Brenda Cay - 10 Questions Interview
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I have always liked to write and I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of songwriting - it seems so obvious now! I was doing some soul searching and I was riding in the car singing along with the radio. This thought popped into my head, “A song is a short story.” I knew how to read music and played piano and flute, but I didn’t know anything about composing. I decided to buy a guitar and I dove in!
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Looking back now, I think the craziest thing that has happened is having all the right people placed in my path when I needed them. All of these people started out as professional contacts and became trusted friends and mentors. My music career is really a “God” thing. It all started when I went to get my hair cut with a new hair stylist because the one I had been going to left the salon. As we started talking, I found out she was a songwriter and she told me about a local recording studio that could help me get my songs recorded. Through that studio, I met Brian Brewer, who taught me to play guitar, arrange music, co-wrote “Joe" and "Unplug & Recharge", and co-produced many of my songs. You will also hear his amazing guitar talent on most of my songs. A few years later, I met Skot Bradley at a Jerry Reid tribute concert at 3rd & Lindsley in Nashville. Skot is a talented musician and songwriter and through him I met Kristin Smith. I can’t say enough about Kristin. She is a voice coach, producer, and songwriter, and I have learned so much from her. She and Skot are also really great people and I love working with them. They were my co-writers on “I Fish” which has been one of my best streamed songs. Kristin also co-wrote and produced “Glass Slippers,” which was released two years ago and I still have people tell me how much they like that song. My manager, Jill Pavel of Heart Songs Records, is another example. We met through a mutual friend and I’m so blessed to have her working behind the scenes to help me reach my goals.
What has been the high point of your music path?
I feel like each time I release a new song, it’s a new high point. Having fans love and appreciate your song is the highest point you can reach and with each song, I am gaining new fans. The EP I released in November has hit 1.8M streams. Two years ago, I never would have believed that was possible. My single “Alone With You” that released in February, has reached 330K streams. I am beyond grateful and I hope I can continue to write and record songs that the fans want to hear because that’s what it’s all about.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
I approach songwriting by trying to find a story that needs to be told. Then I try to find a clever way to tell it and I especially like it if the hook can be turned to mean something different than you might initially think. I feel like I accomplished that in “Alone With You,” The title sounds like a love song and even the first verse sets that up with, “Riding in your truck going anywhere.” It’s really a song of heartbreak being “Alone with you running through my head.” The couple in the song is no longer together but she is still thinking about him. I don’t really have a specific process for how I write. I often write lyric ideas down as they pop into my head and that often dictates the rhythm and then when I sit down with my guitar, I can work out the arrangement. One part of the process that is pretty consistent is that I tend to play and sing a song over and over, rewriting lyrics and making melody changes. Sometimes it’s hard to know when it’s done and in fact, I’ve rewritten lyrics and changed melody lines the day I’m singing the final vocal in the studio.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I think the biggest challenge facing the indie artist is navigating all the business behind the scenes of making the music. After we write and record the music, we have to be the social media expert, promoter, booking agent, merchandise designer, and constantly working to get on Spotify playlists and looking for radio stations that will play our music! Sometimes I think if I had 24 more hours in the day, I could get half of it done.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
If I could share the stage with one other artist, it would be Garth Brooks. He is just such a phenomenal entertainer and knows how to really connect with the audience. He’s truly a storyteller and in between songs, he’ll tell you something interesting about the song or the songwriters. He always brings so much energy and passion and I would love to be a part of that and experience it first hand. He also seems like such a nice guy. I recently listened to his station on SiriusXM and he was so humble and genuine when he would introduce another artist’s song and I really admire that. There is so much that I could learn from him. I want to be like him when I grow up lol!
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Rehearsals are always a lot of fun. It’s never a bad day when you’re hanging out with friends making music. Some rehearsals are laid back and we’re trying out new cover songs that we might want to add to the set or working in new songs that I’ve written. Other rehearsals are a little more serious like a dress rehearsal. We run through the set as if we are on stage with an audience. Even then, there’s always room for a laugh. One time we were practicing “1-2-3 Floor” and as I was counting “1 shot, 2 shots,” JoJo, my guitar player, started doing the deep laugh, ”Ah, ah, ah” like the Count on Sesame Street. I laughed so hard I had to start over and every time I sing it now, that’s in the back of my mind and I have to keep myself from laughing.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
“Wherever You Are” was probably my most challenging song to write because there were so many emotions that I was experiencing. I was happy for my son because he was pursuing his dream and there’s nothing better than that. At the same time, I knew I would miss him and life would be very different as I will only get to see him in person once or twice a year. This song was my way of letting him know how much I love him so I felt a lot of pressure to write it in a way that he would like it. He’s not a big fan of country music so I wrote this on my keyboard hoping to give it a bit of a different feel. It’s the first time I’ve written on keyboard so that was challenging too, but in the end I really liked the way it turned out.
What's coming up in the future?
I have a video for my new single “Wherever You Are” that will be releasing shortly and spoiler alert - the little boy who plays a younger version of my son in the video completely stole the show. I have also been writing and recording some great new songs and will be releasing an EP later this year. I’m looking forward to getting out playing shows, meeting fans, and making new friends.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
About Brenda Cay
Brenda Cay grew up on the eastern shore of Maryland and originally forged her path in business as a CPA. However, her passion has always been music. Brenda has now established herself as a reputable songwriter and artist in Music City, USA. She focuses on country music, but her songs are woven with subtle hints of pop, rock and R&B and reflect the influence of Kenny Chesney, Terri Clark and Sara Evans. Escaping the stresses of daily life and having fun are common themes in her lyrics and melodies, but she is not afraid to tackle more serious topics. Her songs are relatable, diverse and are constructed in a manner true to the tenets of country music storytelling. Country artist Steven John Simon credits Brenda with helping him to launch his career with her song "Tongue Tied." Heart Songs Records also praises her, saying "Brenda is a solid songwriter and artists should take her pitches seriously.”
Brenda is ready to serve up her fun, clever, and brave songs to the world and will continue working with other artists and bands on their song material. Her single, "1-2-3-Floor," released in February 2020, was featured on Apple Music Hot Tracks (Country). The single was also licensed by Spotify and a private label. Following her success with “1-2-3-Floor,” Brenda released “Unplug & Recharge,” which also received licenses with Spotify, Rhapsody, and a private label. Her next single "I Fish" was released in August and was also featured on Apple Music Hot Tracks (Country). "I Fish" was licensed by Spotify, Rhapsody, and a private label as well. The engaging music videos for all three singles have been well-received by her fans.
Her November 2020 EP "Fragile Like a Bomb" has garnered a whopping 1,446,779 streams. It’s been steadily attracting new listeners, logging nearly half a million of those streams after its first week. With the support of more than 10,000 dedicated followers and 31,000 monthly listeners, Brenda is currently averaging around 43,000 streams per week.
Stream Brenda's music on Spotify
Learn more on her website!
Connect on Facebook
Follow on Instagram