Photo Credit: Wonderfilmco
Surrounding himself with good people got Sully Bright through the wildest of times a few years ago when he packed a bag and left his beloved North Carolina to study all things music in one of the best places just for that, Nashville. We talked about his education and getting started, but also dove into the present as his debut, ‘Darling, Wake Up,’ drops on October 13th. Find out why it’s the perfect record for a mountain top, why some songs are forever classics, and more like how he learned to speak up via song. All of that and then some awaits…
Kendra: Heading off to college and centering your studies around music, I have to assume it’s been a part of your life for some time – but when did you initially get into music? Was it the school band, or perhaps a family thing?
Sully Bright: I started playing guitar in high school. I tried the clarinet and cello, but, needless to say, it did not stick. I first started writing songs while I was in high school, but I didn’t develop my voice until my college years.
Kendra: So you packed a bag and headed from North Carolina to Nashville in 2020 to go to school. First off, the pressure of freshman year is already too much but you did it during a global pandemic. Looking back, what do you attribute to being able to withstand all of that now that you’re approaching graduation?
Sully Bright: I made it through the first years of college because of close friends and a good community. When you surround yourself with people who want to see you flourish, it makes going through hard times a little bit easier.
Kendra: I went and saw Garth Brooks this summer at his residency in Vegas, and he said how he moved to Nashville many, many years ago to be a songwriter and that one of his goals was to write a song that everyone knows. As someone who is studying just that – what do you think makes a song like “Friends in Low Places” or Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” stand out and stand the test of time?
Sully Bright: I think a big part of what makes a song memorable is a strong melody. Not only that but what the song has to say. Both of these songs have a strong melody and simple lyrics. The melody/lyrics are easy to sing, and therefore easy to remember.
Kendra: And now let’s talk about your 2023 debut, ‘Darling, Wake Up,’ and the heart you put into it, especially your love of your home state, North Carolina. Now if we could all travel to where you’re from and listen to this album, where would be the ideal spot in North Carolina for that, and why?
Sully Bright: I’d say if you could listen to my record from top to bottom in one location it would have to be the top of Roan Mountain in North Carolina. Especially in the fall while the fall colors last. The top of Roan is a very special place to me.
Kendra: On the flip side, you also poured a lot of your worries and concerns into this album as there are songs that deal with mental health. You noted that the album title is sort of a message to yourself to wake up from your own anxieties. Have you found that releasing some of those thoughts into song has helped you?
Sully Bright: Yes, it has. It has helped me be more vocal about my struggles with other people. In our society, we are encouraged to hide how we feel from others, but songwriting has given me a door to express my struggles through song.
Kendra: On top of your studies and your debut, you also dropped an album with John Pierson Smith, your partner in Spruce & Hollow. Do you ever take a song you might have written for yourself and found that, hmm, maybe it would fit better with Spruce & Hollow instead and vice versa?
Sully Bright: Yes! We often write many of our songs together, but every once in a while, we will write a song separately and decide that it is a better fit for Spruce & Hollow. For example, the song “Honey, I’m in Love with You” was written by Pierson. We were writing it together, but I had to go leave and get a haircut. By the time I returned, the song was finished. “Honey, I’m in love with You” is one of my favorite Spruce & Hollow songs.
Kendra: Time for a side note – with this being October, I’m asking everyone to recall their favorite Halloween costume growing up – and if you don’t have one, perhaps your favorite candy to pick up for yourself now that you’re grown and don’t have to go door to door for it…
Sully Bright: One year as a child I dressed up as a turkey. Our family dog, Rosie, dressed up as a bumble bee. I still have the costume.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Darling, Wake Up’ out on October 13th, what else can people expect as we continue into fall?
Sully Bright: I will be releasing a live album either in December or January. The songs were recorded live at many places throughout the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. After that, I plan on releasing a b-sides for the record!