Her album, Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline, comes out in September. With that title and that voice, we’re glad we’ve got this soulful country killer of a single to tide us over.
The storytelling soul-twang of Victoria Bailey on songs like “Spent My Dime on White Wine” will put you in a yearning mood. You won’t be sure which you want more — to have the spirit wash over you in the pews on Sunday morning or to join her for cocktails at the show on Saturday night. Either way, you’ll want to hear what she’s singing and have whatever she’s drinking.
You’ll get exactly what we mean when her new record, Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline, comes out September 18. In the meantime, we’ve got the premiere of “Spent My Dime on White Wine” for your edification right here.
A country singer-songwriter rooted in Orange County, California, Bailey was born and raised and is still living in Huntington Beach. “I feel happy here in Southern California, being equally close to the desert and the ocean,” she says. And naturally she loves being close to the music, which she’s been playing, performing, and traveling with for the past decade or so.
“I grew up around music with my dad being a drummer, and our garage was always filled with rock ’n’ roll and his friends paying tribute to the Allman Brothers and the Stones on the weekends,” Bailey says. “The rest of my music inspiration blossomed from the strong folk songwriters that were the soundtrack to my childhood. My mom always had folk legends like Carole King, James Taylor, and Cat Stevens playing in our home. I am so grateful for that and for the music I was brought up around.”
She stumbled onto guitar playing at a young age, and songwriting came naturally and early. Soon she was writing her stories into songs and singing in honky-tonk bars. It took some time, Bailey says, to get to a place to record a full-length album, but she’s there now and excited to be on the cusp of realizing that dream.
Among the current musical influences and muses whose inspiration you might hear in Bailey’s music? “Our country queens: Dolly, Emmylou, and Patsy — the way they present themselves on stage, being women of faith, and the way they can perform any song and capture every person's heart in the room is everything. They’ve had a big impact on my life and have been my greatest mentors. A lot of current music inspires me as well. Colter Wall, Margo Price, and Ryan Bingham are what I have on rotation at the moment.”
We talked to Bailey about her music and the new record and got her recommendations for a Feel Good Playlist.
Cowboys & Indians: Your music really inhabits a "classic country" place. Your songs sound like they could have come out decades ago, but they also sound completely fresh. How did you land upon this sound, and what does it mean to you to carry the classic country torch now?
Victoria Bailey: Falling in love with country music and that form of storytelling came a bit later in life for me. I really pinpoint the start of this transition to when I traveled to Tennessee for the first time years ago. I distinctly remember being downtown and seeing Emmylou Harris and Hank Williams records on the wall, and the miles and miles of talented musicians playing in these bars. All of them essentially were drawing from and praising our country songwriting heroes, from Johnny Cash to John Prine. From there, I really just dove into classic country records, and once I started writing that way and attempting to emulate my heroes in this genre, nothing has ever felt more right.
C&I: Tell us about your latest single, “Spent My Dime on White Wine.” What inspired it and how did it come together?
Bailey: This is a gospel-country sprinkled tune, woven with string instrument arrangements and strong female background vocals. This song really came out of a place where I was having a hard time feeling creative in my writing, starting with the opening line: “It’s been quite some time since I sat down to rhyme, I don’t know how it is that I feel,” which we all go through as songwriters. This was the last song I wrote for the record, and it ended up being my favorite one produced.
C&I: What’s your favorite part in the song?
Bailey: My favorite line in this song is “Singing for the two lonely hearts in the crowd.” I think that sums up this story as a whole and what I love most about performing — connecting with people on the most intimate level by just singing my stories.
C&I: What’s the meaning in it for you, and what do you hope listeners will get from it?
Bailey: The sounds and instruments tied into the song really sum up me as a whole, with inspiration pulled from gospel and my faith and my love for a good, but cheap, glass of wine. I hope listeners feel connected in their own way to these lyrics and that it somehow ties into their own stories.
C&I: The song is off your new album, Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline, out September 18th. What’s the common thread through the songs on the record?
Bailey: I love that the title, Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline, really represents the album and who I am as a whole. I tried to really reflect my love for those three things throughout the whole record — my love for Jesus, a good cocktail, and a good country song.
C&I: What are the high points on the album for you?
Bailey: My favorite part of this record is how many musicians are featured on it! I’m lucky to be surrounded by a pretty talented bunch, and so many friends stopped by the studio to sprinkle a little bit of their magic on these songs.
C&I: Tell us about the recording process. How did the album come together in the studio?
Bailey: I’m most proud that this record was produced by my good friend and mentor Jeremy Long. I can’t begin to give this guy enough praise. He’s a local legend around here and pretty much has played on everyone’s records in the circle of country music in Southern California. We did a demo of “Honky Tonk Woman” a few years back the night after I wrote the song, and I knew it was the start to this record. When we finally decided to make the record in 2019, it just flowed and reflected all the nights playing live, and it is an ode to everyone who has supported me and my music in this town.
C&I: What have you been doing during lockdown?
Bailey: Taking a breather. I’ve been nonstop for the past few years with playing shows, and traveling and working and recording. I just really tried to embrace this time and to spend it with my family, as well as time with my boyfriend, Eric, who is also in my band and my favorite person to play music with, so we got pretty lucky to have this time together, too. I’ve been watching a lot of Yellowstone and I Love Lucy, and I finally learned how to cook a few things, too! Musically, I jumped on the livestream show trend right away. Being able to still connect with people, playing for fans, friends, and family that I’m unable to see during this time, has been really comforting and just a great way to stay connected.
C&I: Tell us a little about the music you do for kids.
Bailey: I fell in love with sharing my passion for music with the youth in my community and started a kids’ program called Little Folk Club. It’s something so close to my heart, and I have recorded a few traditional and original songs for kids in the last few years. I have been doing livestreams consistently for the kiddos— early morning sing-along sessions, which has been so fun! I’m really hoping the 10 a.m. “Wheels on the Bus” and “Hokey Pokey” singalongs to my phone haven’t been driving my neighbors too crazy.
C&I: Generally speaking, what inspires you? How do you “refill the well” of creativity?
Bailey: Typically the records I’m listening to and the books I’m reading really play a big role in my songs, as well as my travels and the people I meet along the way. I feel like constantly reading and listening and watching other work and people is so essential to creating my own. I don’t really have a set pattern of how my songs come to life. I’m constantly taking notes of phrases and moments and stories that really stick out to me.
C&I: What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?
Bailey: I am half Puerto Rican!
C&I: I’ve seen you with horses in some photos on Instagram. Are you a horse person? Do you ride much?
Bailey: Yes! I am truly so inspired and in love with these wild creatures. I’ve been riding for a few years now and just started leasing a horse, Weasley! So I’ve been out riding him a lot in the past few months with the extra time. As you’ll see in the “Spent My Dime on White Wine” video, I am truly in my element on a trail in a saddle.
C&I: What’s next for you?
Bailey: The plans to tour for this record in 2020, of course, have changed a bit, but I feel fortunate to take the time to start preparing the next record, and I’ll be more than ready to hit the road running when the time is right and safe to do so to share these songs. I’m truly so excited to share this album! I’ve been holding onto these songs for quite some time, so it definitely feels like I’m shedding a bit of my heart into the world. I got to make this record with some of my favorite people and had the time of my life making it.
Victoria Bailey’s Feel Good Playlist
“Feelin’ Good” — Levon Helm
“Big Jimmy” — Moonsville Collective
“Long Journey Home” — Roebuck & Co
“Heaven Sent” — The Steeldrivers
“Spanish Pipedream” — John Prine
“Two More Bottles of Wine” — Emmylou Harris
“Mustang Ridge” — Tanya Tucker
“Dixie Chicken” — Little Feat
“Life of Sin” — Sturgill Simpson
“9 to 5” — Dolly Parton
“Redesigning Women” — The Highwomen
“It Is What It Is” — RT N’ the 44s
“Honky Tonk Woman” — Victoria Bailey
Photography: Images courtesy Larissa Gabrielle Jacks, Stefanie Vinsel Johnson, Grant Puckett, Amanda Canton