"Wanderlust” is a strong impulse that entices us to explore. It can refer to geographic unrest, or it can refer to conceptual curiosity. And in the case of Soren Bryce and her sweetly serendipitous ascent into the music world, it can be both.
A sense of sonic adventure led this singer-songwriter to her unmistakable ethereal, pop sound (more on that later). But first she felt a deep urge to venture outside of Amarillo—Bryce’s flat, dusty Texan hometown—for Los Angeles. Working as a teen actress on the West Coast set off a ripple effect of encounters which would lead her to one of her biggest fans, heavyweight producer David Kahne (Lana Del Rey, Ingrid Michaelson).
"Amarillo is my hometown and I love it, but I wanted to see what else is out there. I wanted to have more opportunity and California offered that,” says Bryce, whose self-titled EP drops in August 2015 (on Washington Square/Razor & Tie), along with its dreamy first single "Ride With You,” a meditation on modern dating. "But everything happened really, really fast!”
Though she’s played the violin since age 10 and started writing songs at the age of 8, Bryce always thought her ticket out of Amarillo was going to be acting. Shepherded from Texas to California by her grandparents (her parents stayed back home to care for her siblings), Bryce would work random acting jobs, which included everything from an X-Box commercial to indie films.
When back home, Bryce, who grew up listening to her dad’s classic-rock collection, taught herself guitar to impress a guy. Soon after, she discovered what she refers to as "pissed-off folk,” such as Ani DiFranco and Ben Howard. With the encouragement of a friend who worked in a guitar shop, she started writing proper songs. "Originally, it was just a process to see if I liked it or not. And I ended up really liking it,” she says. Songwriting proved a profound release for her. "When I first started writing, I was super-prolific. I think I wrote a song a day.”
Today, Bryce estimates she has written between 100 and 150 songs, covering a range of emotions. Some, like the more rock "Stick It” are playful anthems beaming with confidence; others, such as the folkie "Newport” (written the night of her high-school prom) are quietly introspective compositions that give into insecurity. After hearing Bryce’s brightly confessional tracks on SoundCloud, her now-manager Beth Narducci reached out to her, encouraging her to explore a more hook-driven approach. "That really changed how I write,” Bryce says. "It doesn’t take the therapy-aspect out of it, but it made my songs more relatable to people.”
In fact, her compositions proved so compelling that Bryce managed to raise $10,000 on the crowd-sourcing PledgeMusic to record her debut EP. In need of a producer, Narducci reached out to Kahne. He asked Bryce to home-record demos of a handful of her favorite songs and enthusiastically signed on. "The first time I met him I’m pretty sure I was shaking,” she says. "He had literally recorded, like, three of my favorite artists in the past two years.”
Kahne captured her fire pretty quickly, building out her piano-based tracks with guitars and programmed percussion, mindful over never upstaging her vocals. All told, they recorded her six-song EP—a delicate whirl of lilting vocals and swelling melodics—in just a few weeks. "I was used to working with people with formulas,” she says of her previous studio experiences. "Dave was very organic. We recorded the basic song, and then we started messing around with all these other sounds. He’d come up with a part in a minute! It’s pretty awesome.”
Even more awesome: Her career is off to an auspicious start. "Paul McCartney and Dave are good friends. He was showing Paul how to use this new equipment and used my song ‘Stick It’ as an example. So basically Paul McCartney heard my song!” she says, squealing. "I am still freaking out. I don’t even know how to feel right now.” Though given her prodigious output, she’s probably already written a song about that, too.