Bluegrass Star Dale Ann Bradley on The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry
Be professional. This is how you carry yourself and it goes a long way towards being successful. If you’re able to show yourself in a positive way, it helps to make connections that will in return help to build your career and reach new heights. This is how we’re able to get artist bookings and establish connections for the future. A big part of any industry (especially the music industry) is word of mouth, and only helps to be seen in a positive and professional way.
As part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dale Ann Bradley.
Through humble beginnings, Bluegrass / Americana hitmaker Dale Ann Bradley has transcended boundaries and defied all of the odds by going on to become one of the most relevant and successful solo artists in all of Roots music. Throughout the years, the Bluegrass matriarch has achieved great success, receiving multiple Grammy nominations, winning the International Bluegrass Music Association’s “Female Vocalist of the Year” five times, along with collaborating alongside top artists like Vince Gill, Pam Tillis, Dan Tyminski, Sonny Osborne and more.
Along the way, she released countless albums while expressing in her recordings the boundlessness of American music, its musicians and vocalists by incorporating songs from all styles into her shows and albums. Most recently, the Bluegrass superstar would find additional success alongside the all-female band Sister Sadie (which Dale Ann co-founded), by shattering glass-ceilings and leading the band to win Bluegrass music’s biggest award, “Entertainer of the Year” in 2020.
After leaving Sister Sadie to focus on her solo material, Dale Ann took her creativity to new heights in 2021 with the release of her groundbreaking Things She Couldn’t Get Over album, filled with vocal prowess. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the Bluegrass singer/songwriter spent more time than ever before writing and crafting the perfect material for the collection.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Pineville, Kentucky. It’s located in Bell County, which is in the southeast coal fields on the Ky. side of the Cumberland Gap. My Father was a Primitive Baptist minister, and a retired coal miner. My mother, father, brother, grandmother and great-grandfather all lived in a four room house that was tar-paper covered for the first 10 years of my life. We had to carry water to be heated, and we cooked with wood and coal. There was one electrical outlet in the ceiling with several extension cords. The Primitive Baptist Church was very strict and social activities weren’t permitted, and no instruments were allowed, or anything that was considered worldly. I received my first guitar at age 14 and that really changed my life.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I really never thought of doing anything else. Being raised at the poverty level, education wasn’t an option at the time. Music was my fiercest interest, and where my heart was. So I was very determined to do this against both advice and rules. It was all I could think about at that time.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Two major things come to mind. I was fortunate enough to get to play traditional Bluegrass music to services in Ireland which was an amazing experience. It was a real full-circle moment for me, getting to tie in my Gospel roots, coupled with my career’s growth. Another interesting story happened at one of my shows when José Feliciano showed up and we sang “Me and Bobby McGee” together on stage. He’s such a major influence to so many people, and several of the songs that he’s written like “Feliz Navidad” are timeless masterpieces.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
A few examples come to mind. My Kentucky accent is thick, and has caused me to pronounce words in certain song titles that to the many bands and audiences, sounds like something completely different. I was playing in Missouri one late evening and had recorded “Don’t Turn Your Back / Put a Penny on the Track” and my band had a good time with the last line of that sentence, replacing the world “track” with another word. While announcing the song to the audience, I spoke the same word my band had been speaking and everyone laughed! It’s made me more aware of my pronunciations of words, without a doubt! Haha
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I just finished my latest solo album Things She Couldn’t Get Over, and it has been a very special process. It features all of my band members from “Moon Runner” (Kim Fox, Matt Leadbetter, Mike Sumner and Ethan Burkhardt) on the tracks, plus I wrote more on this record than any before. During the process, I was mulling around multiple ideas that were special to me.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
It’s healing to identify with art. I think it’s a strengthening cultural factor to be able to tell stories, write songs, sing, act, etc. I love how it enables each person to be able to share their personal experiences that are different from person to person. Getting a different insight, and in a sense being able to walk in someone else’s shoes helps to maybe find similarities instead of so many differences. Hopefully it helps us to find “difference” in a not so different way.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Be professional. This is how you carry yourself and it goes a long way towards being successful. If you’re able to show yourself in a positive way, it helps to make connections that will in return help to build your career and reach new heights. This is how we’re able to get artist bookings and establish connections for the future. A big part of any industry (especially the music industry) is word of mouth, and only helps to be seen in a positive and professional way.
2. Be original. There are so many things an artist can be, but what I’ve learned is that at the end of the day, you have to stay true to yourself. That’s really what people connect with most, it’s my experiences that help me to connect with listeners on a personal level. It goes into my songs, live shows and everything I do.
3. Listen to advice, but don’t become obsessed with pleasing everyone. Starting out, nobody wanted me to pursue a career in music, and after taking a chance it all worked out. So many people over the years have told me that I should do this or do that. You have to listen to your gut and know that occasionally you’re not going to please all of the people all of the time, and that’s okay.
4.Its a hard life. Nothing is easy all of the time. I feel like my humble upbringing has enabled me to see the difficult part of life, but gain an optimistic perspective on the future. No, it’s not always sunshine and flowers, and occasionally life will bring you down. But you have to get up and keep chugging along. Tomorrow is a new day!
5. Have the time of your life. I’ve had the opportunity throughout my career to win several awards, travel the world and make connections with some of the greatest people on the planet. When everyone looks back, many have things they would do differently, maybe. But it’s the mistakes that help up to appreciate the good and make the most of life.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Find a hobby. If music is your job, or you’re a writer, performer or on the business side I can’t recommend this enough. It will really help you not to go crazy. One thing that I enjoy is going “junking” — which is something I used to do long before the American Pickers TV show came along!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
You never know what your idea can trigger. The movement would be “Those Who Want To Preserve The Solid Rules of Behavior We Grew Up With.” The basic takeaway would be to respect your elders, give up your seat to others in need, assist folks who need a helping hand and have respectful behavior (saying “yes ma’am” or “no sir”). In a way it goes along with the Golden Rule, which is to treat others the way you want to be treated.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Can you share a story about that?
My Dad, which I previously mentioned, was a minister. He was strict because of concern. I am blessed to have a son, who is now an adult. My father helped to take care of him while I was away on the road playing shows and I wouldn’t have done it any other way than my son being with my Dad.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t Do Today What You’ll Regret Tomorrow.” I find it important to stop, take a breath, and listen before acting. It’s something that has worked really well for me since I learned how to do it.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.
Meryl Streep. She’s so deeply smart, plus the astounding career and work she’s done over the years has been an amazing sight to see.
How can our readers follow you online?
Readers can learn more by visiting my website, www.daleannbradleyband.com.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.