Singer-Songwriter Aimee Bayles Points Us In The Right Direction

Photo Jennifer Brown

Standing at the Intersection


ew York–based singer-songwriter Aimee Bayles’ southern roots show in her debut album Enough. Her songs live somewhere at the intersection of a country crossroads and the cross-town subway, with tales of urban life washed in twang and jangle. Her upbringing might be responsible for the warm, ever-so-slight drawl in her voice, but after ten years in the city she has some pretty good restaurant recommendations. She shares the former with everyone on the album Enough, and the latter, as well as a playlist of her influences, with us here.

You’re from Virginia and influenced by southern roots music and live and write in New York. The album was partially recorded in Portland, Maine. What’s the role of place in your music?
Aimee Bayles: I think my song, “No One Can Tell Us,” is a great way to talk about how place and music come together for me. It was written during the initial co-writing process for this record with my bandmates Stu Mahan, Nat Osborn, and Seth Johnson, and was a true co-writing process. Writing the bridge, in particular, was a really great collaborative experience together. The song talks about the idea of finding our family of people as we go through life.

I have found so many wonderful people here in New York over the last 10 years and feel incredibly lucky for each person I have here in my life. We all come from various backgrounds, but New York City as a place really has a way of bringing people together and creating a bond. There’s something about just getting through a day here sometimes that makes you really need those friends and connections, because you have to fight for everything you do a lot of the time. And yet we all have to get OUT of the city regularly for a break, to experience nature more, and just to relax. So, I think experiencing and living in New York has shown me the power of people coming together and working together in such beautiful ways…you have to work together and get along, because there is very little space for anything else.

Your favorite spot for a post-show meal?
AB: If I were able to get to Keens after a show, I would never say no to a steak, mashed potatoes, and some wedge salad with bacon and tomatoes. But I would probably never say no to that regardless of having played a show or not.

Your version of “Love is a Battlefield” is so, so good and a nice surprise. How did you decide to feature the Pat Benatar cover on Enough? What was the process of creating that arrangement?
AB: Thank you! Honestly, I think I mainly picked it as a cover to do because it seemed so unlikely for my sound and I wanted to see what we could do with it. We literally came up with the arrangement as a band in the studio, putting the pieces together as they came to us. And I love how it has a slightly darker, sadder tone than the original; I tried to sing with the emotion of the lyrics and capture the sadness of them. This is hearsay, but a friend who met Holly Knight—she and Mike Chapman wrote the song—told me they actually wrote the song as more of a sad ballad at first. So, maybe we could sense that intention somehow and that’s why we took it that direction. I’m proud of our version for sure.

New York City as a place really has a way of bringing people together and creating a bond.

First album you ever purchased?
AB: I’m not entirely sure. This doesn’t count as a purchase, but we had these tapes called Cruisin’ Classics when I was a kid that we always listened to in the car. They were compilations of songs from various eras (one was ’60s and ’70s, one ’50s and ’60s, etc) that we got at a Shell gas station for some promotion they were doing. There were several, and we had a few of them. I loved those tapes, and they were probably my first intro to music from those eras.

My first music purchase was probably a CD by Waterdeep, which was one of my very favorite bands when I was in middle and high school. Or it could have been No Doubt. I just don’t remember.

What was the first time you performed in public?
AB: Well, if we’re going to the very first time, that would have to be playing Mrs. Noah in my 2nd grade class’ play about Noah’s Ark. If my memory serves, I had a solo. A few years later, I had a pretty epic solo in our church kids choir’s Christmas play where I played Mary. Singing in church in the church band was where I learned to sing harmonies, to sing with purpose and soul, and to begin blending with other singers.

How does your formal opera training effect your music now?
AB: I try and always think of my breathing and support techniques that my voice teacher, Mr. Batty, taught me when I am singing now. When I went to study classical voice in college, I never had aspirations to become an opera singer, I simply wanted the best foundation I could get for any type of singing I wanted to do. Part of me wishes I had been more open with my teacher about styles of singing beyond opera and classical voice, because I have never had any formal training to belt properly. I try and relax my body, my throat, and my jaw as much as possible when singing, trying to allow my voice to be as close to what it wants to be naturally. I try not to affect it with any sounds or breathiness that aren’t there otherwise. And I always try to breathe from deep within, allowing my lungs to expand my ribs outwardly. As cliche as it is, I find it really is all about breathing and support and relaxing your muscles as much as possible.

Artist you always go back to again and again?
AB: Patty Griffin, hands down. I cannot get enough of her, she moves and inspires me so. Her songwriting, her voice, I just love her.

Favorite song to play on guitar?
AB: Whatever is easiest! I am not the most amazing guitar player, let me just say. So, for an easy song that I love to sing always, maybe Neil Young’s “Helpless.” But I will say, I have been learning his song “Harvest Moon,” and I’m getting pretty good at it! So, that does feel good to tackle a song that I can work up to and get better at.

Preferred song to sing in the shower?
AB: I honestly don’t really sing in shower, but I do get song ideas in the shower. In my zoning out/quiet time in there, ideas often hit me and I play around with them. Then I rush to get out and get to my phone to record a voice note before I forget the idea. There was one time back home, though…. I thought no one was home and for some reason, I decided to sing the National Anthem at the top of my lungs in the shower. My dad came home at some point during my triumphant solo, and when I finished, I heard clapping from the hallway and him shout “PLAY BALL!”

Song you have to sing along to in the car when it comes on?
AB: On the rare occasion that I get to drive these days, I can’t help but sing along to Adele if she comes on the radio. I love that song, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover).” Fun to play with harmonies on that one. And I will often take the chance, if I’m driving alone, to put on Patty Griffin and sing along—any song will do, really.

OK, so, our cousins from Knoxville are coming to visit New York for a few days. Top three music venues in the city they need to check out?
AB: Rockwood Music Hall: Stage 1 always has a different artist every hour, on the hour, and there is no cover charge. Just a one-drink minimum, I believe. Stage 2 has a wide range of artists, from up and coming all the way to people like Norah Jones and others. And Stage 3 is a wonderful intimate space, downstairs, that has three ticketed shows most nights with a variety of talented people playing. From there, there are also a lot of bars and other music spots to wander in and out of easily.

Joe’s Pub is a great spot that has a variety of acts in a cool space. You can get dinner and drinks as well.

For some jazz: Jazz Standard in the Village. You can eat some delicious barbecue at Blue Smoke and then go downstairs for some jazz in a great room. Afterwards, The Village is of course a lovely neighborhood to wander and explore. OR Dizzy’s Club at Columbus Circle is a beautiful room with lovely views of the city, and you’ll hear some of the best upcoming and top jazz players there.

Thank you, now how about we listen to that playlist?