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Interview: Bridges

Posted by Lee Densem

Leaving Troubled Waters Behind

Bridges debut EP is here. And fair warning, it deals with some pretty heavy issues. As we dive deep, there are certainly bridges that have been built and crossed. And for Bridges and her journey of personal growth and recovery, it seems like there’s no looking back.

The first time I came across Bridges was when the song ‘Pills’ came across my desk last year (well email really, as physical music doesn’t exist that much any more!). It was love at first listen, so I’ve been intrigued to see and hear more, especially now the EP ‘Twenty Something’ has just been released. There’s a depth of experience in there which I didn’t expect – but I now understand. And I can only applaud Rachel for being so open and willing to share.

Bridges started in 2019 as a way to test the waters for a new project. After moving to Auckland and leaving her acoustic/singer-songwriter roots behind in Christchurch, Bridges says she tried to separate the two, “That's where the idea of Bridges came about. I was moving from one music genre to another, and that also matched where I was growing as a person in my 20s as well.”

“I thought violins were a really rare instrument”

Her history with music extends back well into her early days in Ōtautahi, Having a music teacher for a parent it was an obvious path to be explored.

“I started playing Suzuki violin when I was about four. It was a tiny three-quarter size one. I remember at the time I thought violins were a really rare instrument. And I'm going to be so cool playing it. Clearly, I'd never been to an orchestra! So I learned that for like 6 years and it was really helpful to train my ear. You move your fingers slightly and the entire note changes. Now I play guitar and I just chuck my finger on a fret and it sounds good.”

“I had a grand piano in the house growing up, which I also thought was normal. Turns out that it’s not, but I was very, very lucky to have instruments everywhere. There were guitars around as my Dad's a guitar teacher, so I started teaching myself guitar at 13. I wanted to write songs and I was getting a little bit sick of singing and choir and just wanted to sing by myself and be a pop star.”

“The music got a bit darker”

After starting to write music at 15, and gigging around Christchurch in her final year of school, it took the post-earthquake scene and a snap decision to move to Auckland to put Bridges on her current track. Studying a Bachelor of Music drove her to push new boundaries and try new things, while delving back into her past.

“I was diagnosed with depression at 17 and then PTSD. So part of my journey as a person was unlocking a lot of feelings, like anger. It turns out I was really angry about a few things, which is kind of what depression was for me. I was in my early 20s, having moved to Auckland, I started going to therapy and was like, whoa, I'm feeling all of these, like, really dark feelings. And I want the music to match.”

“I'm quite a smiley person, and I think people see me as a blonde female so they're like, ‘ohh, so sweet!’ I love challenging a stereotype. So yes, I'm gonna play electric guitar. And yes, I'm gonna write some pretty angsty stuff. And it's gonna be heavy hitting, and it's probably not what you expect. So as I unlocked those feelings, yeah, the music got a bit darker.”

“the truest and most honest version of myself”

Songs also became therapy for Bridges. “It was a really good way to just feel like myself when I didn't quite have the words to tell people what was going on inside,” she says.

“Music has always been where I feel like I'm the truest and most honest version of myself. When I was creating this Bridges sound, I was being really honest and and writing all of this really atmospheric, big, cinematic music. People would hear it and be like, ‘Ah, is it actually how you feel?’ So that's what music was really good for. And it is still.

“it really is like my whole life”

A first release can call on a wide timeframe of work thanks to the blank space before it. For Bridges, the oldest track on the EP (‘Gone’) is eight years old. So as the title suggests, it really does span her 20s.

“I wrote ‘Pills’ maybe two years ago, and then the title track of the EP, which is called ‘Twenty Something’ I wrote about six weeks ago. I just really needed a fifth song for the whole thing to make sense. It's quite a simple song and it pulls lyrics from all of the other songs and ties it together.”

“The talking at the start of ‘Twenty Something’ starts with clip from a home video of me chatting on the phone as a three-year old. Then it changes to a clip of me doing an interview about five weeks ago. So it really is like my whole life.”

“All these songs are from different periods of my 20s and they're all leaning towards slightly different genres, but that's also kind of the point. I feel like that's what you're doing in your 20s as you're evolving and you're finding your identity.”

In the process, Bridges has turned into an unintended activist for mental health. Besides her family and close friends, her lyrics and music were the first clue into what she had been through. But she explains that this was a driving force behind why.

“I wanted to do it because I'm all about just wanting to say things how it is. But I had to feel OK in myself, which is why it's taken so long to put it out, to be able to talk about this. I feel like it's really, really important.”

“Some people don't know what to say, but that's OK. I just let people sit with it and if it's not for them that that's fine. But I think it's surprised a few people.”

“I played a gig last week, a solo set to a room of 30 people. I always get nervous after I play. Like, ‘was that too heavy? Did I just did I bring the mood down? Are people feel uncomfortable?’ A few people that I don't know came to talk to me and said it just felt like a really privileged insight into my life and world. I guess that's what music is, you invite people to connect with you.”

“For me, it's important that I'm honest because I tried to hide my depression for so long. When I started being honest about it, that's when I started being able to heal and move on. That’s why it's important for me to keep writing really honest music.”

“Relief and pride”

Releasing a record is a time for reflection and positive one if the smiles are anything to go by. While it should come as no surprise to someone that’s dreamed of doing this since the age of 15, the hurdles Rachel has overcome have been immense.

“I started writing songs when I was 15 and I was pretty on track. And then that I got the PTSD diagnosis and that really put a pause on it. And I thought maybe I'll never get to a place where I'll be able to get myself and my brain in to gear to release this.”

“But in the last year I’m the healthiest and most recovered I've been, so that's why it's all kind of happened now. It's this momentous thing for me. I'm really proud of the music and that it captures kind of what I've been through all in this. It feels like so many things, but relief and pride are probably the two. Yeah, I feel proud of it.”

Bridges EP ‘Twenty Something’ is out now and available on Spotify and all good streaming services. She's taking her live show on the road before Christmas too. You can catch her hometown show in Christchurch at Space Academy on Sat 25 Nov, then at Big Fan in Auckland on Fri 8 Dec. Details and tickets from Bridges' website.