Music Premiere: Bridget Caldwell’s new single “Pharmaceuticals”

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Photo by Nicola Harger

Indie-folk singer-songwriter Bridget Caldwell moved to Nashville ten years ago to attend Belmont University. Today, we’re pleased to premiere her new single “Pharmaceuticals” (co-written with Luke Preston) from her upcoming five-song debut EP, Kingmaker, due out on August 6. On writing for the new EP: “The way that you write good songs is by being present and keenly aware in your daily life,” she says. “I find a lot of solace in everyday moments.”

On navigating the Nashville music scene: “I focus on staying in my lane and what I know to be true which ultimately helps me grow as a songwriter,” she says. “I often think that our individual narratives and themes are more common than we think they are. And that’s the point of music, right? It’s for all of us to listen to it and think, ‘Thank God, it’s not just me.’”

You recently released a new single, “Pharmaceuticals.” What was the inspiration behind the single?

The first line was inspired by a bottle of extremely cheap Barefoot “white blend.” Luke was sitting on my couch strumming and started singing “cheap white wine in a plastic cup” as I poured what could be classified as toxic waste into a solo cup. We continued talking about these relationships we had in our lives in which the other person was sort of slowly deteriorating due to habits associated with escapism. Booze, drugs, you know the ones. Both of us wanted to tether these people we loved to the person we knew they could be, and I think we were both coming to terms with the fact that we weren’t powerful enough to save anybody.

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Is there a particular lyric that speaks to you?

“I guess that’s what you meant when you said what’s yours is mine” and “you see the happy faces on the TV screen/That’s why you brought in an actor like me.” I spent much of the time of the creation of this EP reeling from the realization that a relationship I was in wasn’t what I thought it was. I had written the fairy tale in my head, and I was going to grip it with both hands. I spent a lot of time considering the messaging, the habits, that caused me (all of us, really) to put so much pressure on ourselves to hold more than we’re meant to when it comes to love. Why do we find ourselves crushing ourselves under someone else’s weight, sometimes? And what does it take to realize it?

Co-writing the song with Luke Preston, share with us the songwriting process.

Well, we were actually extremely pissed at each other when we started writing that night. I have absolutely no idea why. He and I are very similar people, and that often leads to “wow, you’re super annoying because you’re doing a thing I hate about myself but can’t admit!” We were coming off day jobs, and we had been throwing ideas back and forth for what felt like hours. In a moment of desperation, I opened the fridge, pulled out the aforementioned Barefoot, demanded Luke stop pacing my living room, and basically said, “we’re not moving until we start something.” That’s when he started singing “cheap white wine in a plastic cup…” It’s not a terribly cute story, but it really makes me chuckle. Songwriting and co-writing aren’t always glamorous, but it’s always worth it.

The track comes from your debut EP, Kingmaker, due out August 6. What can fans expect?

They can expect honesty. If there’s anything I can say about this project, it’s that it’s sure-as-sh-t genuine.

Who and what inspires your songs, and what is your songwriting process?

Most of my inspiration comes from my everyday life. I truly believe the way you write good songs is by being keenly aware and present in your life. I find a lot of solaces and am interested in the moments that may be considered “mundane.” Those moments are our lives. I love novels, which is why (I think, at least) I use so many descriptive pictures in my songs. You can write about scrubbing the sink, but if you use the right imagery, you can really make a person feel something. As far as the process goes, the beginnings are still sort of mystical for me. Generally, the initial inspiration (whether a melody or a lyric) will sprinkle down into my brain from out of the ether. After that, though, my process consists of a lot of sitting in silence with my head in my hands…which I guess on some level is still “mystical” depending on who you ask. I think extremely hard when I write. That may sound silly, but I do find that writing a good song is a lot of work. Of course, sometimes it’s a magic 20 minutes, but most of the time for me, it’s catching the muse and then chasing it…hard.

What message do you want to convey to listeners through your music?

I want listeners to feel comfortable in every part of their lives. I was looking back at a journal entry from the time I wrote this EP the other day, and I wrote to myself, “don’t forget: sorrow is a trustworthy companion, too.” Getting comfortable with grief, with mess, with uncertainty has molded me into a more joyful (notice I did not say “happy” dear God) person. I’ve gotten to a place of feeling really full in my life because I am comfortable with the hard, nitty-gritty sh-t. My biggest hope for this piece of work is for folks to hear it and think, “thank God…You too?”

Originally starting in musical theater, you encountered a setback. Can you share with us that experience and how you overcame it?

I discovered I could sing after being cast as Snow White in the third-grade school play. After that, it was game over. I was going to be on Broadway, man. I was in every dance class, voice lesson, and show I could manage. I was good, and I wanted it so badly. When I was 17, I had a particularly cruel bout of mono and had to have my tonsils removed. My voice was completely different after the procedure. I could hardly belt and had a hard time mixing. It broke my heart. I was lucky to have a wonderful voice teacher at the time, who helped guide me toward new possibilities, and my parents completely supported my pivot. I knew I wanted to do music no matter what, so I spent much of the last year and a half of high school researching and applying to contemporary music programs all over the country. That’s how I landed at Belmont in Nashville. To be honest, I still sometimes mourn the loss of what I affectionately call “my first voice.” I look back at that determined, passionate, capable little girl with fondness. I often think about how different my life would’ve been had I not gotten sick. But most of all, I carry the invaluable lesson that came (at an extremely early age) from that re-route: who you are is not the same as what you do. I learned early that no matter how badly you want something, it can be taken away faster than you dreamt it up. It’s helped me get through a lot as an adult. I know that even if it feels like the rug has been ripped out from under my life, my integrity and my grit will hold me steady.

When did you make the move to Nashville, and where are you originally from?

I moved to Nashville in 2011 and am originally from Oregon, which is (this is science) the greatest state in the Union. The mighty Pacific, mountains, desert, and The Dream of the 90’s all in the same state?!? You can’t compete.

What has been one of the most important things you learned about moving to Nashville that you would like to share with our readers?

Genuine friendships with folks you share commonalities with will always be better than networking. Being who you ACTUALLY are in every room you enter will help you find the right people and sleep at night. Spending time alone is necessary. Oh…and? Never date someone you met at Red Door.

 

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