began to take notice of an old friend who followed him on social media but didn’t actually engage with the content he was posting. He speaks from his own perspective in such lyrics as don’t try to tell me that every few weeks you’re not checking up on me / That you don’t like it when I show up on your feed / Yeah I’m over you and you’re over me / But that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss it. 

The chorus serves as a bridge between the two perspectives. In the second verse, Lamb takes lead vocals to offer the viewpoint of the other party. She notices that he’s doing his own thing in life, echoing Lee’s sentiment from the first verse when she sings and I’m wondering / If you’re wondering about what we could have been. 

Lee says he has a tendency to write a song several times over, re-working it until it tells the story he wants it to. Lee admits that he wrote “a hundred different versions” of “Strangers” before settling on the final cut, even re-writing it while Lamb was in the studio recording her vocal.

“When I’m looking at songs and I’m writing them, I just keep looking at it and it’s like, ‘Is this the story?’” Lee says as he analyzes his process.

He finally had a breakthrough with the song when staying at a friend’s house in New Jersey while on tour. He had the house to himself when the structure he needed for the song came to him.

“I was taking a look at it and it wasn’t where I wanted it to be. There was something wrong with it and I didn’t know what it was, but I didn’t feel like it was the right story,” he recalls. “So I had sat down with my guitar at their coffee table and all of a sudden it hit me,” he explains of how he re-wrote parts of the chorus, first verse and bridge. “I was like, ‘Okay, this is as close as it’s going to get.’”

Calling Lamb’s voice “perfect” for the track, Lee says he appreciates the “nostalgic approach” she brings to her songs. “I’m a dweller, as I like to say, and so I do go back a lot and I write about my past a lot,” Lamb says about her writing style. “I was really drawn to this. It really feels like something that I would’ve written from this perspective as well. It just felt like a good fit.”

Recording the song allowed Lee and Lamb to relive certain memories, compelling Lee to look at his old yearbook, and read the messages from people he’s lost touch with, while Lamb reminisced on her prom pictures from senior year, the guy who was her date now a stranger in a photograph like the one she’s singing about. 

Both singers cite the nostalgia-filled bridge as their favorite part of the song as they gently harmonize, it’s not like you’re keeping me up at night / It’s just me trying to kill some time / Don’t want to stoke an old flame / I think it’s better if we stay strangers in a photograph.

“I feel like that is the moment for me when it becomes really real,” Lee observes the meaning of the lyrics. “I felt like it was [a] really mature moment to say ‘I was killing time, I was curious. That’s all it was.’”

“I’m just genuinely reliving something that we went through–I don’t miss you, I don’t want you back, but I’m curious,” Lamb says of what the lyrics mean to her. “That’s why that stuck out to me.” 

It’s this sense of curiosity that Lee hopes fans will embrace when listening to the song, allowing themselves to walk down memory lane without thinking they have to bring the past into the future.

“There is something to be said about sometimes you’re just curious about people,” he reflects. “It’s also normal to be genuinely curious and not have some sort of love flame that you want to reignite in people’s lives. It’s normal to want to know what old friends are doing and be able to give yourself permission to go down memory lane. That’s where I wrote it from.” 

Photo Credit: Kelsey Cotton / Courtesy of Perkins Publicity

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