If you like Neko Case, Ashley Monroe or Emmylou Harris, you’ll love Victoria Bailey, the idiosyncratic, spirited and timeless young country singer from Huntington Beach.
One play of her new single, “The Beginning,” and you’ll imagine yourself in a low-lit Bakersfield honky-tonk listening to the greatest concert of your life. Bailey’s soprano head voice, the shimmering guitar, the iridescent pedal steel, it all casts from the opening notes a spell both classic and contemporary, an ode to an almost forgotten past that still sounds damn good today.
Sept. 26-28 | 8 p.m.
Moody’s Bistro, Bar & Beats | Truckee
She wrote the song as a wedding gift for a couple who met at one of her shows six months earlier.
“When I played it at their wedding, I cried that whole day, out of joy. I’m very emotional. It’s so unreal. I feel like music has a lot secret powers like that. I think it just confirms what I am doing,” says Bailey.
Ninety percent of Bailey’s material is autobiographical. The rest comes from books she happens to be reading at the time. A self-affirmed bibliophile, she recently wrote a tune for her 10-piece ensemble, The Jazz Cats, based on Harlem writer James Baldwin’s classic short story “Sonny’s Blues.”
“A song touching someone a certain way is the reason why I’m doing it all. Coming up to Truckee, it’s so awesome for new ears to be hearing our music.”
— Victoria Bailey
“It’s about the civil rights movement in Harlem in the 1950s, the power of music and how big of a role jazz music and jazz clubs played in that time,” she says.
Bailey tours the West Coast with her boyfriend, singer/songwriter Eric Roebuck, who is known for his work with the eternally eclectic Professor Colombo, as well as his newest project, Roebuck & The Two Dollar Bill Band.
“A song touching someone a certain way is the reason why I’m doing it all,” says Bailey. “Coming up to Truckee, it’s so awesome for new ears to be hearing our music.”
The guitar duo will harmonize on classic tunes by Dolly Parton, Neil Young, The Band and, of course, Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons after whom they’ve taken their particularly romantic California Country style.
“I’ve been singing in bars and little nightclubs for the past five years and I’ve learned so much,” says Bailey. “I’ve discovered my own sense of songwriting and met so many musicians playing in these little honky-tonks.”
Bailey and her country songwriting friends regularly gather at Mother’s Tavern in Sunset Beach to hang out and play music together.
“We have a good crew of people doing Country Western music in Orange County and L.A.,” says Bailey. “There’s a lot of old-school musicians, a little bit older than us playing Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings every weekend. We’re inspired by the same kind of music. I think that we all got here by listening to the right records.”
A few years ago, Bailey went on a month-long pilgrimage to Nashville, Tenn., for a little bit of musical inspiration.
“When I went there I wasn’t really playing country music yet,” she says. “On the first night, I stepped into the Station Inn, which is an old-school bluegrass spot with peanuts of the ground and beer only. It’s still my favorite place in the world. The most seasoned, awesome musicians are always playing in there. Aside from the country pop, there is a lot of traditional music preserved in Nashville.”
Another day she wandered into the Bluebird Café and ended up writing a song with a Rodney Crowell’s niece, Hannah Sutherland.
“It keeps you on your toes because everyone is so fast-paced there with songwriting and performing,” says Bailey. “Every little inch of the town has someone playing. Even the gas station has a bluegrass band out front.”
Back in California, Bailey continues to be motivated by the story in song format through which true country music has always persevered.
“I think storytelling will always be what stands out most in a song,” she says. “That’s how you write a country song. You have to tell a story about something that is so relatable to people. It’s also about preserving the sound of instruments that have been around for so many years. It’s from the heart. It’s not trying to be anything else. It’s not covered up. It’s string instruments and a story.”
Victoria Bailey plans to release her debut album in 2020. | moodysbistro.com