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Country singer and Las Cruces native Bri Bagwell talks with KRWG Public Media

Bri Bagwell
Haley Hays
Bri Bagwell

Country music singer and Las Cruces native Bri Bagwell recently won big at the 14th Annual T3R Texas Music and Radio Awards, winning her ninth Female Vocalist of the Year award as well as an award for Music Video of the Year for her single, “Trenches”. Scott Brocato recently spoke with Bri about her recent honors, what she misses most about Las Cruces; and her latest single "The Rescue", inspired by her rescue dog, Whiskey.

SCOTT BROCATO:

Well Bri, of the many awards you've won over the years, including, of course, Texas Female Artist of the Decade, is there one award that is particularly meaningful for you?

BRI BAGWELL:

Oh wow...I don't know. I always think of kind of like the first time that I ever won Female Vocalist, and it was...I was just so emotional and I was so happy. Now there's been quite a few since then (laughs). So it is obviously really fun to win, but I will always think the first one was very special. It was kind of, like, validating the fact that I took a leap and became an artist after I graduated from college.

Bri Bagwell
Haley Hays
Bri Bagwell

SCOTT BROCATO:

Well, you grew up in Las Cruces before moving to Austin to go to college at the University of Texas. What are some of your favorite memories from Las Cruces, musical or otherwise, and what are some things that you miss?

BRI BAGWELL:

Oh...well, I miss the food every day of my life. Whenever I go home, I gain at least 10 lbs every trip. Like it's just like that's what we do is we eat Mexican food three times a day at all my favorite places. It's the best, all the green chile.

But growing up, I mean, I played shows with my brother starting when I was 14 years old at Hurricane Alley and El Patio. And so some of my favorite memories are...like my first shows when I was in the bars, and I can't believe I was in the bar at 14 playing music. But it was so much fun.

SCOTT BROCATO:

Were you nervous?

BRI BAGWELL:

Oh my gosh, I was so nervous. I still get nervous sometimes a little bit, so some of it never fully goes away, I think. But I remember being super nervous. We competed in a competition, a battle of the bands at Midnight Rodeo. That was like my first time to ever play. And I was so nervous, and my mom has a video of it and I'm really terrible. I hope nobody watches that ever (laughs).

SCOTT BROCATO:

Well, let's talk about your podcast, Only Vans. You launched that last June where you conduct, shall we say, freewheeling interviews with artists and friends from your van. What inspired you to create that podcast, and how did it all come together?

BRI BAGWELL:

Well, one of my tour managers, we would always just talk about stuff on the way home. And then I would do that with every tour manager after that. But the first one was kind of like, this would be really cool if this conversation was recorded because it's kind of a behind the scenes type of thing, and we're talking about things that we don't really get to talk about normally on podcasts. So another tour manager after that has a podcast called Texas Toast, and he said, “I love the idea of you doing that podcast. Like, I will produce it and edit it and do all the work. So all you have to do, really, is just do the interviews.” And so that's been working out for me. That's the best way for me to do it. I just get to talk to my friends and then Kyle does all the editing.

SCOTT BROCATO:

In the Only Vans episode with songwriter Helene Cronin, you compared the process of songwriting with co-writers as either like whitewater rafting or waterboarding. What did you mean by that?

BRI BAGWELL:

Yeah, I mean, it's just kind of...you're just jumping in with somebody that you don't really know usually, or that's at least how it was when I was writing at Sony up in Nashville. I mean, I would go twice a day to write with people that I've never met. And you can kind of tell right away whether it's going to be like a really fun wild ride, or whether it's going to be a torturous hours-long thing where you're, like, I can't wait to get out of here.

SCOTT BROCATO:

Do you prefer, in general, writing solo?

BRI BAGWELL:

I really love both. My producer, she's very adamant about me writing solo a lot. She says I write really cool stuff by myself. But I think it's really, for me, just finding the right person. And Helene Cronin is one of those people where I've written four or five songs with her and we just click. And when I write by myself, I get away with a lot more mediocrity (laughs), and my producers are like, you really need to go back and polish this song up. And I’m like, “I know, I know.”

But I love both. It's a very fun process. I would encourage anybody that writes songs...I never had co-written a song in my life until I got my publishing deal with Sony. And it's taught me so much about songwriting, so don't be afraid of it.

SCOTT BROCATO:

Which singer-songwriters have influenced you the most?

BRI BAGWELL:

Oh my gosh...well, I love Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash and old country music. And then Loretta (Lynn) and Dolly Parton, of course. And so then jumping up, my I know my parents were listening to a lot of the CCR and Fleetwood Mac. In more recent days, people like Ashley McBride and Miranda Lambert are probably really up there.

SCOTT BROCATO:

The video for your latest single, The Rescue, features over 200 pictures of several rescue animals sent from fans. The pictures include your own rescue pet chihuahua, Whiskey, the inspiration for the song. Tell us about how you found and rescued Whiskey, and how she in turn rescued you and inspired you to write the song.

Bri Bagwell and her rescue chihuahua, Whiskey
Richlynn Group
Bri Bagwell and her rescue chihuahua, Whiskey

BRI BAGWELL:

Yes, she is...if you follow me on any social media, you will know she's the light of my life. I love her so much. And we were driving, we were leaving Austin to go to a show in Houston. And we were kind of southeast of town, and I was driving because everyone was tired and I said, “I'll drive. This is the perfect place to look for stray dogs”. And I turned the corner and there was this tiny chihuahua in the middle of the road. And I still can't believe (that) I pulled over, jumped out, stopped traffic, chased her out of the road, and chased her what I say was a mile. You know, the band says it was more like 100 feet. (Laughs) So she stopped for me and I picked her up, and she was cold and dirty and had heartworms and fleas. And now she's wearing her fluffy bed and headphones on stage and stuff. So she's done a real 180.

SCOTT BROCATO:

You've helped raise over $5000 for shelters in need here in Las Cruces and your home of New Braunfels, TX. Talk about your passion for helping rescue animals. Was it inspired by Whiskey, or have you always had that passion?

BRI BAGWELL:

I've always loved animals, of course, and watching other charities do such a great job. Like, for example, Miranda Lambert’s Mutt Nation Foundation does a really good job. And I've always wanted a dog, but I travel so much I thought it was impossible. And now, seeing that I can make it work and encouraging people to rescue dogs...I know during COVID, the shelters were empty, and now they're back to full again. So it's it was so sad. I went to the Humane Society here in New Braunfels, and they have, you know, hundreds of dogs and cats right now, and they're really overrun. So it's inspired me just because I know how much I love Whiskey.

And like it wasn't a “who rescued who” situation. I know that I was in a relationship I shouldn't have been in, and she kind of gave me the strength to leave that behind. And now she's just my best friend and my travel partner. So I’m just encouraging people to give to their local shelter, but also to adopt if at all possible. They're just so grateful when you do.

Bri Bagwell and her rescue dog, Whiskey
Richlynn Group
Bri Bagwell and her rescue dog, Whiskey

SCOTT BROCATO:

You just kicked off your latest tour that's going to be running through May, mostly staying in Texas. What do you find are the most and least enjoyable aspects of touring after all these years?

BRI BAGWELL:

Well, right before I got on the phone with you, I was booking flights. We have two shows in North and South Carolina in April, and I'm having a little bit of changeover in my band and my guitar player and his wife just had a baby. And so I'm trying to like kind of fill in the holes for a little bit while we make this transition. So I was booking some flights and last-minute flights, and so the logistics are always a little tough. And when you're just at home trying to make stuff work on a computer and maps and planes, trains and automobiles, that part gets a little difficult. I have a great tour manager that helps me with that. But being on the road I think is the easy part. I love the shows and I love seeing new cities, so I do it all for that.

SCOTT BROCATO:

When the tour ends, what's next for you?

BRI BAGWELL:

Well, I think we just go right into another one! (Laughs) We kind of group these tours together to promote whatever radio single is coming out. I never get off the road. That's kind of the deal with Texas artists is we all kind of just tour year-round. So I think I have a two week break in May before things get crazy, and then we're doing--I don't know, I'll probably end up doing close to 20 states this year in the fall. I'm going to the East Coast in Colorado and Idaho, and it's gonna be wild. So I'm just kind of getting a little bit of rest before I continue.

But I think I'm gonna put out an acoustic record this year of just 10 songs that (are) just different versions of 10 songs I've already done, and start making my new record later this year.

Bri Bagwell with her rescue dog, Whiskey
Richlynn Group
Bri Bagwell with her rescue dog, Whiskey

Scott Brocato has been an award-winning radio veteran for over 35 years. He has lived and worked in Las Cruces since 2016, and you can hear him regularly during "All Things Considered" from 4 pm-7 pm on weekdays. Off the air, he is also a local actor and musician, and you can catch him rocking the bass with his band Flat Blak around Las Cruces and El Paso.
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