“I had no idea how big the potential was for it … I just knew it was a good song,” says Bryce Vine (Bryce Ross-Johnson) about his chart-climbing single “Drew Barrymore,” which has racked up 22 million-plus streams on Spotify and 80 million streams for the singer overall.
The catchy track was released in November, but its steady incline in streaming and on Billboard’s rhythm and pop radio charts has earned new opportunities for the 30-year-old. Following Bryce’s interview with Billboard on July 19, he was preparing to perform an intimate iHeartRadio live showcase with Z100 that evening. His next big debut will be an appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers on Monday (Aug. 6), for his first-ever televised performance.
Bryce taught himself how to play guitar when he was 13 years old, inspired by the alternative rock sounds of Green Day, Third Eye Blind and Blink-182. He relocated to the West Coast when he was around 6 or 7 and eventually settled in the Thousand Oaks area outside of LA. In high school, he and his friends formed a punk band called Goodsell, where he discovered his niche for singing, despite feeling hesitant at the mic at first.
“Just by default I became a singer…nobody else could really sing and I had this deep voice. I wasn’t really comfortable singing, but someone needed to sing the songs and I just did it,” he explains. “We played our first show in like a backyard of a friend’s house and I was terrified. And then we started playing venues around the area — little crappy ones like Cobalt Cafe, which is like where everyone starts. Whisky a Go Go on Sunset.”
He ventured back to the East Coast to attend Berklee College of Music, also home to Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Charlie Puth. While at Berklee he created his stage name “Bryce Vine.” The term “Vine” is a shorter version of “Vinyl” — originating, he says, from his love of vinyls and singing jazz at school.
Then, there was buzz around campus about auditions for The Glee Project, a reality show to find a rising star to join the cast of Glee. After a phone conservation with his mom, Bryce decided to audition (although, he admits that he had never watched an episode of Glee). His decision would ultimately lead him to drop out of college and jumpstart his professional music career.
Bryce sent in his audition tape, a cover of “Gold Digger” by Kanye West, via Myspace. He found success on the show, eventually making it to the top 12. Although he was the first to get eliminated after making the top 12, he credits the show for establishing his fanbase.
“It wasn’t for me. I kind of knew that immediately when I got there. You’re singing Katy Perry and Bruno Mars songs and I’m like, ‘This is not really me, but OK. This is still a great start.’ It helped me gain fans like right off the bat.”
Bryce never returned to Berklee after his elimination from the show. Instead, he moved to the studio — reuniting with Berklee friend and now current producer Nolan Lambroza (Sir Nolan), whose first cut was Justin Bieber and Ludacris’ hit “All Around the World.” He quickly released three songs and started working on his debut EP Lazy Fair — the name inspired by a little electric boat from the lake he’d lived on in Thousand Oaks called “laissez-faire.” “I like playing with words like that,” he adds.
Bryce started to establish his own music style, which he describes now as “If Blink-182, Gorillaz, Kid Cudi and Frank Ocean all got drunk and high and went into a jam session. Like that’s the kind of stuff they would come up with.” But in the two years between Lazy Fair and his second EP Night Circus, Bryce’s life had entered darkness, evolving his music and turning songwriting into a therapy.
“I went through heartbreak and cynicism and stress trying to be like a broke musician in LA like everyone else,” he says. “I hated telling people that I was an artist when I had nothing to show for it. It felt dumb to say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m an artist and I make music, and we should collab.’ I just kept working towards it but it was hard…when you get cynical it’s hard to get out of that.”
Following his second EP, Bryce put out a string of singles including “Sunflower Seeds,” “The Fall,” “Bella” and his most notable single to date “Drew Barrymore.” From conceptualization to its final version, “Drew Barrymore” was a long process where Bryce faced two challenges: writing a love song without mentioning anything about a girl’s physical features and finding the right hook to round it off.
“The whole concept was about this girl who you have a connection with and she’s got something special about her. But I was really trying hard not to focus on talking about looks. Every love song that I hear where you talk about how special a girl is ends up talking about how beautiful she is physically,” he adds. “I also had been trying to write this hook and could not figure it out with a couple different writers.”
He finally found the missing puzzle piece when he came across Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Julia Michaels‘ idea for the song written a few years prior. He inserted the hook over a completely different beat and played it for his team — it worked. Taylor Swift had even taken a liking to the infectious tune, including the song on her Apple Music favorites playlist. “She’s exactly the kind of person you want that acknowledgement from. It was a really big deal for me,” he says.
Bryce is now preparing to release his debut album with Sire Records. His new music is “elevated,” he says, as he tries to focus on creating music that is still “poppy.”
“There’s a song that I’m really excited to put out called ‘You.’ It’s almost like an islandy, beachy version of what I think Marvin Gaye might do now. I always like to come up with what artists that I already like would do if they work together.”
In regards to future collaborations on the album, Bryce confesses that he would be down to collaborate with any artists he thinks are “dope.”
“There’s this writer who’s also a artist that I’ve been working with, I spent like a week writing with her, she goes by Weslee. I just reached out to Cautious Clay and he’s down to work together. He’s got this swag like, it’s special,” he adds. “I just look for people like that…as long as they can bring something to the table.”
Bryce is also getting ready to go on tour with MAX, appearing on select U.S. tour dates this fall. “He hit me up like a week after we had written our song ‘Can’t Get Enough’; hopefully it will be out by the time we tour. And he was like, ‘We should definitely tour together.’”
Check out Bryce’s upcoming tour dates with MAX below.
10/30 Minneapolis, MN* – Fine Line Music Café
10/31 Chicago, IL* – Bottom Lounge
11/1 Detroit, MI* – El Club
11/2 Columbus, OH* – The Basement
11/3 Pittsburgh, PA* – Club AE
11/4 Toronto, ON* – Velvet Underground
11/6 Montreal, QC* – L’Astral
11/7 Boston, MA* – The Sinclair
11/9 Washington, DC* – 9:30 Club
11/10 Philadelphia, PA* – Theatre of Living Arts
11/13 New York, NY* – Irving Plaza