Push Past Your Comfort Zone With ERGO, Bria

Bria McCollum has an unlimited toolbox to get her musical points across. Whether you hand her a guitar, bass guitar, violin, viola, piano, or microphone, you can count on her to take self-production to the next level. In July 2021, Belmont’s songwriting major released her debut EP ERGO along with several singles including “I Think Not and I’d Put a Hamburger In a Blender For You <3". Bria’s genreless repertoire is endless.

The genesis of ERGO features chilling and assertive piano. The hammered strings allude to a similar melody in “When You Call Me Lovely (Wanna Be)”, the song that plays next. The reverbed electric guitar is guaranteed to get you lost in a daydream, longing for a loved one. It’s the perfect background music for a late-night drive into the city or skateboarding in an empty parking garage with friends who understand, as demonstrated in her new lyric video.

The pace picks up with “Plethora”. The singer shares her experience with self-image and societal expectations. Internalizing what doesn’t resonate can make one want to explode. It’s impossible to live for yourself and others at the same time. Plethora defines the chaos associated with minimizing spiritual beings to surface-level standards.

The 88’s return with “Comfort Zone”. Bria animates the discomfort of surpassing one’s limits with dissonant vocals and crashing cymbals. ERGO itself was the labor of love that accidentally made Bria expand beyond what she might have believed was possible for herself.

“Originally, I wanted the EP to be a Demo EP because I didn’t feel like it was up to the standards of a “real” EP. Everything was done by me, and I was a beginner at producing the tracks. When I put all the information into my distributor, it was 4 AM and I was delirious. I completely forgot to type “ERGO DEMO EP”. I didn’t realize until a week before it was going to release, so I decided to just let it be.”

All external forms of validation ‘Crash and Burn’ in the EP’s final song.

“You thought you had me wrapped around your finger. You thought you had my mind. You thought that you were a winner. But now I see you, and you’re just like a tattoo. Now you see me. If I go down, you’re going too. Cuz when I crash, you’ll burn. We’re going down, together. And I don’t need you any longer. I am strong, and where I belong.” — “Crash and Burn” by ERGO, Bria

In an interview with Bria, I had the opportunity to learn more about her approach to remaining consistent, how she deals with burnout, and her mindset moving forward with her art.

Bria! It’s wonderful to have you! Thank you so much for sharing your EP with us. I’d love to begin with a mental health check-in! How are you?

Thank you for having me! I literally love you all so much. I’m doing just great. I’ve got a lot of cool things in the works that I feel many people will enjoy. I’m excited to be working on stuff I love, honestly.

You just released your debut EP “ERGO.” What a brilliant introduction to your sound! Can you tell us about the process of making your vision come to life?

Originally, I wanted the EP to be a Demo EP because I didn’t feel like it was up to the standards of a “real” EP. Everything was done by me, and I was a beginner at producing the tracks. When I put all the information into my distributor, it was 4 AM and I was delirious. I completely forgot to type “ERGO DEMO EP”. I didn’t realize until a week before it was going to release, so I decided to just let it be.

Everything on this project was a first for me. I spent most of my time on “When You Call me Lovely” and “Crash and Burn” because I had the hardest time putting what was in my head into an audio file. They both reached about 100 stems, which took a lot of time and patience to go through, but it was definitely worth the wait.

Each song on the EP has its own backstory. For the most part, everything in the EP is a reflection of how I feel, how I’ve felt, or how I’ve perceived other people’s feelings – which I could write several essays about. I’ll keep it short and talk about one of my favorite aspects of the project. “Intro” and “When You Call Me Lovely” work so well together because they’re the same song. When I first wrote the song, it was completely written on piano. I figured if I left the minute-long intro in the official song, nobody would listen to it. I decided to make it its own track to show how lovely a song can be, stripped down to its original form.

You’re a classically trained musician, songwriter, producer, and undergrad law student. That’s amazing! Do you ever experience burnout and/or overwhelm? How do you maintain balance, consistency, and a positive relationship with yourself?

I 100% experience burnout. It takes constant effort to maintain balance. I usually just pray and talk about it to my friends and family. Surprisingly, my drive to make music and share it with the world enhances my fortitude. It’s unbelievably therapeutic for me. I tend to be immensely persistent when it comes to things I’m passionate about.

Knowing myself, I never stop until I get what I feel is needed. Nine times out of ten, my desires are usually unanswered, but when they are, I feel like that’s a reward in itself. I don’t mind going through burnout every now and then. If there is a serious case of it though, I simply let myself rest. When the drive comes back, I’ll work towards my goals again.

How do you combat self-doubt?

I affirm myself by remembering my strengths.

Does your art represent the person you’re working toward becoming or shine a light on the person you’ve always been?

My art has always been a representation of the person I’ve always been. Most of it comes from small emotions that I might feel. I revisit them when I’m writing music and amplify it.

If you were to compose theme music for yourself, how would you design the soundscape? Would it be a love song, a disco number, an opera, etc.? Any visuals or lyrics?

Being the cathartic person I am, I often experience a large range of emotions. If I were to compose theme music for myself, it would probably end up being a twenty-one-minute song with a touch of every single musical phase I’ve had.

All in all, it would probably be some classical song that slowly turns into a 2012 metalcore song that slowly turns into a pop-punk song. Visually it would look like that weird glitchy A.I. art and probably a few keywords spouted here and there. Kinda terrifying, but a fun experience.

What is your mindset moving forward with your art? Is there a theme you wish to create, rules you plan to break, statements you want to make, boundaries you’d like to establish? What have you learned and/or discovered?

My main mindset moving forward with my music is to virtually cover the grounds of all music. I am so in love with music as a whole. I want to be completely emersed in it.

As for rule-breaking, I want to make the music I want – which ultimately feels like breaking an unsaid rule at times. At least from what I’ve seen, many artists and bands stick to similar or the same music throughout their careers. I want to make whatever I want, whether it’s thrash metal or hyper-pop. (Of course, my ‘main sound’ will always be found in my music though.) There’s not much of a reason behind it, I think I’m just stubborn when it comes to sharing the literal music that materializes in my brain.

At this point, I’ve only been producing and playing bass for about a year and a half. Every day I continue to learn more. One of the key things I’ve learned from this entire experience thus far is to never stop trying. It takes a lot of willpower to get to where you want to be.

What projects can we expect from you in the future?

There are SO many projects I am currently working on. I’m very excited to share them with you all. As I said, I’m still learning, but every single day I come up with a new idea. I’m slowly working toward turning those ideas into reality. Between my collaborations with other bands/artists, solo music, and live shows, all I can say is, there’s going to be a lot of genre-bending.

Don’t push past your comfort zone without streaming Bria’s EP ERGO on all music streaming platforms!

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