Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott and newcomer Bailey Bryan recently teamed up with Cracker Barrel as part of the restaurant’s 50th anniversary campaign Five Decades, One Voice. The new initiative aims to support and recognize women in the country genre by partnering veteran female artists with emerging acts for mentorship.
The program, which launches July 9, has several acts partnering on duet performances as well as sharing their perspective on the music industry with one another. Ahead of Scott and Bryan recording a cover of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” which Billboard premieres exclusively today (Sept. 6), the two women sat down for a candid discussion of the hurdles they face as country artists and why they choose to champion their fellow female singers.
“As a woman, music business aside, it’s hard enough,” Scott says, settling into a couch at Nashville’s Wilburn Street Studio. “To have a sisterhood of people around you [is important]. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, and I’m still continuing to learn, is healthy competition is a beautiful thing. But, when it crosses over into comparison and you’re trying to make yourself something you’re not, that is where it gets really unhealthy no matter what you’re doing.
“That comparison, it’s such a thief of joy to me,” she continues, before turning to address Bryan who is seated beside her. “I think one of the things that gravitates me towards Bailey so much is how you are your own person. You embrace everything that sets you apart from everyone else around you. I think the more we can do that as women and support one another, celebrate the ways in which we are alike and the ways in which we’re different, the healthier it will be for the overall format.”
Bryan, 21, first met Scott at a dinner party when she was 16. The pair were scheduled to have a co-write shortly after. Scott, 33, says serving as a mentor to younger females in partnership with Cracker Barrel is “everything that my heart yearns to be able to do… using what was given to me by so many other artists before me, and to be able to pass that on.”
Bryan says having the support of seasoned artists like Scott has made her realize how important it is to encourage others within the industry. “If we can be that constant for each other, then that’s how we’re going to keep rising,” Bryan says. “There’s unexpected challenges every single step of way. I think the biggest challenge for me has been to hold really tight to and be aware of the things that make me who I am and be unapologetic about that.”
Scott chimes in, adding that Kacey Musgraves is the perfect example of a female holding true to who she is. “She has one of the most incredible albums ever and is having this amazing journey right now. That doubt creeps in, but she stuck to who she is, what she wanted to say, and made an exceptional album and now she’s seeing and reaping the rewards of that.”
Having released seven albums with Lady Antebellum as well one album with her faith-based side project, Hillary Scott & the Scott Family, Scott admits even she has had several missteps over the years while Bryan listens attentively.
“I could go so surface as hair color or bangs,” she admits with a laugh, before getting serious. “There’s definitely been moments where, whether it’s a single choice … I’ve loved all of our songs that we released for different reasons, but I would be really dishonest if I said that there weren’t some that we were trying to figure out because the industry and our genre has changed so much since we came on the scene. There were moments where looking back, hindsight is 20/20.
“We were probably reaching a little bit more than what was natural and genuine and organic to us. It’s hard to name one [single] because I would never want to disrespect the writers that wrote those songs with us because every song has served its own purpose,” she continues. “But, I think that’s the beauty of looking back and giving ourselves space and time to reflect because that’s really when you learn. We were going so hard, so fast for so many years that I think it took us a bit to find the time to stop and go, ‘Okay, so what do we do well? What do we differently?’ and try to not repeat the same thing.”
Bryan reflected on her own journey, admitting that she is a very different person now at 21 than when she was at 18 releasing her first EP. “Life is just a rotating wheel of constant uncertainty,” she says. “If we had all the answers, then there would be no reason to have faith and that’s the most beautiful part of any process.” Scott then jumps in, adding some sage advice she has frequently been given by her husband: “Sometimes it’s OK to not know.”
Scott and Bryan each chose one of their own songs to perform together, including Lady Antebellum’s “Downtown” and Bryan’s “Perspective” — as well as a cover of Parton’s “9 to 5” — as part of Cracker Barrel’s Five Decades, One Voice initiative. Both women admit that while studying Parton’s lyrics, they realized how forward-thinking the country legend’s “9 to 5” was. “All women should go read the second verse,” Bryan notes.
“It’s so far ahead of its time; the movie and the song,” Scott says. “The plight of being a woman in business and feeling that we have the same voice and that our voice is as loud [as a man’s], and all those things that she says so eloquently.”
While the lack of females on country radio has been an ongoing conversation throughout much of 2019, Bryan says the current plight of women at radio is motivation for her to continue to put out the most bold music she can.
“It would be easy to get bitter, but I think a lot of us are just like, ‘I’m going to make something undeniable and great and different,’” Bryan says. “I might as well make something that I’m super proud of and encourage all the other women around me to do the same thing. And, if we’re all doing that, then eventually, they’re just going to have to get on board.”
Scott and Bryan’s cover of “9 to 5” is below.