Bridgit Mendler has already released a platinum single (“Ready or Not”), dropped an album that went Top 30 on the Billboard charts and No. 1 on iTunes (Hello My Name Is…), and twice toured the U.S. Yet when she began working on her first studio recording in four years, she was nervous. “I had been performing and promoting for so long that I hadn’t caught up and figured out who I was. I wasn’t the same as the girl who made my debut album.”
She wanted her music to reach a new depth of vulnerability, of transparency—and she knew she had to do this by exploring her personal heartbreak through her love of writing. “Each of my songs,” explains the L.A.-based artist, “would be based on an unfiltered story from my life. This is what I have gone through and this is who I am because of it.”
The result is her new EP, Nemesis (out November 4th), a collection of self-assured and bittersweet relationship songs that entwine pop with hip-hop, alternative R&B, indie rock, even dancehall. It finds Brigit confidently bending her voice like a sonic shapeshifter navigating emotional bullets. If 2012’s Hello My Name Is… launched her out of the songwriting gate, Nemesis is the career-changing work that has tested Bridgit’s mettle.
This process came to an apex with her levitating debut single, “Atlantis.” Bridgit penned it in the studio with Book aka Mischa Chillak (Estelle), one of Nemesis’ two producers/co-songwriters along with Spencer Bastian (Demi Lovato). “He started playing a beat, and I wrote a song about feeling numb after a break up” she says of the track, which is almost freeform in delivery. “Oftentimes, I’ll search for a melody and see what lyrics spill out.” That spontaneity captured her raw emotions. “‘Atlantis’ is about how I know that I am capable of finding love inside, but right now it has disappeared like a lost city,” she says.
Nemesis is a snapshot of a tumultuous time in Bridgit’s life. “It’s been a very transformative year in so many ways,” she says. “This is the first time I’ve really tapped into my emotions and taken ownership of them. It’s not only been hard to share these songs with my audience, but also with friends and family that haven’t seen me in this light before. There was so much I wasn’t expressing in my work, and in my relationships, because I wanted everything to feel safe. I was afraid of rocking the boat.”
This creative risk was made possible with her studio collaborators Spencer and Book. “I owe it all to the trust that we built. We believed in this project together and they never let me settle for something that wasn’t honest and unique.” Bridgit’s identity has always been rooted in her writing. “I never stopped writing in between albums. Now I am so excited to perform again. I have looked into the mirror, understood and liked my reflection, and now I am ready to introduce that person.”
On Nemesis, the songs are her gateway to authenticity of expression. The coolly cooing “Snap My Fingers,” about a man’s wandering eye, also came to life through a live session. “There’s a real improvisational, spur-of-the-moment element to these songs, where we’re all jamming and something just arrives. Jamming with Spencer and Book were some of my favorite memories in life. Nothing compares to making music with people when you have a real connection.” she says. With the atmospheric “Library,” about the one who got away, “I wanted to capture the feeling of reminiscing about hometown love.”
During the writing process, Bridgit would spend time in the morning writing alone, before hitting the studio in the evening to lay down tracks. Typically working at home or at a coffee shop (“Every coffee shop in Silver Lake knows me,” she notes), Bridgit scribbled down glimmers of melodies, patches of lyrics, and even, in the cases of “Library” and “Snap My Fingers,” simply song titles. “It was exciting to have an open horizon, but intimidating that there was a whole world of music I was inspired by and knew next to nothing about. Spencer and Book and I spent a lot of time sharing and discussing music. We all drew from each other and our unique backgrounds,” she says.
To clear her mind, she would take off on long drives. The chorus for the RPM-toggling banger “Oxygen”—about being in a state of euphoria—came to her while listening to hip hop in her car, windows down, on one of her solitary midnight drives to the beach. The soulful, rhythmically tugging “Do You Miss Me at All” was also written in her car. “I was feeling overwhelmed by sadness,” she says. “I just sang out the words and melody at the same time. Then I wrote the verses in the studio with Spencer, with Lauryn Hill as our influence.”
“I feel like a songwriting nomad. Through this project I’ve been a lost puppy sitting alone at coffee shops in Silverlake and gas stations on the I-5 trying to find the words for what I’m feeling. But uncovering the truth through verse and then having the supportive musical team with my guys has given me the conviction I needed to share my music again.”
Of the nearly 40 songs Bridgit has written, five will appear on her upcoming EP. But her prolific burst has swung open her creative doors. “Over the summer, I started tweeting at various artists whose music I liked,” she says. “I am curious about people who have a perspective and uniquely express themselves. I want to share my opinion and have a conversation. On twitter, it was amazing to me that they actually responded.” So as an extracurricular to Nemesis, she’s been working for fun with emerging talents.
With these sessions, it’s the creative journey that matters. “That’s what this whole process has been about, really: to dream as big as I want and have the confidence to share my ideas,” says Bridgit. “For me, that’s taken a lot of thought and writing and growing up—to concentrate my message into something I can stand behind.”