20:20 — 20 Questions, 20 Answers
Published October 29, 2021
In part 44 of our continuing 20:20 Q&A series,
molly. —Springfield, Missouri-based singer-songwriter and poet—
joins us to share about the importance of community, connection, and caring—for ourselves and for each other. Her new album releases February 2022.
NoteWorthy Music is pleased to announce that molly. will be opening the premiere of our Queen City Roots series in which we showcase Parker Millsap on Thursday, November 11, at SBC’s The Cellar. Rolling Stone hails Parker as “… a pristine listening experience …”, and Elton John says, “… I saw one of the best concerts I have ever seen. Parker Millsap & Sarah Jarosz. Both were astonishingly good. … It restored my faith in music.”
Don’t miss molly. and Parker on Thursday, November 11. Get your tickets now!
You can also catch molly. tomorrow night October 30th 7-9 pm at The Frisco at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs.
molly. creates beautiful, thoughtful, unique music using a variety of sounds, instruments, and technology—allowing her to write, record, produce, and perform all of her own content. She uses her poetry and her music to shape those often difficult universal emotions and experiences into a form that is accessible and approachable—taking the fearful, overwhelming forces and molding them into something manageable—with the ever-present message that none of us are alone. molly. strives—and succeeds—to make a connection with others through her insightful art. She focuses on the importance of building empathy and bringing mental health awareness to the forefront of our concern as a society.
We are so pleased to welcome you, molly. Thank you for joining us.
~Bambi Grinder, NoteWorthy Music
Photos courtesy of molly.
20:20 with molly.
NWM 1: Please introduce yourself, briefly, as a musician and human of Earth.
Molly: My actual name is Molly Brady, but my stage name is just molly. All lowercase with a period at the end, nothing else. I am an indie singer-songwriter and poet, and I write, record, and produce all of my content myself.
I am currently 28 years old, living and creating in Springfield, Missouri. Springfield has been my home for 27 of my years on Earth. Fun fact: I was actually born in Springfield, Illinois, so I’ve really lived in a Springfield for my entire life. With the number of Springfields throughout the United States, maybe this is a trend I can continue, moving around while living exclusively in Springfields.
NWM 2: What was your first concert as a fan?
Molly: I actually didn’t attend a lot of concerts when I was younger, which is very unfortunate because concerts are one of my most favorite things in the world now! The first concert I ever attended was about 10 years ago; I went to see Relient K at the Gillioz with some friends.
With the number of Springfields throughout the United States, maybe this is a trend I can continue, moving around while living exclusively in Springfields.
Growing up in a religious household, the spectrum of music that I was allowed to consume was limited. However, I was also a bit of a rebel, so Relient K was about the most punk rock I could get without getting in trouble, so I was able to listen to them all of the time, even when my parents were around. I was a huge fan of the band throughout middle and high school. Getting to see them as an adult was a bit of a nostalgia trip! To this day, it was one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve attended.
NWM 3: Name three things that make you smile.
Molly: To keep it simple: the dismantling of oppressive systems, nature and all of its wonder, and a hot mug of good coffee. Dogs would also be on there, but I think they’re technically covered under ‘nature’.
NWM 4: You began writing poetry and music as a teenager. Tell us about what drew you to these forms of expression and why.
Molly: My mom tells me I was always a writer. Even as a child, I loved making up stories, and I usually preferred to express difficult thoughts or emotions by writing them down. Actually, I recently found a note I had written to my mom when I was really young, apologizing to her and asking if she was okay after I’d done something that upset her. I think that habit just continued as I got older, and when I was a teenager, I began experiencing a lot more difficult thoughts and emotions (as most do). I didn’t always know how to properly articulate everything I was experiencing to others, which made it difficult for me to share when I was struggling with the people who cared about me.
I journaled a lot as a teenager; it was the easiest way for me to get the mess in my head out into the world. Even then, I had a lot of moments where I wasn’t sure how to write it all down. Everything in my head was like a giant, chaotic tornado: terrifying and overwhelming. I quickly found that giving structure to that chaos through the pattern and rhyme of poetry gave it a voice and a space to exist without being so scary.
I quickly found that giving structure to that chaos through the pattern and rhyme of poetry gave it a voice and a space to exist without being so scary.
At that point, I’d been playing piano for many years (I took lessons as a child); later in my teen years, around 16 or 17, I began teaching myself to play some chords on the guitar. It was about that time that I began putting some of my poems to music. I kept a lot of my poems and songs to myself as a teenager because they were rather dark. I didn’t want my family to worry about me.
Looking back, I wish I had been more willing to share it with them, but I think there’s a bit of a lesson that others can take away from that. If you love someone who uses creative outlets to express their struggles, and they trust you enough to share their creations with you, be supportive. Making comments about how dark or weird their work is probably won’t help. (Trust me, they’re likely very aware of how dark and weird it is already.)
I would also say, be cautious when using their moment of vulnerability to tell them that you’re worried about them. I think it’s much more constructive for everybody involved if these situations are used as an opportunity to have an open discussion about what influenced the creation. Tell them what you like about it, ask them questions about it, be a judgment-free space where they can further express what’s in their heart and mind. I really believe this approach builds empathy and trust between people and reinforces creativity as a positive coping mechanism.
molly. | Photo by Andie Bottrell at Designing Indie
NWM 5: You experiment with a variety of sounds, often mixing traditional instruments with electronic ones. Share about this experimentation, your vision of your music, and how it continues to evolve.
Molly: I have a lot of trouble sticking to just one particular sound or genre of music when I’m creating. I’m influenced by experiences and feelings, and humans tend to experience and feel a very wide range of things. That’s reflected in my music. You can find the slow, somber fading away of a longstanding relationship in a song like, ‘Broke My Love’, or you can find the upbeat, dancey warmth of being surrounded by your favorite things or people in a song like, ‘Violet’. You can even find the slightly chaotic longing for a chemically-balanced brain in ‘Sero’. (I know a lot of people relate to that one.)
I have a lot of trouble sticking to just one particular sound or genre of music when I’m creating.
The sound of a particular song depends a lot upon the experience or message that I’m trying to express. I’m a one-woman operation, but I don’t want that to limit the sounds and breadth of my music. I rely pretty heavily on technology for that reason. It makes live shows a lot easier, but I still want to deliver a full punch to my audience. (Metaphorically speaking. I don’t actually want to punch any of my fans, that would be rude.) That’s why I do what I can to make my performances a full experience. I could just stand in one spot and sing some songs, but that’s pretty boring.
Writing songs has to be kind of a calculated process for me. I have to figure out how I can blend all of the sounds I’m hearing in my mind while still being able to manage a live performance of the song on my own. For a lot of songs, this means playing one instrument myself and using technology for the rest (like ‘Rogue Traveler’). For some songs, a single instrument is enough (like ‘3 Times I’ve Loved’), and for others, I find that using nothing but electronic instruments actually fits the vibe of the song better (like ‘Magnets’).
When I first started recording my music, I was very cautious about the use of technology to create. I thought it made me less of an actual musician, but as I’ve grown in my craft, I’ve found that it really expands what I can do in a song. I’ve actually pushed myself to use technology more in my most recent projects, and it’s helped me explore a lot of different styles that I’ve been wanting to dip my feet into for a long time. I think my listeners will really enjoy hearing the more expanded assortment of sounds in my new album.
NWM 6: You have an enthusiasm for the Ozarks in general and local organizations that support education, the arts, mental health awareness, and social justice in particular.
Tell us how this influences and informs your work.
Molly: I grew up in the Ozarks. This area is my home—it’s my community. Earlier I listed ‘the dismantling of oppressive systems’ as one of the things that makes me smile. This seems like a pretty big thing, but I think it starts with simpler things, like building empathy for one another, sharing experiences, and asking what we can do to make our world more equitable. When I say, ‘our world’, I mean ‘our community’. Changing the world is a hefty goal, but changing your hometown is a lot more reasonable and can help spark and inspire change elsewhere.
I think it starts with simpler things, like building empathy for one another, sharing experiences, and asking what we can do to make our world more equitable.
I appreciate the importance of grassroots organizations and local nonprofits that are working to make the Ozarks a better place for everyone. This isn’t limited specifically to political organizations; we know that access to quality education plays a major role in improving communities and the lives of the people that live in them. Currently, my day job involves working for the public school system. We often praise educators for the work they do, but I think a lot of people fail to realize that they are working with tremendously limited resources. I know a lot of amazing teachers who love their students and want nothing more than to see them succeed, but are overworked and burnt-out after years of managing large class sizes, using their own money to purchase supplies, and a lack of quality support and guidance from leadership (who are also overworked and burnt-out). This ends up impacting our students. On top of that, schools aren’t just places where our students learn. Many of them access meals, medical care, mental health services, and a variety of other resources at school. In short, we expect a lot of our schools and educators, but don’t do enough to fund or support them. That’s why organizations and groups who help provide assistance and resources to schools and students are so, so important.
In short, we expect a lot of our schools and educators, but don’t do enough to fund or support them.
Regarding the arts and mental health awareness, my own personal experiences are what influence me the most. I’ve been learning to manage struggles with my mental health since I was in middle school. Using art as an outlet helped me process these struggles. Kids feel a lot, and I think we forget that sometimes they’re feeling things very intensely for the first time. That can be scary—for the kids and the adults that they confide in about these feelings. But what if we helped kids explore those feelings rather than minimize them? What if we (adults) did that ourselves, too?
Art is such a great platform to do that, to take what is abstract and make it concrete. There is such a power that comes from doing that. As a singer-songwriter, I love donating my talent and time to organizations that support these types of causes and our local creators. Not only am I able to show my support in that way, but I’m able to encourage others to show their support, and I get to see the community in action. I’ve performed a number of times at events for Messenger Too Springfield. I’ve also performed at Cider Days. I had the great pleasure of closing out the Street Fair at Pickwick Place over the summer, and I’ll be playing at Queen City Shout in August as well.
molly. | Photo by Andie Bottrell at Designing Indie
NWM 7: Who might we be surprised to find on your playlist?
Molly: I have mad love for powerful female hip-hop/rap artists. You can even throw some pop singers in there. Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Doja Cat, Lauryn Hill, Dua Lipa, Qveen Herby, just to name a few. For some reason, a lot of people think this is kind of out-of-character for me. I think the rest of it would probably be pretty predictable: a lot of indie, alternative rock, and pop-punk.
I have mad love for powerful female hip-hop/rap artists.
NWM 8: What is a favorite of your own songs or poems? Please tell us a little bit about it.
Molly: This is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. The short answer is, it changes frequently. (I like to think that most parents would also respond this way when asked to choose their favorite child.) Lately, I’ve had a lot of appreciation for one of my older songs, ‘Flickers’. I recorded this song for my first EP back in 2016, and I really didn’t know anything about production at the time. Consequently, I’ve made it a bit of a challenge for people to find the original recording, but I do play it at shows rather frequently.
This song is all about those tiny moments of light that sometimes pop up in the midst of an otherwise dark, numbing time. I adore the lyrics of this song, and the music makes it such a unique blend of whimsy and despair that it’s almost slightly disconcerting when you really listen to the words. Personally, I always feel a bit happier after I play this song because the very last verse serves as such a great reminder of the power we have to cultivate hope in the midst of despondency.
I find that most of my work is born in quiet moments of reflection (of which I have a lot, I am a severe overthinker).
NWM 9: What in particular fuels your inspiration? Tell us about your space or what is most necessary for your writing.
Molly: My main source of inspiration is experiences, but it’s a bit more complex than that. Oftentimes, I don’t fully appreciate the weight or influence of an experience until after the fact. This goes for uplifting experiences as well as more challenging ones. I find that most of my work is born in quiet moments of reflection (of which I have a lot, I am a severe overthinker).
In those spaces, when I’m processing through an experience or emotion that really stuck with me, I’m able to pick things apart with a more clear headspace. It’s almost like I trick myself into answering what would otherwise be difficult or uncomfortable questions: Why did I feel a certain way after this particular thing happened? Where did this specific thought stem from? If I water it a bit, how will it grow? If I’m analyzing my own head for the sake of art it provides a sort of separation or boundary, like someone looking in from the outside rather than someone stuck in the middle of it all. That makes it less intimidating to give a voice to those parts of me.
NWM 10: Tell us about a favorite poem (or poet) and why it speaks to you.
Molly: There’s a spoken word piece by poet Sarah Kay that always grips my heart in a very special and particular way. It’s called, ‘If I Should Have A Daughter’. As I’ve gotten older, the relationship between my mother and myself has become one of the most sacred bonds to me. It wasn’t always that way, especially when I was a teenager. As I started understanding myself better, I began to realize just how much of my mom is reflected in me. We have a lot of the same mannerisms, we enjoy the same types of music and art, and many of my internal struggles are struggles that she wrestled with herself long before I was a thought in her mind.
If I’m analyzing my own head for the sake of art it provides a sort of separation or boundary, like someone looking in from the outside rather than someone stuck in the middle of it all.
I think that’s what contributed to the more rocky parts of our relationship when I was younger; she saw the beginnings of those things taking root in me, and she was afraid I would end up suffering from my own mind like she had. I don’t think anybody really ever walked with her through her own darkness, though, so a lot of the time she wasn’t always sure how to help me or guide me.
There was a point in our relationship, after I had moved out and started building my own life, when I think my mom realized she couldn’t keep trying to bury my feelings in an attempt to protect me from myself. That was a difficult time in my life, and I know it had to have been heartbreaking for her to watch me struggle the way I did. She became a place where I could constantly return to get my footing. She stopped trying to fix me, she stopped trying to cover up the scary things. She just loved me as I learned to navigate it all. It didn’t take long for me to realize that she had walked a similar path before me.
The first time I heard ‘If I Should Have A Daughter’, it sucker punched me right in the gut. It was like Sarah Kay had given life to my own concerns about possibly having a daughter of my own someday. I worry that she’ll have to walk through the same things I did, and if she does, what will I do? I want to be better, I want to do better. I want her to know that I’ve journeyed ahead of her and tried to clear the path a bit, so maybe it won’t be so difficult for her to find her way. I want her to know that she comes from a long line of strong, resilient women, and she can always come back to us if she needs help getting home.
molly. | Photo by Andie Bottrell at Designing Indie
NWM 11: Please share a unique childhood experience that you feel helped contribute to who you and your music and poetry are today.
Molly: This would have to be the moment when my family discovered just how much I was struggling with my mental health. I was a teenager when it happened, but I think it still counts as a childhood experience. I had tried as hard as I could to keep it from them because I didn’t want them to worry about me, so when they confronted me about it I was very ashamed. I didn’t want them to think less of me, I didn’t want to be a burden on them. The initial reactions from everyone ranged from anger, to hurt, to fear. But once we started to talk about it together, it didn’t take long for most of it to melt into support, understanding, and love.
I’ve always been very close with my siblings, especially sisters. We’ve reached a point where I can reach out to them when I’m not doing so great, and they help me get back up again. They’re my greatest support system, and I’m extremely grateful for that. I know that this type of bond with biological family members is not a luxury that everyone has. I don’t even have it with everyone in my family; some still don’t really understand how my mental health impacts me, and I don’t feel comfortable sharing that part of myself with them. I think the most important thing is finding at least one other person you can go to for support, even in your darkest moments. Whether or not they’re related to you by blood isn’t important.
NWM 12: You do perform a few cover songs. What is a favorite and why?
Molly: I have a couple. I really enjoy doing ‘The Greatest’ by Sia featuring Kendrick Lamar, and ‘Screen’ by Twenty One Pilots. They’re both empowering songs with great messages. I can get a crowd going with both of them, and they both give me the chance to rap while I play the ukulele. I can’t say all of that about too many songs.
I think the most important thing is finding at least one other person you can go to for support, even in your darkest moments.
NWM 13: Your art focuses on emotion, according to your bio: ‘with the intent of building connections between people and creating spaces for open conversations about mental health.’ This truly resonates with us.
Please share about this focus and intent and why it is important to you.
Molly: It’s less scary to walk in the dark when you know you aren’t walking alone. When people listen to my music, read my poems, or come to my shows, I want them to feel less alone, no matter where they are in their journey. I know when I come across a piece of art that speaks to parts of my own journey, it feels affirming and inspirational. If someone else has been there and made it out on the other side, then maybe I can, too. Or, if I’m not the only person who constantly gets stuck in low spaces, maybe we can work together to pull ourselves back up again. At the very least, we can keep each other company until we figure it out.
NWM 14: You often include a poetry reading or spoken word performance at your shows. How does writing poetry and performing spoken word compare to writing and performing music?
Molly: When a new idea or thought makes itself known to me, I can usually tell pretty quickly if it’s going to grow into a poem or a song. I think this is something that’s developed after years of sitting with my thoughts and learning to let them guide me a bit.
For me, ideas that are poems tend to be more rhythmic, whereas songs tend to have more of a flow. Almost like you can feel how a melody would move around them, the way water goes around rocks in a stream. For me, the biggest difference between writing a poem and writing a song is that sometimes writing a song begins with words, but other times it begins with sounds. That is, I hear the song before I know what it’s going to say.
Almost like you can feel how a melody would move around [ideas that are lyrics], the way water goes around rocks in a stream.
Poetry is usually built around a specific experience or emotion. I think that may be why I feel more vulnerable when I’m performing poetry than when I’m performing music. With music, you can let the instruments and melodies do some of the talking, but with poetry, all you have are the words. How you share them will ultimately impact whether or not you get a message across to your audience. I find I really have to let my guard down in an almost reckless way if I want a poem to truly hit an audience. It can be scary, but the moment I know I’ve made a connection with someone else (even if it’s just one other person in the crowd) it’s worth it.
NWM 15: What is a unique trait or quality that sets you apart from the crowd?
Molly: If we’re talking about physical traits, the answer is my hair. It’s a weird combination of wavy and curly, it’s coarse, it’s thick, it has a mind of its own. I was very self-conscious about it growing up. I used to get made fun of a lot because my hair wasn’t smooth, and I couldn’t easily tame it with bows or brushes. I spent a lot of time trying to straighten or style it as a teen, but I’ve learned to just embrace it. It’s a family gift passed down from my grandmother, why should I want to hide that?
If we’re talking about artistic qualities, I think the biggest thing is the variety of sounds I pull from when I’m making music. I like to think that putting my music on shuffle is kind of like shoving your hand into a bag of jellybeans. Will you pull out something sweet and punchy, or something more mellow and subtle? There’s no telling until it starts playing. All you know is that it’s going to be delicious. (The secret is to leave out all of the buttered popcorn and licorice. Those are garbage flavors, and there’s no room for them in the bag of candy that is my music.)
molly. | Photo by Andie Bottrell at Designing Indie
NWM 16: How do you keep yourself centered or able to cope with stress during these trying times?
Molly: This has been a challenging lesson for me to learn over the past year and a half. I’ve really had to train myself to recognize when I need some down time and that it’s a necessity to step away from everything every once in a while. When I get an idea in my brain or I start a new project, it pretty much consumes my life. Any chance I get, I’ll have my nose in a notebook, or I’ll be tucked away in my studio.
When the pandemic hit and people were home all of the time, I noticed this push for using the time at home to hone a skill or do something productive that you normally wouldn’t have time to do. I kept seeing this post going around social media that said something along the lines of: If you don’t come out of the pandemic with a new skill or project, you never lacked the time, you only lacked the discipline.
Towards the beginning of all of the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, I felt so much pressure to create, especially because I had been working on my second EP (bloom. wilt. sleep. repeat.) around that time. I would spend hours on end rotating between my computer, guitar, keyboard, and a notebook, with this constant thought in my head that it would be an unforgivable sin to waste any of the time I had to be stuck at home. It was extremely exhausting, and I hit a very low point during the pandemic because of it.
Sometimes, I think we, as a society, base a lot of a person’s value on how productive they are, which is horrible, especially in the middle of a literal worldwide pandemic. Thankfully, I had friends and family who were able to help me get out of my own head long enough to realize the necessity of balance. I don’t constantly have to be creating something. It doesn’t mean I’m less of an artist or less of a person if I’m not spending every waking moment working or planning. Sometimes all you need to do is exist, and that’s enough. I found the best way for me to stay conscious of this is to sit with nature for a while. The gratitude and wonder I experience in those moments are very grounding.
Sometimes all you need to do is exist, and that’s enough. I found the best way for me to stay conscious of this is to sit with nature for a while.
NWM 17: What is a core tenet by which you live your life or approach your music?
Molly: Connection. There is such an intricate web spun between people, this planet, and the universe in which we all exist. Music has sort of a magic about it in the way it can bring people together, and that’s why I love it so much. I don’t know why we’re all here, or how the universe came to be. (Those are giant questions, and I wrestle with them a lot.) The one certainty is that we’re all only here for a limited amount of time. I think appreciating our connections to one another makes us more empathetic. And we all know the world needs more of that.
NWM 18: We often ask: Apart from live music, what are you most looking forward to when things return to ‘normal’? And though we are interested in this answer, we would like to get a sense of what feeling you are getting now playing music in your area—are things beginning to return to normal with a continued element of caution or is everyone openly embracing freedom with a general feeling of being ‘over it’?
Molly: Hands down, the thing I am most excited about is attending concerts again. (As a fan, not as a performer.) As a performer, I’m starting to feel a lot more cautious about doing shows again, especially in southwest Missouri.
I see myself entering this space of having to decide just how much I want to keep pursuing my music, and it terrifies me a little.
I stopped performing for quite awhile, even after the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders were lifted for my area. I didn’t want to contribute to people gathering indoors and increasing the spread of COVID. I became more optimistic after vaccines were readily available, especially when I was able to get mine, but I never fully let my guard down. I think it’s very blatant that a majority of people in my area are throwing caution to the wind and openly embracing freedom. A lot of people here have been ‘over it’ for months and months, and now there are significantly less restrictions placed on everyone. We’ve had such a sharp increase in cases here lately that I’ve become a lot more vigilant again, even though I’m fully vaccinated.*
I do have some gigs lined up over the next few months, and I am really looking forward to playing, but my hope is that more people will get their vaccinations and do their part to help slow the spread of the virus. This is a community effort; we all need to do what we can to keep each other safe.
*Our aforementioned Parker Millsap show molly. will open will, in fact, require masking as well as proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test in the previous 48 hours at the artist’s request.
NWM 19: What is one thing you would want our readers to know about you that we might not know to ask?
Molly: I really, really, really love pizza. I think that’s an important thing to know about me.
NWM 20: What’s next for Molly Brady?
Molly: I’m really not sure what’s on the horizon for me. In the short term, finishing my album [releasing February 2022], but after that, things are sort of a big question mark at this point. I see myself entering this space of having to decide just how much I want to keep pursuing my music, and it terrifies me a little. Not the pursuit of music itself; I love creating, and I love sharing my creations with the world. It’s the unknowns of it all. I have some difficult decisions to make in the next year or so, and it’s going to be quite a ride. I hope my fans will stick with me through it, though. It’s definitely the kind of thing that inspires a lot of new creations.
molly. (Molly Brady) is a singer, songwriter, and poet from Springfield, Missouri. She began writing poetry and music as a teenager. What started as an expressive tool for processing and coping with the unexpected grew into a deep and enduring passion. molly.’s craft has evolved over the years and she now writes, records, and produces her own music, as well as the occasional cover song.
molly. often experiments with a variety of sounds, mixing traditional instruments with electronic. She continues to write poetry and typically includes a spoken word performance or poetry reading in her shows. molly. has a heart for local nonprofits and businesses. She loves to see communities become stronger together and is always open to performances that will help contribute to this effort.
While much of molly.’s work is inspired by her ongoing battles with anxiety and depression, she likes to focus on the variety of emotions that make up the human experience. She performs with the intent of building connections between people and creating spaces for open conversations about mental health. molly.’s mix of styles, lyrical depth, and lively stage presence makes her shows a unique and unforgettable experience for all.
To learn more about molly. visit https://www.mollypoetry.com/
You may enjoy our previous 20:20 with Jessica Balisle
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