“New Thoughts” is the collaboration of Oklahoma Christian University students Brianna Gaither and producer Kelcy White, but the debut EP, cut in a humble recording studio in a converted bedroom, may deserve a third credit – God.
Brianna’s songs tell stories about freedom, stress and escaping oppression. The acoustic CD has a day and night feel, alternating tracks between soothing, uplifting ambles through springtime meadows and somber, piano-heavy sojourns through valleys of dead trees and driving rain. The message is hope – new thoughts about new aspirations. Brianna and Kelcy both believe that message comes from God.
“I’ve always heard people describe her shows as a great experience, not just great music,” Kelcy says. “It’s not empty music. Her lyrics have depth and thought to them, as well as artistic merit. They’re not so much concerts as shared experiences.”
It can take Brianna up to three weeks to compose a new song, but sometimes, in moments when song-writing is farthest from Brianna’s mind, one comes to her. Fifteen minutes later, there’s a complete song, laid out and ready to play. Other times, while Brianna and Kelcy labor for hours in the studio, trying to figure out the best way to lay down a track, unexpected moments of epiphany come when they need them most. “We go through hours of frustration and 15 minutes of pure joy,” Kelcy says.
“It seems like our songs always come out a little better than our equipment should allow,” Brianna says.
“It also works out better than our abilities should allow,” Kelcy says. In addition to producing and recording the CD, he provides percussion, as well.
“My music is heavily spiritual,” Brianna says. “I get so much inspiration from God.” All of her songs are spiritual, even the ones in which it’s not explicit. There’s an ambiguity to the lyrics that broadens the music’s appeal, making the message behind it accessible to all. Her music is very open for interpretation – one line can have many different meanings.
“It’s my favorite thing in the world, to be able to express emotion. It’s so exciting to be able to put words to the things that I feel and experience,” Brianna says. “It’s been a way that I’ve expressed myself and connected with people.”
Brianna and Kelcy met in high school, but their love of music began long before that. “I’ve always loved to write and I’ve always loved to sing,” Brianna says. “It’s something I’ve always had a passion for.”
Music has always been a passion of Kelcy’s, as well. As a kid, he owned a maraca and a tambourine, and he drummed on a Cool Whip tub. Later, while Brianna followed the choir music path, Kelcy bent toward rock music. After playing in a few bands, he began building his recording studio, piece by piece. When Kelcy and Brianna started collaborating more than a year ago, the singer/song-writer realm of relaxing, coffee shop music, was new territory for him.
He says since they’ve been friends for so long, it’s easy for them to work together. “New Thoughts” is Kelcy’s first full production. The recording got him into UCO’s new Academy of Contemporary Music, where he hopes to develop as a producer.
It’s been only in the past three years that Brianna has worked with accompaniment. Before that, it was just her and a piano. Lately, she’s been teaching herself to play the guitar, and she’s created five guitar songs, two of which are on the CD.
“It’s been an inspiration for me to have this new instrument and have this new way of writing. It’s been really exciting,” she says.
Reception to “New Thoughts” has been positive, and Brianna’s fan base is growing. The disc enjoyed two CD release shows in April – one at OC, and the other at a church. The OC show, playing with a full band, is Brianna’s favorite memory of her journey so far. Kelcy says the show was supposed to be in the OC coffee shop, but so many people responded to the Facebook invitation that she moved it to a larger venue.
Kelcy’s favorite moment so far is a crowded show they played at Starbucks at the corner of Bryant Avenue and Memorial Road. “It was confirmation that it was a good move to work together,” he says. “People said, ‘I wanted to come, but I couldn’t open the door because someone’s back was against it.’ There were people everywhere. I didn’t expect that.”
Throughout June, Brianna will play all over Oklahoma, mostly in coffee shops. In July, she’ll tour Texas. Brianna’s next show will be June 10 at 8 p.m. at Will’s Cafe & Lobby Bar in Will Rogers Theatre. For more information about Brianna and Kelcy’s music, visit their web page at www.myspace.com/briannagaithermusic.