“There are a few ‘traditional’ avenues I’ve been rebelling against for my adult life,” Teri Bracken told American Songwriter.
Bracken is the songwriter and spearhead of the Nashville-based Americana band Brontë Fall. On Monday, they released their newest single, “Freeway High,” off their forthcoming EP Finishing School. With a background in literature and classical music, Bracken’s nod to the Brontë sisters in her band’s name encapsulates her wider philosophy regarding art.
“I had been intrigued by the Brontë sisters ever since I happened into a Gothic literature course during my sophomore year of college,” Bracken said. “I was drawn to their style of writing — dark, edgy and outspokenly female. The band name itself was born from a sentiment brought to life in Emily Brontë’s poem, “Fall, Leaves, Fall.” In it, she welcomes autumn and the looming winter ahead. I love how she saw poetry in the darker seasons, beauty in the shortening days. With Brontë Fall I, too, aim to embrace the changing seasons of my life and express as much through my art.”
Bracken also explained how the struggles the Brontë sisters faced in their time seem strikingly parallel to the current era.
“The main reason I was drawn to the Brontë sisters was how hard they fought to have their voices heard,” she said. “At the time, in mid-19th century England, women were not allowed to be authors. As the story goes, the Brontë sisters were initially rejected by publishers due to the mere fact that they were female. To beat this societal restraint, the young ladies identified under male pseudonyms to publish their works — some of the most famous pieces of literature to date! I think even today the world is dominated by the male voice — in business, politics, art, entertainment, etc. Women have to fight harder to get their voices heard and to hold prominent positions in the workplace. We are still fighting the same fight as Emily, Charlotte and Anne!”
Bracken makes a poignant point when alluding to the gender disparities of many industries, especially music — only 22% of all performers across the 600 most popular songs from 2012 to 2017 were female. When digging into this, Bracken elaborates on that ‘traditional avenue’ and why she’s been rebelling against it.
“One ‘traditional avenue’ that I feel constantly at odds with is that of the traditional female,” she said. “I come from a traditional background where most women settle down at home a few years after college to raise their families. As I get to the age where that’s what I should be doing or want to be doing, I feel more pressure to follow suit and less inclined to do so. It is a wonderful time for women because we have more options these days. And if I could be so blessed, I would have it all. That is what I aspire for — a career, a family.”
Another non-traditional approach Bracken takes is that of her songwriting — a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, she blends her classical training with her Americana style. “My songwriting skill set has been largely shaped by playing melodic based instruments for 20-plus years,” she noted. “My love of melody and knack for it comes from playing countless classical sonatas and concertos on the violin. I hear the arc of a song like I do the cadence of a symphony.”
This becomes evident when listening to “Freeway High.” Using a standard Americana form for the song, Bracken builds the melody of each verse as a perfect arc, rising and falling in unison with the lyrics. Then, when the chorus comes, the melody soars through her crystal clear voice, almost as if it were sonically painting the picture of an open road and a blue sky.
Lyrically, the song paints the same picture, augmenting it with descriptions of Connecticut countrysides and singing Elton John’s “Tiny Dancers” at the top of your lungs while your hair whips in the wind. “I usually have an idea or theme I want to write about first,” Bracken said, “I find it organizes my brain. Once I have an outline, I can take out the mathematical part and concentrate on the prose.” If the idea Bracken sought to capture in “Freeway High” was the freedom of the open road, then she certainly hit the nail on the head.
But the freedom she’s singing about also seems to be bigger than the song’s literal interpretation. Bracken seems to be speaking to a deeper sense of freedom, one which the Brontë sisters alluded to all those years ago, and one which Bracken has been fighting for in all her endeavors — especially her musical ones.
“At the end of the day, I think it’s important for women in music to continue fighting for an authentic voice — a loud, honest, and unedited one,” she said. “I see that as my role in the music industry and in life. My hope is that women continue to progress and be seen. Art is one way to move forward. And isn’t that what the Brontë sisters did so long ago with their novels?”
Listen to Brontë Fall’s new single “Freeway High” below: