INTERVIEW: Brianna Musco Builds Momentum Around ‘Forever’
Artwork credit: Jordyn Lyric
Over the winter, we met New Jersey-based musician Brianna Musco on a tour stop through Nashville. At the time, ideas for her Forever EP were coming together.
Now, fresh off the release of Forever, Brianna credits that trip with helping to inspire the record’s direction.
“I like to give a lot of credit to our trip to Nashville for us going back, revising, and figuring out each part and what it bought to the table, and making sure every riff, chord, and melody all have substantial reason for being in each song,” Musco said. “One thing that I noticed while we were down here was the pure emotion and fun that every performer had. I wanted to bring that into our songs.”
That organic and authentic approach makes Forever much more than a simple pop rock record. Its accessibility is balanced by an intricacy in musicianship that is a product of Musco’s classical training, as well as other outside-the-box influences brought in by producer Mario Rodriguez.
“(Mario) understood my vision for Forever. He has years of experience in the studio, and in live touring with Anthrax and Slayer,” Musco said. “I studied classical guitar, and metal goes hand-in-hand technique-wise. I wanted to take that technique and bring it to the pop genre.”
Helping to fill out the soundscapes on Forever was drummer Tim Panella, who engineered the record in addition to lending his instrumental talents to its creation.
“It’s always good to have a drummer as your engineer, because everything is perfectly in time and ready to go,” Musco said of Panella’s influence. “He contributed a lot to the harmonies and making the songs sound wider.”
The process of fleshing out the five songs on Forever led Musco to have a unique relationship with each piece, beginning with the title track. A straightforward piece of pop rock, “Forever” is about navigating the waters of a relationship, no matter how smooth or choppy they may become.
“It’s written for anybody – a spouse or partner – when you have finally found that person that, regardless of what happens during the day, they’re always going to support you,” Musco said. “If you have a fight, you both are in that same understanding that this not the end, by any means. I wanted to open up the EP with that sense of hope.”
“Ringling” is a bit more specific, written about a long-distance relationship between Musco and a partner that didn’t work out. The track touches on the difficulties of distance in relationships, while showing a certain respect to the individual on the other end. The tune does a nuanced job of marrying influences together, fusing the anthemic punch of Have a Nice Day-era Bon Jovi with an underlying witchiness that lends itself to Musco’s Fleetwood Mac influence.
Then, we arrive to “Not Enough,” which stands as the record’s most heart-wrenching moment. The song is a sad ballad about a friend of Musco’s who passed away.
Musco recalls the challenge of recording “Not Enough,”and of being pushed by Rodriguez to re-visit the low point that served as its inspiration in order to bring its emotional message forward.
“’Not Enough’ took a lot. I wouldn’t say I was trying to be strong, but trying not to cry in the studio,” Musco recalled. “That’s what you need. If you don’t have the emotion in that song, nobody will feel it. When you write the song, and you go back weeks or months later to record it, you’re not necessarily in the same mentality. You need to get back there as fast as possible.”
“Not Enough” also serves as a reminder to anyone struggling with mental health and their loved ones to seek available help. Musco plans to release a music video around a soulful arrangement of the song, complete with a church choir and strings, that will also offer resources and information to anyone struggling. This follows a recent trend of musicians using their platform to speak out and break the stigma surrounding the topic.
“Lady Gaga and Halsey are my two favorite female artists. They have done so much for mental health advocacy,” Musco noted. “Their music makes me want to be better as a musician and a songwriter, and I want to have a platform to help that many people.”
The mood of Forever begins to rise again with ensuing track, “Stay,” which lifts from its predecessor’s morose tone with a resolve to move on – even if that resolve becomes clouded by a door left slightly ajar.
“I wrote the lyrics to every other song in less than five minutes. ‘Stay’ took me three months to finish,” Musco remembers. “I had to play out what I was writing about events-wise, and that’s why it took a little longer. I was still in the middle of the event that it was based on.”
As these events played out, Musco trusted in her stream of consciousness, resulting in one of the EP’s most relatable, from-the-heart moments.
“I thought, ‘Just start writing down what you’re thinking,’” Musco said. “I can sing that, and it’s real. That’s exactly what it should be. That’s what I love about the music we come up with, is that we try to find that relevance with the audience. We’re all going through very similar things.”
From there, we reach “Heaven,” a fun and celebratory conclusion that features the always-welcome and increasingly-rare rock and roll keyboard solo. “Heaven” was written in tribute to Musco’s grandmother, who lived with the singer and her family before passing away while Musco was in high school.
“I wish I had the ability to go back in time. Not to make the relationship right, because there was never anything wrong with it, but I would have tried to improve it,” Musco stated. “It’s a celebration to us being OK.”
“Heaven” is one of Musco’s favorite songs to perform live, as it allows her to convey the power of a loving relationship, while also affording her band the opportunity to show off their chops.
“In the middle of ’Heaven,’ there’s a breakdown. If you come to our live shows, that’s where we really try to get to that emotion,” Musco said. “It has a tension build into this whole different set of lyrics. That’s me trying to impact the audience through my relationship with my grandmother.”
Impacting a growing audience
Since the release of Forever, Musco’s profile has grown on the independent music circuit. The title track alone has been streamed more than 46,000 times on Spotify since its release, with its accompanying video receiving more than 18,000 views on YouTube in that time.
“After they listened to it on Spotify, 18,000 of those people wanted to go see the video,” Musco noted. “That’s where I’m like, ‘OK, let’s keep it going. Let’s keep the momentum and the content solid. People are listening now.’”
More than just numbers, however, are the impacts Musco is witnessing her music have on other people – including friends and strangers alike.
“I’ve had people I haven’t spoken to since high school reach out and ask when our shows are. It just reassures me that what I’m doing is helping people,” Musco said. “If they’re going out of their way to reach out to me and say, ‘I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I lost my sister. I’m listening to ‘Heaven’ and I’m crying,’ I know it’s working for the most part and has meaning. It got to people, it’s helping them, and they’re listening.”
“There’s always more.”
After releasing Forever and touring the U.S. throughout the summer, Musco looks forward to continuing to build on the buzz. That includes Saturday, August 24, when she and her band will perform the official Forever release show at Debonair Music Hall in Teaneck, NJ.
“The reason that we didn’t have the release show prior to tour is that I want that show to be one of my favorite memories of my entire life,” Musco said. “I didn’t want to rush it. I wanted to make sure everything is very well thought-out. It deserves the amount of time that we put in the studio, and in writing and the instrumentation, to do it right.”
Then, rolling out more content is the name of the game. This includes releasing music videos for “Not Enough” and the other tracks on Forever, while always keeping an eye on what’s next.
“We already have two or three singles that we are ready to go in, record, and release throughout the winter,” Musco said. “I want to keep that momentum going. We’re having so much fun.”
Listen to the Forever EP below, and learn more about the Aug. 24 release show at this link.