omg: Baylor, you’ve had some television experience, right? Tell us about being on Survivor.
Baylor: It was honestly the hardest experience of my life. I lost 21 pounds, I got a parasite, I was starving in the jungle. There were monkeys living over my head- like, howling monkeys. It was kind of terrifying. There were really mean people. That’s probably the most difficult part- the people, the mental paranoia and game playing. I hate this, but you had to lie and manipulate- all the things I am not. My heart and my character is not who I was on the show. It was an incredible experience, but it was the most difficult experience of my life. That was four years ago, and I’m still coming out of it. It was almost like an abusive relationship that I’m breaking up with still. Yeah, Survivor was insane, but I’m really glad I did it. I got to see parts of myself that most people never get to see of themselves. I think everyone in the world should live for one week outside, have no phone, find your own food- okay, maybe not a week. *laughs* Maybe just three days, but it really does show you the layers of who you are, what you can handle and what’s important to you. I didn’t have a phone there. I didn’t see civilization. There were no planes over my head, no boats in the water. It was just me and the other people playing the game. My mom happened to be there on my season, but that was even hard. It added a whole new layer of responsibility for each other. All in all though, it was really nice having her there. Without her, I probably would have quit. Praise the Lord I didn’t, because I made it to the top five- what up! The way I describe it to people is that you’re dropped off in the middle of nowhere with 17 other people that are the exact opposite of you. They do these personality tests before you get on the show to make sure that you are not going to get along, which is twisted, but it’s part of it. I came back and I remember relating it so much to music. It’s a game, and music is a game. As much as industry people don’t like to admit that, it is. You have to know people, you have to be able to deal with all sorts of people. It wasn’t the same in the sense that you needed to claw your way to the top- I think if you do that in the industry you’re going to fall. But you do have to work hard, make alliances and overcome challenges. It has made me such a strong artist and businesswoman. I am able to relate with every personality type now. I feel so much better about trusting people now, too.
omg: Wow, you wouldn’t think Survivor would have that much impact on a music career. Did your Belmont education impact it, too?
Baylor: Heck yeah! I’m actually going to back up on how I got to Belmont. I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and my mom owned a cheerleading gym. I was a competitive cheerleader- constantly in a sports bra and spandex, bossing everyone around, because I was the coach’s kid. Competitive cheerleading was my life- stunts, tumbling, all that. In 2012, I was in Norman, Oklahoma trying out for the University of Oklahoma’s cheerleading team, which was a big deal. To eighteen-year-old me, that was my dream. A couple years before that, I had picked up a guitar in my room. I didn’t know I could play, I was just messing around. I taught myself to play “Wonderwall” and “Blackbird” and started playing. I started loving it and writing my own songs, but I told no one, because I was an athlete. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had this artsy side. So back to 2012, I go down to Norman with my mom, who was going through a divorce at the time, which was messy in and of itself. She was kind of a hot mess- love her! She would laugh at that, leave that in there. *laughs* And I was a mess, worrying about not making the team. So there we were, these two little Texas women staying at this bed and breakfast in Oklahoma going through our own life crises. It was the tiniest place, too. We totally thought we were the only people staying there, but we weren’t. There was this band that was staying there. There was a tour bus in the back, and the lady that runs the bed and breakfast asked me where I was going to school. I told her maybe Oklahoma, and she asked what my other options were. I told her applied to Belmont because another friend did, and she goes, “Nashville?! Guess what band’s here!” And I was like, “Who?” She said, “The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.” I had to ask my mom who they were. *laughs* Long story short, that whole Saturday afternoon, we spent hours and hours with the band on the front porch in Norman, Oklahoma in May of 2012. Even when I tell that story, to this day, it doesn’t seem real. It seems like an out-of-body experience. The lead singer of that band told me to move to Nashville. I had my guitar and played him some songs. It was all just perfect, aligned, like it was supposed to happen. So Jeff Hanna, the lead of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is the reason I’m in Nashville. He is the one that called Belmont for me and got me back in, because I had already enrolled at OU. I moved to Nashville in 2012, started at Belmont and still even cheered there my freshman year. After the first year at Belmont, I decided to go all in with music. I finally listened to the Lord and said, “Okay, I realize it’s my gift. I’ll give up everything else. I can do this.” I haven’t looked back since. Belmont has been an enormous blessing. I’m not a school girl- I was the one that showed up late to class and begged the teacher to let me pass.I worked hard, I just wasn’t the best student. My junior year, I did the Country Showcase and won. I got to do the Best of the Best Showcase, which is like Belmont’s version of The Voice. During that experience, I met my first producer, Luke Wooten, who produces anyone from Dierks Bentley to Brad Paisley to anyone up and coming. He’s great. He was a judge there and basically brought me to Seagayle for my publishing deal. Belmont really was the starting point to the career. The connections that I made there allowed me to make this a profession, not just some dream that a lot of us have. I was so grateful. My freshman year, I set this goal that I was going to sign a publishing deal by senior year, and I did it. I was so excited. February of my senior year, I signed at Seagayle. I freaked out. We had a party and I got a bounce house and everything- it was amazing.
omg: How is writing with a producer different than writing with just other writers or artists?
Baylor: I love writing with a producer. Luke and I have actually never written together. He worked on my first project and recently this new music coming out, I have a new producer that I did start writing with at first. I didn’t even consider him a producer- we just called him a track guy. He had a track built for me the first time we wrote, just the bare bones of it, and he was like “We can do something different than this if you want.” And I was like, “No way.” I loved it. His name is Andrew Petroff. He’s just so cool. He works with David Nail and Sheryl Crow and Lanco. He’s really this out-of-the-box producer guy. Being able to write with him and create songs is incredible. We built my sound together. That’s what I had been looking for for a while. It’s hard- I can’t, with an acoustic guitar, play live and make you hear the production. When I met Andrew, he was so different and original and unique. I’m like his only real country female that he’s working with. It’s really cool.
omg: Going back to your goal of getting that deal by senior year- Was there something about Seagayle that drew you in?
Baylor: I’ve always been the type of girl that’s half tomboy, half boujee. That’s me in a nutshell. Like right now, I can rock the just got out of the shower, no makeup vibe, but I also like nice dinners and nice shoes. When I was going through this publishing deal process, dating all these publishers, Luke Wooten brought me to two different publishers, and then there was this outside person on the side that was talking to us. I took both meetings within a week, and the deal that Seagayle offered me was A) just better and B) when I met everyone here, we sat in this room we’re interviewing in, and everyone looked at me like “We believe in you. We’re all in for the long haul.” It wasn’t like a half-in, half-out relationship. I just felt at home immediately. It’s funny, though, because when I was first signed, my sound and my songs were pretty Nashville country. There’s nothing wrong with that- I love that. But now that Andrew has his hands on my stuff, it’s turning California country with this gypsy flair. I love it. Everyone here’s so country, which keeps me in my roots. They’ve all been such a support system. They’re my musical family- an actual functioning family. *laughs* I’m so grateful.
omg: Do you have any exciting things coming up?
Baylor: I just released two songs, and I’m stoked about them- “New Light” and “Can’t Help But Break.” The exciting part is really just everything new! New music, more music coming. As far as timeline, I’m not sure. We’re going to wait it out and see how “New Light” does on the Wild Country playlist on Spotify. I feel so blessed and honored to be in a playlist with people that are on that one. Other than that, I’m working on music videos, working on solidifying my brand. I think you gotta live to solidify a brand, you can only plan so much. But yeah, more music, more videos, more everything! I finally get to share everything I’ve been listening to in my car with everyone else- that’s crazy.
omg: It sounds like you’re in a really awesome place. We’re excited to see where your journey takes you next!
Baylor: You know, we’ve all seen that quote on Pinterest talking about the journey is so much more important than the destination. You get to grow as a human being. Plus the people around you are so important. I think some artists get to that point they’ve been working toward and forget to look left and right at the people that helped them get there. These people were the stair steps helping them. I have surrendered all my plans and agenda. I’m going to be driven and determined, but not this drill sergeant that I’ve been in the past. I’ve got my team and my music, and I’m just ready. I’ve been working with William Morris and they’ve done a great job of getting my shows. Last year, I did a house tour. That was so unbelievably fun. My friend Jordyn Shellhart and I were kind of sick of Nashville. We played Bluebird one night, and when we walked out, we were like, “Let’s get out of here.” I made it a big story thing. We called it “The Real Friends Tour.” We put out a video and we were like, “If you’re our real friend, you’ll host us at your house and feed us Chick-Fil-A, and let us sing for you for free. Just tip us, so we don’t run out of gas and die.” And people did! We went to 17 cities in my big red Jeep. We took a GoPro and filmed the whole thing. It was crazy. The shows are picking up again though. We’re heading up to the mountains in North Carolina. But yes- exciting things coming up!