Canadian singer-songwriter Braden Bales released his debut EP NOMAD. The EP includes his viral hit song “CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS,” which has over 20 million streams on Spotify. This 5-song tracklist takes you along Braden's journey as a nomad going through life.
How do you feel having your first body of work out?
Braden: Having my first body of work out is great, I always underestimated the whole EP project. I never did one so I put so much value on singles and that feeling. Dropping a body of work at once has been great in terms of just feeling understood. Any single is one aspect of your mind and dropping something together that is a bigger piece of work has more angels to it. Having only one song since “CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS” it's felt like people can understand where I've been and what I've been up to. For a while I felt like “CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS” was all they were seeing. Now having how I felt about “CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS” be more out there I feel much better and more comfortable as a person and feeling understood.
Can you talk about the emotional journey of your EP?
Braden: It's really the journey that I've taken. I went to LA and lived in my car and then went to Nashville. My songs are purely how I'm feeling and they weren’t intended to be packaged for the EP. It was more of looking at what I've written and finding the common theme and the storyline. Kind of like looking at a picture of the last 5 or 6 months of my life and realizing how I've been feeling. That's really the journey, taking it one day at a time and analyzing how I feel and a lot of those things have been the same and a lot of the songs even though they are about different subjects, they hold the same raw feeling inside of insecurity and being a nomad. I was writing songs daily and discovering how I felt. From me living in my car in LA to Canada to Nashville and not having a house anywhere, it followed that storyline where I was getting farther from my friends back home, meeting new people and just following the life of a 21-year-old who is moving everywhere all the time.
Is there a song off the EP that means the most to you?
Braden: I would say “FAIRWEATHER FRIENDS.” It started off about a specific friendship of mine. Writing about that brought out something in me that ended up being about everyone in my life who has been a fairweather friend to me - including myself. That was a song we wrote quickly and I ended up leaving the session and I was on my way home listening to the song and the first time hearing it back I shed a tear, I haven't ever expressed this. It's such a deeply personal thing to me, there is something about that song that struck a chord deep inside me - being that no other song has yet. I'm really happy that this song is out in the world.
If you could describe your EP NOMAD in three words what would they be?
Braden: I would say angsty, emotional, and catchy.
How did you come up with NOMAD for the title of the EP?
Braden: That was just “PICK ME UP.” I said “a nomad who misses home” and I looked at all of the songs that I had written at that time and I realized it applied to all of them. I believe I was talking to management about it too at the time. We were talking about what we were thinking of it and my manager, Leah, brought that up and I was like wow that really solidly fits every single song we were considering for it. There were some that didn't make that cut that also apply to that. As soon as the idea was put in front of me it was really easy to connect that dot. I forgot how the conversation went, but it was all this together kinda just decided definitely the best option and the clearest common theme to draw through all the songs.
How would you describe the sound and style of the EP? Are there any genres or influences that shaped your music?
Braden: In terms of style, I tried to put together a list of songs that have every genre that I do. “PICK ME UP” is more rappy during the verses and upbeat in the chorus. Every song is kind of a different thing. I don't listen to pop music anymore. I listen to folk and afrobeat music these days. A cool part of the EP is that I feel like it wasn't inspired by any one genre because I barely listen to music and when I do it isn't the music that I make. Apart from my original influences, I try to stay out of the pop waters just so that my music is me and not what I'm hearing from other people. The word I would use to describe what my music genre is would be alternative pop.
Are there any artists you would like to collaborate with?
Braden: In terms of collaborations, I never want to do one just because I want to work with that person. There's so many artists that are insanely talented. The names that jump to mind are Alexander 23, Jeremy Zucker, the same people I mentioned as influences are the same people I'd love to jump in the studio with. In terms of how I think it'll actually play out when I get features on songs if I ever make a song that I don't think I should finish and hear someone else on it'll go to that person. It should be a song first choice. In terms of collaboration, those are all people I’d love to get in the studio with like Chelsea Cutler. All of them are people that just meeting up and making music would be a dream come true to me. Whatever happens after that would be amazing. All my influences would be great to work with, it's hard to name just a few cause there are so many that are super cool.
How did you start your music career?
Braden: I grew up singing and playing guitar in and around the house, I was in a musical family. In high school, I did rap battles at lunch. I realized if I could do rap battles and I could sing, I could write a song. I wrote my first song at 14 and six months later I put out a song on Soundcloud. Just seeing people around me connect with it showed me that's what I want to do with the rest of my life. When I really started taking it seriously, I got into university and I was going to go into business school. I was thinking this is my only chance to chase this and to really figure out if this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Then I went to audio engineering school and I learned how to make music at a higher level. I just knew that was going to be the rest of my life whether that was as an artist or producer. It was ever since I dropped my first song, I was like I think I want to do this and the moment I fully committed was when I decided to go to music school instead of business school.
Your lyrics are incredibly vulnerable, direct and real. Where does that come from?
Braden: It comes from within, it doesn't come from my brain. If I try to sit there and be smart it doesn't happen. That's why I try to clear my head. It's not logical or intentional, I feel like it just comes from the heart. The more I think the less it does, the less good the music is. Everything I write about is directly about my personal life and what I need to talk about. A Lot of times the songs, I'll write them and realize that's how I'm feeling in the process of writing. I don't know where it comes from, my heart is the best answer. It definitely feels like it's something deep within me that I can't put my finger on.
What helps you get over the mental hurdles of getting started in music?
Braden: Being busy really helps. There is something to be said about do-or-die situations because it's something I want so badly, the knowledge at the end of the day that I will be doing it no matter what definitely helps. I personally am willing to do what it takes to go where I want to go and to accomplish what I want to accomplish. The hurdles are hurdles, for sure. I don't have a special trick, I just focus on why I do it and where I want to go. I personally have a mantra that I do, people tell me it's not healthy that I have it but it’s "failure is not an option." I feel like that drives just thinking that over and over in my head just drives me to push myself forward in ways I have found nothing else really does.
Listen to NOMAD HERE