Devil on My Shoulder
As her sincere words float among bittersweet melodies, the following for Neeley Bridges continues to gain momentum, compelling some to consider the singer/songwriter to be a guiding voice for a generation of wayward twenty-somethings. Her lyrics chime with a pre-industrial soulfulness, singing of contemporary problems with the charm of simpler times and replacing worries with the solace of heartfelt understanding. The North Carolina native blends her country and bluegrass roots with the folk influenced singer/songwriter movement of the Northeast, building her songs on a foundation of beautiful melodies and vocal harmonies, creating music rich in layers and emotions. The graceful vocals and introspective songsmithing have earned comparisons to Emmylou Harris and early Joan Baez, and while flattered, Bridges is unceasing in the effort to carve a niche of her own. Neeley Bridges has spent a life immersed in music; her multi-instrumental talent is only surpassed by her penchant for singing. Already a well known name in many theater circles, Bridges studied musical theater at New York University's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts and was featured in numerous shows across the country and throughout New York City. While in college she was given her father's second-hand guitar and taught herself to play, tinkering around to build songs that grew increasingly complex as her skills heightened. After years of writing as a form of personal therapeutic release, creating music on the guitar became more instinctual, allowing Neeley to access a new level of creativity and personal expression. The guitar and piano work as natural accompaniments, but foremost Bridges is a singer, from an early age modeling her voice after the likes of Sarah McLachlan, K.D. Lang, and Patsy Cline. Appropriately, her vocal versatility has garnered much praise, seamlessly shifting from the theater's demands of precise enunciation to the challenge of emotive-driven folk singing. She credits much of her songwriting prowess to being surrounded by an extremely analytical family (both parents are mental health professionals) and thus developing a tendency to deeply dissect her problems. Her immense understanding of musical theory has also given the songstress a great deal of control in the creative process, handling much of her own editing, mixing and engineering. Bridges is the idealization of the independent musician, demanding pursuit of her artistic vision without apologies or concessions to critics and mainstream expectations; in the modern music age such deep sentimentality is a refreshing trait. Her debut album, Devil On My Shoulder, was crafted amid the burgeoning art community of Astoria (Queens, NYC) at the Deafchild Foundry and co-produced with sound engineer Michael Prieto. Collectively, the album can be considered a coming of age anthem for young adults, touching on many themes central to the struggles of quarter-life, such as avoiding fixation on the future and appreciating the present (On The Ground), embracing uncertainty (Tomorrow), accepting compromise in relationships (Give an Take), and the importance of independent thought and questioning social norms (Think For Yourself). The song from which the album title is taken, "Sobering Up", serves as an overarching contemplation of young adulthood, as Bridges allows listeners intimate access to her path of accepting personal responsibility for her life. Easily one of the most heartfelt and powerful songs on the record, "Damage" is an homage to Bridges' mother and her bravery in dealing with a lifelong physical ailment. Her ability to match the melodic tone with the emotional feel of a song is complimented by the diverse array of instruments used on the record, including cello (Julia Kost), fiddle (Matt Mancuso), and banjo (Mike Savino). The album, although brooding at times, is filled with an underlying optimism and joy, somewhat characteristic of her bluegrass influences. Devil On My Shoulder has a dramatic range of appeal, especially for fans of artists like Dar Williams, Hem, the aforementioned McLachlan, and Joni Mitchell. Looking forward, Neeley Bridges is continually developing her sound and already working towards her next album. She can be found playing live throughout the Northeast, in both full band and stripped down acoustic sets.