12 Stories, Brandy’s debut album as an artist which garnered her two nominations for Best New Artist and Best Country Album at 2015's Grammy Awards, is full of diverse characters.
There’s the woman in first single “Stripes” who fantasizes about killing her cheating husband, but doesn’t want to be caught dead in an orange jumpsuit. There’s another who asks Jesus for help, but plays the lottery just in case in “Pray to Jesus.” And there’s the bored housewife in “Get High” who escapes daily drudgery by rolling joints at the kitchen table.
“I get my inspiration from real people who are just surviving their life and getting through their day. That’s who I write songs for,” explains Brandy. “I want to write songs for somebody who is working at a bank—if that person could write a song, what they would write. That’s my goal.”
Prior to 12 Stories, Brandy achieved that goal by penning songs for other artists. Reba McEntire and Kenny Rogers have both recorded her songs. Darius Rucker, Sheryl Crow and Kacey Musgraves have Brandy compositions on their new albums. And The Band Perry gave Brandy her first No. 1 single with “Better Dig Two,” followed shortly after by another No. 1 in “Mama’s Broken Heart,” cut by Miranda Lambert.
They are all milestones for Brandy the songwriter, but 12 Stories aims to establish Brandy as a performing artist. The album, a collection of a dozen songs ranging from rollicking back-porch jams like “Crazy Women” to vulnerable tear-at-your-heart ballads like “Hold My Hand,” seemed to have birthed itself.
“I was just writing songs. But with titles like ‘Take a Little Pill’ and ‘Day She Got Divorced,’ artists wouldn’t cut those songs. However, they are some of my favorites and, artistically, I fit them,” says Brandy, who decided to record her own album after playing “Get High” for her songwriting partner Shane McAnally. “Shane said that I could write a whole record of songs from that woman’s perspective and make an album that no one has ever made. That’s kind of what we did.”
Actually, it’s exactly what she did. Teaming up with producer Dave Brainard (Jerrod Niemann, Ray Scott), Brandy used her writing gift and distinctly country voice to craft a record that has touched everyone lucky enough to hear it. Marty Stuart is a vocal fan, as are Miranda Lambert, Sheryl Crow and Kacey Musgraves. All of them are attracted to Brandy’s unfiltered take on the human experience, its joys and especially its frailties.