Take time to rest and heal. Work isn’t everything. Your health and sanity are more important than getting things done right now. Without them, your career halts. Build healthy community when you are not on the road. And build some of it outside of the industry. A community of faith is extremely important. It’s a hard business, and you need a place to escape, and people to spend time with that are healthy, and separate.
As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brittany Bexton.
Brittany Bexton grew up with Aretha Franklin, Motown, and rock and roll as the soundtracks that influenced her musical palate. She began her career as a youngster performing in hometown choirs and the theatre. Brittany studied music intently in high school and took vocal lessons with four master teachers. She attended Pacific Conservatory Theater (PCPA) where she studied acting, singing and dancing, and worked in professional musical theater. In 2011, the determined Northern California native moved to Nashville to dedicate her concentrations toward her music as a full-time endeavor.
Since her relocation to Music City, Brittany has released two CDs (a self-titled album and an EP titled FREE FALL); she has toured to perform at fairs and festivals in 18 states (performing at Fiddler’s & Fiddleheads Festival/Oconto County Fair/Gogebic County Fair/Sonoma County Fair/Wyoming West Festival) sharing the spotlight with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Craig Wayne Boyd, Jason Sellers and Sarah Buxton among others.
In Nashville, Brittany has played at special events and venues including 12th & Porter, The Rutledge and The Amethyst Affair. As an active advocate against domestic abuse, Brittany works closely with various charities and affiliated organizations dedicating her time to lend assistance in awareness campaigns throughout the year. In addition to the US, her music has enjoyed airplay in the UK and Europe.
Brittany believes in a greater gift — that her music and writing have a greater purpose to bring joy, laughter, connection and hope to her listeners. Sharing personal insight, testimonials and her belief in a greater power, Brittany has written an inspiring book titled “Learning To Believe Again: 30 Days To Finding Hope, Faith & Comfort in God’s Truth.” (Released February 2020.) The 200-plus page paperback complements the hopeful and inspiring message of her debut single, “Believe Again,” released on February 28, 2020. She released the official music video for the song on June 3, 2022.
Thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share with us the backstory that led you to this career path?
Thank you so much for having me!!
Honestly, music isn’t just what I do — it’s part of who I am. I have known I wanted to be a singer/songwriter since I was a toddler. We literally have a picture of me singing with a microphone on stage when I was still in diapers. As my family tells the story, we were at a church camp and I wandered away from my family, climbed on stage and picked up a microphone and started singing. It’s like I was born knowing it was my purpose. I found every opportunity to sing and perform that I could as a kid, including church choirs, and musical theater, along with voice lessons, and school choirs. I also started writing poetry and songs really young. Music was like a friend, an escape, and a way to express my feelings. Music was also a way I could encourage and bless others. I have always had a heart for people, and I truly believe that music has the power to heal. It helps us feel things we need to feel; everything from joy when we need a break to laugh and dance, to allowing tears to flow that haven’t been able to come up any other way. I heard someone say a justification for why people break out into song randomly in musicals as this “They sing when the emotion is greater than words can express.” That’s what music is capable of, expressing more than what words alone can. That’s my heart, helping people feel and express, and heal in deeper ways through music. I love what I do.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or takeaway you took out of that story?
The first thing that came to mind is the funniest story I have from touring. Did you know that you can hallucinate from lack of sleep? You can!! It’s like your body starts dreaming with your eyes open and awake. I found this out one time while I was on tour with my guitar player at the time. We were up in IA playing shows, and we had had three shows back to back with lots of driving and very little sleep. The show we had that night was about 4 hours from where we were staying, and we didn’t get out of the venue until close to 2 am, to say that I was exhausted would be an understatement. My guitar player had had a few drinks, so he couldn’t drive, and I started us off. At first it wasn’t so bad because I was still winding down from the show, but about 2 hours into the drive it got to the point where I was rolling windows down, cranking up the radio and singing along, and literally slapping myself in the face to stay awake. I had been doing that for a while, and we were on a main highway. All of a sudden I saw a semi-truck coming straight towards us, and panicked, except there was no semi-truck, I literally hallucinated the semi from exhaustion, and realized I was starting to see things from lack of sleep, so I pulled over on the next exit to sleep. My guitar player, Drew, woke up as I got off the exit and I told him we were stopping to rest. He said he could take over driving, and I asked him multiple times if he was sure he was awake enough and had completely sobered up. He assured me he had, and it had been a couple hours. He seemed awake and totally sober so I gave him the keys to take over driving while I slept. But, I kept getting nervous that he could be falling asleep, and waking up. I would be drifting off, and then I’d feel the car jerk, or hit a rough patch, and I would startle awake and look at Drew to make sure he was still awake and we were safe. I had drifted off again, and felt what seemed like us drifting, and I startled awake, looked at Drew, and I swear his eyes were closed. At least that’s what I saw!! I panicked, and without thinking at all, just going into action mode to wake Drew up fast so we were safe, I reached over and slapped him across the face to wake him up!! I have no idea why that was my first reaction, that would not have been my normal response. I think it may have been because that’s what I’d been doing to keep myself awake. There was truly no logic involved in my exhausted reaction. But when I slapped him, Drew flipped out and started screaming, asking me why I hit him. And I told him he’d fallen asleep and I was trying to wake him up so that we didn’t run off the road, that his eyes were closed! He swore they weren’t I swore they were, it was total chaos for a minute, before we both came back to rational thinking. We could laugh about it afterward, because I swore I was trying to save our lives, and he joked I was just looking for a reason to slap him. Now it makes a hilarious story, but at the time it freaked both of us out. Moral of the story: sleep is very important. Do not drive when you are exhausted, you are better off sleeping at a gas station or rest stop in the car. Also, don’t slap people while they are driving if you can help it.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get to work, even if you start alone because no one will get on board. You will work harder for yourself than anyone else. Also, take time to rest and have fun…you will need it for your sanity. Downtime isn’t wasted time — sometimes it brings you your best opportunities and connections. And, most importantly, don’t compromise yourself. There isn’t any opportunity that is worth compromising who you are and your integrity. At the end of the day all you have is you and God, and you have to like the person who is looking back in the mirror. Being true to yourself will get you further in the long run. Even on the days it doesn’t seem like that is true, in the long run people will respect you for your integrity and your heart. God is a greater champion for your success than any human being can be.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I have been impacted by a lot of amazing people in my life. But, as I sit here and try to think of one person that had a huge impact on me, I can’t really think of a person — all that comes to mind is Jesus. I know that probably sounds cheesy. But, honestly, I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for my relationship with Jesus. And it’s very possible I wouldn’t have lived to do this interview. I’ve lived a lot of life. I’ve been in a lot of dramatic situations, some dangerous, and I’ve been through a lot of trauma, but one thing has always been constant in my life, my relationship with God. My family went to church when I was really little but stopped going when I was about 4 years old. But, I remember always talking to God. I would hear His voice, and I would pray every day. When things were hard at home, or I felt lonely and isolated as a kid, I talked to God. He would comfort me and assure me. I’ve been prophetic since I was a child, meaning, God spoke to me, and I often knew things that I shouldn’t know. I knew when my grandfather died before anyone told me. I knew when friends were in car accidents and would often be awakened in the middle of the night when it happened to pray. When I had gone through abuse and was going through the worst break-up of my life because of it, and I was yelling at God, He met me with love, and directions, and guided me right into a friend’s prayer meeting (that I didn’t know was happening). God led me to Nashville, and when I went through multiple traumatic events here, He protected me from physical harm, and He healed my heart, so I didn’t carry bitterness and pain with me. When my faith was broken and I was ready to settle for less, God met me there, and didn’t let me settle. He pushed me to get healing and showed me how much greater He had for me. I chose to do counseling for the trauma, and that was immensely important as well, but my faith wasn’t separated from that. And without God, the trauma therapy would have fallen flat. He has given me dreams and visions that have kept me going through the hardest times, knowing that He keeps His word. Dreams and visions that came to pass later. People ask me sometimes how I have been through the things I have, and I don’t hate people, and I am not bitter. They often ask how I am so healthy and mentally stable, and the only answer I can give is Jesus. He protected me with warnings before trouble came, and even when I didn’t listen and got hurt, He carried me through it all. He healed me when it was too much for me, and He will be on this journey with me the rest of the way too.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?
I truly believe that music has the power to reach and heal people. When something is too big to put into words, music can come in and fill the spaces and feelings that need more than words. But, I also recognize that sometimes music is what opens the door to conversation that can bring change in greater ways. My heart has always been to see people living free, healed, whole, and truly happy, and if I can bring truth and resources to them that help them get there, then that’s a good day. There are two causes that are especially close to my heart, and they go hand in hand. Domestic abuse awareness/support, and trauma healing. Because I have been through it myself, I am keenly aware of the lack of education, and resources in both of these areas, and I want to change that. PTSD is a common side effect of going through abuse, and though it looks a bit different than PTSD from a war zone, where someone may have violent visual flashbacks, the emotional flashbacks that can come with trauma that is caused by abuse can be just as debilitating, and they also need a trauma informed approach to healing, not just talk therapy. I wrote my song BELIEVE AGAIN about my own experience healing from PTSD after going through trauma from psychological abuse.
Can you share with us a story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
Raising awareness for domestic abuse is extremely close to my heart because I have been through it myself. I have also watched people I love go through it, which in some ways is harder. I know first-hand the importance of education and resources for both avoiding it and healing from it. I was never physically abused, but I was psychologically abused, which can be just as damaging. Psychological abuse can be harder to recognize. There’s no way to deny a bruise left on your body, and there’s no way to say that being hit isn’t abuse. Psychological abuse on the other hand is a constant mind game, abusers tend to gaslight, guilt, blame, twist things around, and even accuse you of doing the very abusive behaviors that they are actually doing to you. When I was in it, I didn’t even know I was being abused. I got to a point where I realized how unhappy I was and that it had become chaotic and toxic, but I couldn’t even recognize it as abuse until at least 6 months of no contact with the person who abused me. I had to get completely away from the mind games in order to clear my thinking enough to really see the truth. I was really young when I met the person who I was in an abusive relationship with. I didn’t have a lot of experience in relationships, and I had come from a background that had dysfunction in it, so I wasn’t sure what a healthy relationship really looked like. I had never learned about the patterns of abuse, how it starts, what the red flags are, or anything like that. And, most people aren’t raised to look for red flags or abusive behavior. We tend to be taught to look for the best in people, which is actually a dangerous proposition when dealing with an abusive person. What I did know was that I wanted to be in a healthy, and happy relationship.
The interesting thing is that the first red flag of abuse is actually something that counselors call love bombing. And love bombing feels good. If you don’t know that it is actually a red flag of abuse, it is easy to get caught up in it. Love bombing is what it sounds like. It is affectionate behavior, like constant compliments, affection, attention, and even contact, that is above and beyond what is normal, and healthy. In fact, it can feel overwhelming, and a bit like your independence and space is being taken up. But at the same time, it feels good, because human beings are wired to feel good when we are complimented and given attention, and affection. This could look like someone not giving you much of any space at all in the beginning of a relationship. It can look like them telling you very, very quickly that they love you and have never felt this way before, or that you are the most beautiful or amazing person they’ve ever met. Meanwhile, they haven’t known you long enough or well enough to truly get to know who you are. Another part of love bombing is that these relationships tend to be fast moving, the toxic person will try to get involved with your family and friends and even work very quickly. They insert themselves in things, they want you to get attached to people or children in their lives too. If they can get someone hooked in quickly, they can make them feel trapped. There is usually a level of possessiveness that goes along with this, and as the more openly abusive part of the cycle comes, this can turn to extreme jealousy and control. But, no one grows up learning that getting lots of attention affection is actually an early sign of abuse. I had gut responses to things early on in the abusive relationship where I did feel a little off, and I felt like I was losing some of my autonomy, but without the knowledge that this could be a sign of abuse, It was easy to believe I just wasn’t used to a relationship where someone was really invested, and I should just allow it. I also barely had time to process the feelings that were coming up for me, because I rarely had time apart from him. This is a common story in abuse. In fact, though no abusive person is exactly the same, abuse always follows the same patterns and when you break it down, often you could be talking about the same person in many different bodies. It’s crazy. This is why I’m such a big proponent of education and awareness. I know from my own experience, that if we teach the signs, red flags, and cycle of abuse, along with healthy relationship skills, like boundary setting, we can help prevent people from ending up in abusive and toxic relationships before any damage is done, because they will recognize the signs. I’d much rather prevent the damage before it ever happens, because healing after the fact, though totally worth it, is hard and a process.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
Because of the sensitive nature of abuse, I can’t give names or too many details, but I can say that I’ve been able to help a number of people get out of abusive situations. Others have healed through education and guidance shared in my book, social media, and music. Support from loved ones is crucial for someone going through abuse, and it ultimately helps them get out, so I’ve been grateful to also offer guidance and support to family members and friends of those who are going through abuse as well. People frequently inbox me for guidance and help, and I am always grateful that they see me as a safe person to talk to, as talking to someone who has been there, understands, has gotten out, is helpful, and empowering.
One of my favorite memories of helping someone was about 6 years ago. I hadn’t started talking as openly about domestic abuse yet, but I was sharing posts, information, and even songs that related to it. I didn’t even know that this particular person was going through abuse. Other than commenting casually on some of my posts they never shared anything, and I didn’t know them personally, only through music social media pages. One day I got a private message from them saying “you helped me get out of an abusive relationship this year. Thank you.” They shared a bit more detail, though I can’t remember specifics about how they’d been unhappy and not really even known why and they finally understood and got free. But the amazing thing is I hadn’t ever spoken to them directly about it, and I wasn’t posting a lot that was blatantly about abuse. That is the power of our words. That is the power of our compassion and understanding. That is the power of education and awareness. Often when people are in the midst of abuse, they don’t really know what’s going on, but they may feel crazy at times, unhappy, or like they are on an emotional rollercoaster. The truth can help them sort through what is actually going on, and remember who they are, know they are not crazy, and realize that there is a way out, and they are worth the fight.
Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?
1. Recognize that abuse can affect absolutely anyone; men, women, children, anyone. It isn’t exclusive to one ethnicity, and it’s not exclusive to any socioeconomic level. So, check any preconceived notions at the door. Abuse isn’t just physical. Take time to educate yourself on narcissistic and psychological abuse, as well as abuse signs, and patterns. When you understand how it operates, you can more clearly see the truth, and be a help. Psychological abuse is extremely common, so you could see a couple with a big guy and a tiny woman, and he could be the abuse victim through constant psychological games. Abusers often try to play the victim, so you really need to be able to throw away preconceived notions and genuinely pay attention and listen to understand. This goes especially for any hotlines or resources that help targets of abuse, but we also need to change the mentality on a societal level, and that starts with each individual person. You could be the person that says the one right thing to a person going through abuse that helps them break free. I am really grateful for the publicity that the recent Johnny Depp trial got, because I believe it is bringing awareness on a larger scale to the fact that men can be targets of abuse as well.
2. There need to be legal consequences, not just for physical abuse, but also psychological abuse. The UK is way ahead of us in this. They actually have laws that can jail people for coercive control if proven in court. Coercive control is a form of psychological abuse that entails a number of different types of controlling and manipulative behavior, including things like monitoring, or having full access to a partner’s communications, so they aren’t able to privately communicate with others. Abuse behavior needs to be held accountable, and courts need to understand what it looks like and how it operates. There are way too many targets of abuse that are abused more through the legal system, even in divorce proceedings from their abusers, because there is a serious lack of knowledge about abuse, especially psychological abuse. This needs to change. Having repercussions and accountability would make a big difference.
3. There needs to be widespread education on abuse. It should be mandatory for people in the justice system to learn about it. There should be education in schools, and there should be education in churches. There should be designated advocates for abuse scenarios in school counseling settings, as well as the court system. This happens some, but not nearly enough. Bringing the truth about abuse into the light will help prevent it in some cases, and it will help protect targets of abuse from further abuse in the justice system, and even in counseling settings.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”?
1. Take time to have fun. Some of your best connections and opportunities will come from downtime, not just working constantly.
2. Take time to rest and heal. Work isn’t everything. Your health and sanity are more important than getting things done right now. Without them, your career halts. Build healthy community when you are not on the road. And build some of it outside of the industry. A community of faith is extremely important. It’s a hard business, and you need a place to escape, and people to spend time with that are healthy, and separate.
3. Don’t try to record before you move. The people where you live don’t know how to record like the people in the music city you are moving to. It will be nothing more than a waste of money.
4. Take serious time to interview potential teammates (like managers, booking agents, etc.) And get references before working with them. It’s worse to work with the wrong person than no one at all. Sometimes you do all of that, and still have challenges. Forgive yourself for mistakes and move on. Your peace and time are more valuable than dwelling on would have, could have, should haves.
5. Balance your time co-writing and networking in town with your time touring. Touring may pay the bills and build an audience, but working with people in the industry back home keeps your connections fresh, and strong.
You’re a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would implement a program in schools and churches to educate on domestic abuse, and also teach healthy relationship skills. It would focus on the specific tactics of abuse, red flags, and the cycle and patterns of abuse. But it would also include education about healthy coping mechanisms, and how to implement healthy boundaries in your life and relationships. I know I have already talked about this a bit in other parts of the interview, but I truly believe this is what would bring the most societal change in a positive way. Healthy relationships and healthy families are truly the foundation of societal health as a whole. Abuse is a direct attack on healthy relationships and family. When relationships and families are healthy, there is less mental illness. When we prevent abuse, we prevent a lot of trauma. Most of the issues we have societally and personally are because of a breakdown of family, and a lack of healthy connection with people. So, healing also starts at a relational level. When we educate about domestic abuse, we help prevent it. When we prevent it and stop it at the root, we also prevent the damage it causes. When we educate about it, we can also help prevent continued abuse and trauma where it has already started. When people understand it, we automatically bring more resources and support to those who have been targeted and attacked by abuse. Interpersonal relationships affect every other area of your life, therefore teaching on how to identify healthy relationships, and be healthy in relationships, should be a priority for education.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
I’m going to give you two, because they have been true at different parts of my life. When I was a kid, a quote I lived by was “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” It served me well in a lot of ways, because I had an attitude that failure wasn’t failure unless you gave up. It pushed me to accomplish a lot, and also to have a healthy attitude about trying new things and stepping out in adventure. But, it also put all the weight on me and my efforts. And, there are some things in life we are supposed to let go of, like toxic environments and abusive relationships. About 7 or 8 years ago, my life shifted in a radical way after years of back to back trauma, and I ended up with PTSD, and I had to take a serious inventory of my life, get counseling and completely rebuild my faith, and trust in God. I had never stopped believing in God, but my trust of God was in pieces. I had seen a friend who really radiated the peace and joy of the Lord, and I remember looking at them and thinking, “that used to be me, and I want that back.” That’s when my quote shifted. I began to pray every day, “God I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” I made a choice to believe even when my feelings didn’t match it, until my feelings and faith met my choice and my words. I really had to get to a place of full surrender. Doing everything myself hadn’t worked. My life was in need of healing that I couldn’t do without God, and I had to recognize that God was the one who really held my promises and purpose in His hands. The verse that I was praying comes from the book of Mark, where a father comes to Jesus, asking Him to heal his son if he can. And Jesus says “If I can? Everything is possible if you believe.” The father had seen nothing but disappointment, but in that moment, he looked at Jesus and made the choice to trust Him, and said, “I believe help my unbelief!” In that moment his son was healed after a lifetime of affliction. God honors our choice to trust, and have faith, even when we don’t feel it. He is faithful even when we are faithless. He fills in the gap. Not only did God bring me healing, but as I learned to fully surrender in trust with God, and let Him lead me, I grew a new healthy community, and started gaining opportunities that I never could have curated on my own, just trying harder. My life is so much better and full of so much more blessing, community, and peace than I ever could have created doing it on my own.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I really had to think about this question. There are so many people I would love to meet with for so many different reasons, but who would have the most impact? Who would have the influence and capacity to actually help implement something that could bring some of these ideas from concept into implementation? After a lot of thinking, I have to say if I could have a private breakfast or lunch with anyone, it would be President Trump. I realize many diverse opinions exist regarding Trump, but this isn’t about politics. This is about the ability to make a difference. President Trump not only has adequate resources that could help implement some of the domestic abuse education ideas I’ve shared in this article, he also has the political connections of influence to potentially put it in action on a more governmental level. He has always been a proponent of the health of the family being very important, he pushed the task force that was taking down sex trafficking rings, and in proclamation 9933 leading up to domestic violence awareness month in 2019, he spoke specifically about domestic violence and how it negatively affects society as a whole…and the importance of having programs for it. I would love to be able to sit down with him and have a discussion about the possibilities for putting these ideas into real actionable steps that lead to implementation.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!
Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Brittany Bexton Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.