Shortly after 1 a.m. on January 1, 2017, following a rambunctious yet tender New Year’s Eve performance at the Mill & Mine, Trisha Gene Brady found herself on her own after eight years as a member of The Black Lillies, the beloved Knoxville band known for its rootsy Americana sound and its rigorous touring schedule consisting of more than 200 nights per year spent out on the road.
She knew it was time to move forward as a solo artist so that she could bring her own original music into the spotlight for the first time in almost a decade. After a year of independence, she now is doing just that.
Her new solo EP, “I Have You,” was released digitally on March 1 and on CD on March 7 via her website. Consisting of five songs, the EP showcases Brady (TGB) on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Travis Bigwood on bass, David Whitaker on drums and Will Carter (no relation to the musical Carter family) on all other lead instruments. It also features special appearances by Griffin Calendar Vann and Sarah Pirkle, TGB’s previous bandmates in The Naughty Knots, who lend their support for three-part harmonies on a swinging song called “Wasted Teardrops.”
“I Have You” was recorded at Eleanor Studios, a recording studio in Mascot, Tennessee, built in Carter’s childhood home.
TGB met Carter years ago through Ashley Campbell, daughter of Glen, when Campbell and her band played the Grand Ole Opry with The Black Lillies. Carter has been Campbell’s band leader for several years and has played with many of TGB’s friends while working on his own musical project.
He had asked TGB to sing a duet on his last album, but her touring schedule with The Black Lillies never made the collaboration possible. When he heard she was off the road, Carter reached out, and the two put a few shows together, including a show in downtown Knoxville at the Bijou Theatre in August.
“We had a rehearsal we recorded so we’d have practice tapes,” TGB says. “The guys on rhythm were so tight that we were able to use those as the base tracks for the EP. Later, I tracked new vocals, Will laid all the instruments on and we were gold,” she adds. “I ran one last track, an a capella Hazel Dickens song I’ve been doing for years called ‘Hills of Home,’ and I felt I had something special, finally, to give the folks who have been waiting so long.”
Eleanor Studios, as TGB describes it, was “warm and quiet, accommodating and humble.” What she loved most was that “in the small amount of starter projects Will and (engineer) Ben McAmis have turned out, there is a definitive ‘Eleanor sound.’”
Now that she no longer is on the road full-time, TGB’s day-to-day life puts her back home in East Tennessee, where she lives outside of Knoxville “with my fella … out toward the mountains and in short driving distance of the Holston and French Broad rivers.”
They have chickens, bees and a 14-year-old Bluetick Coonhound on their little farm. Avid gardeners, they can their food, tap for maple syrup and collect honey and eggs regularly. When she’s not touring, she constantly is keeping up with farm chores, she notes.
TGB also holds a master’s in media art from the University of Tennessee, where she taught intro-level photography and videography courses while running the media editing lab of Hodges Library. With this background, TGB freelances from home, doing graphic design and media work, web design and studio art, including painting, drawing and sculpture.
She also spends about one week a month writing and networking in Nashville.
Her history before life with The Black Lillies included time in The Naughty Knots and Upland South, all of which prepared her for her new position as bandleader and songwriter.
“Each of my previous projects – The Naughty Knots, Upland South and The Black Lillies – offered me more of a lead role,” TGB explains. “I had to take front and center for a good portion of the show, so I was already versed in being a frontwoman to a band.”
Striking out on her own after such a long stint with her previous project “has been a daunting but entirely necessary change,” states TGB. “Although I held a position musically as a frontperson on the albums, at shows and with fans, over time there were constant reminders that I was a side member of a project with no real say,” she adds.
Forging a new path on her own terms and executing her own creative vision has been a refreshing boost of self-worth and musical growth over the last year, TGB notes. With her new role, though, came new responsibilities and challenges.
Of those challenges, the most difficult to conquer has not been an obstacle from the outside, but rather a hindrance from within: self-doubt. “Self-confidence is the biggest struggle,” she says. “Even after years of experience and so many fans telling me to step out and go for it, I still have to get past the hurdle of, ‘Am I good enough?’”
But making music is just who she is and what she feels she was born to do. TGB is a self-described “homegrown Tennessee country girl, and music is just part of the package here. I feel like I’ve been singing since I could make sounds, and I learned to play a few chords on the guitar when I was a child but never truly picked it up until my late 20s.”
TGB’s paternal grandmother, Bernice Brady, whom she called Mamaw, was fond of clogging and line dancing. As a girl, TGB listened to many of Mamaw’s old 45s, which shaped her love of old-time music. “She would pull a sheet of plywood out from under her couch in the living room and teach me the moves,” TGB remembers. “We also watched ‘Hee Haw’ religiously!”
In her late 50s, Mamaw learned to play the guitar in the style of Mother Maybelle Carter, which inspired her young granddaughter to pick up the instrument, as well. “When I finally did, I learned all the Carter family songs I could and took it up to Mamaw’s to play for her,” TGB recalls. “Mamaw would exclaim, ‘I know that song!’ with tears in her eyes,” she adds. TGB said she knew then that she was hooked.
Not long after learning guitar, TGB started to try her hand at songwriting. However, songwriting was something she had to court all over again after years on the road. “With only a few moments to yourself between shows, hotel stays and seven people piled in the van, it’s hard to concentrate on creating a new composition,” she explains. “I’d come home with a book of random lyrics and limited time to work on them … three to five days at home to catch up on three to five weeks of being gone leaves you in a perpetual state of playing catch up,” she continues. “Now I have notebooks’ worth to pull from, and when I do hit a dry spell I start flipping through the notebooks and see what strikes me.” Nowadays, she is constantly writing, she adds.
In the wake of the release of “I Have You,” TGB already is preparing for her next release. She has been writing an LP with Grammy-nominated writers Alan Miller and Raul Malo of The Mavericks, an eclectic band that combines neo-traditional country music, Latin and rockabilly. “I am remaining flexible on the timeline of this project due to the wonderful success these men are enjoying off the latest Mavericks album, ‘Brand New Day,’” she says. “My hope is that the EP will whet the appetites of my most eager fans while offering me the time to complete not a good album, but a great one!”