In the four years since Danielle Bradbery won Season 4 of The Voice, she’s had three hits on country radio (including “Heart of Dixie,” which reached No. 12 on Country Airplay in 2014) and toured with the likes of Brad Paisley, Hunter Hayes, Miranda Lambert, and Thomas Rhett and Brett Eldredge. With those accomplishments on her post-Voice resume, it’s almost hard to believe she’s only released one album.
But with the release of her latest single “Sway,” the freshly 21-year-old singer is finally ready to add another LP to her discography — and to show the world the artist she’s grown to be since 2013. On Dec. 1, Bradbery will release I Don’t Believe We’ve Met, a 10-song album that documents her transformation from timid 16-year-old to a multi-faceted artist while also giving fans a deeper look into who she is.
“This album is kind of a reintroduction of myself. Compared to the first album, I didn’t know and I didn’t get to tell fans exactly who I was,” Bradbery tells Billboard. “Now that I’m 21, there is a lot more to me than 16 year old Danielle.”
The album also marks Bradbery’s songwriting debut, as she co-wrote seven of the 10 tracks with some veteran songwriters including her “go-to girls” in Nashville (Emily Weisband) and LA (Shari Short). Ahead of the big announcement, Billboard caught up with Bradbery to discuss how she’s grown since winning The Voice, trying her hand at songwriting, and why she’s ready to leave the shyness behind.
Check out our chat with Bradbery and the I Don’t Believe We’ve Met track list below.
What’s the story behind the title I Don’t Believe We’ve Met?
My first album [2013’s Danielle Bradbery], people looked at me as the blonde young girl on The Voice — there’s nothing wrong with that because that’s exactly who I was back then, but now it’s more of this is a part of me that not many people know.
It’s not only just the stories and lyrics, but even the feel of the songs — the way that the beats are, and some of them are not too, too country. I was listening to so many different types of music growing up… my dad’s side of the family loves listening to country, and my mom’s side of the family loves to dance, listening to hip-hop, rap and Latin music, and so I literally was around a little bit of everything. I love to weave as much of that inspiration as I can. I want to share with everybody that I have different tastes too.
Did you contemplate any other album titles?
I remember us talking about this title Naked, and that’s really weird now that I think about it. It’s the same concept, that [the album is] really stripped down, really honest, no tweaks — some of these are the actual demos. We wanted to keep that vulnerable feel to it. We were like, ‘That’s risky, but who cares?’ Then we thought about it, and were like, ‘Let’s not do that anymore.’ [Laughs]
How I Don’t Believe We’ve Met came about was actually kind of a random conversation. I was meeting these people, shook their hands and said, “I don’t believe we’ve met,” and my manager or somebody said, “Whoa, that’s a really cool album title,” and I freaked out like, “Oh, my god. That’s it! That’s it!”
What was it like stepping into a songwriting session for the first time?
I was terrified at first, because I didn’t know how to even start a song. You get into these rooms with these people you’ve never met before, and me being so young, they’re all a lot older than me and I was thinking to myself, “Okay, I have to get into this room with these people and tell my deepest darkest secrets, that’s great.” [Laughs]. But it’s really not that bad.
These writers have been through so much and they even share secrets themselves. They have been around with so many amazing, bigger artists, and I had to really think about that. You gain a friendship with these people — they really look out for me and try to pull things out of me. They help me with the motivation and the confidence in the writing room.
Is there a song that had an especially vulnerable creation process?
The song “Messy,” it’s about a relationship — all relationships can be like a rollercoaster, whether you’re together or not. I was just not having the best day and I was trying to be professional and keep it all together. When some of the people left the studio, it was just me and the two writers and they were like, “Are you okay?” I was like, “No, I’m really not.”
We just started talking just about life and how, again, relationships can be hard and you have these big bumps in the road you try to overcome. I just wanted to let it out and told them stories that I normally really wouldn’t tell anybody, and we made a song out of it. I went in the recording booth and they turned down the lights and lit a candle — it was all about the mood. Literally, when I say [songwriting] is like a therapy session, it is like a therapy session [Laughs]. That was one that was really a lot of deep secrets.
Do you think you gained enough confidence to write on your own eventually?
I think I’m getting there, that would be a goal of mine. For me, I’m trying to be a little bit of everything lyrically and melodically. I’m trying to learn from all of these writers that are just pros at it. I’ve taken a lot of mental notes and learned a lot, so hopefully I’ll try to write a song by myself… and maybe not show it to anybody afterwards [Laughs].
Is there anything you learned from your time on The Voice that you were able to use in the creation of this album?
The Voice is almost like a boot camp for this industry. Blake [Shelton], being my coach, it was awesome because he was the total opposite of how shy I was. He was like, “You’re not gonna keep being this shy, you need to break out of it.” He didn’t want me to hold back. It was the overall experience that stuck with me.
Does it feel like it’s been four years since you were on the show?
Sometimes it feels even longer than four years and sometimes I feel like it was just yesterday [Laughs]. I know I’ve grown up a lot and I’ve done a lot of things that I wouldn’t back then. But I still feel like I’m that girl sometimes and I’m still trying to figure it out. As for the big moment of winning The Voice, I feel like that was just yesterday — even when I catch it on TV sometimes, I feel that feeling all over again.
I Don’t Believe We’ve Met track list
What Are We Doing
Can’t Stay Mad
Red Wine + White Couch