Many Rooms, the one woman act of Brianna Hunt strums softly on her guitar sweetly singing, “I bet you're looking for a sorry / Well I'm looking for one too / What goes on inside your heart / What makes you do the things you do?” Her song “The Father Complex”, one of six songs she recorded for her EP entitled “Hollow Body”, has over 123,000 listens on Spotify and was a crowd favorite when she toured the midwest last fall. She will soon embark on a nationwide tour starting in September with Baltimore based rock band, Have Mercy.
The 21-year-old Columbus, Ohio based artist sat down with Hooligan to talk about the importance of her faith, embracing her depression and other personal burdens in her music, and breaking into the industry as a woman.
Brianna grew up in a conservative Christian household in Carlsbad, New Mexico and first discovered music through her mother who played music in her church’s youth group. As soon as Brianna got her hands on the guitar and started practicing, the rest was history.
After performing an original song in her school’s talent show in third grade, writing lyrics and poems became more than a hobby—they were a passion that would carry Brianna further to where she is today.
During her sophomore year of high school, she met a group of seniors that encouraged her to start showcasing her talent by playing local shows. Unlike being in a densely populated urban area like Los Angeles, New York City or Chicago, Brianna stood out in her small town by being one of the only women in the area to start pursuing her dream of becoming a working musician.
After her first experience performing in a small New Mexico coffeeshop when she was 15, Brianna felt the much-needed support from her friends to push forward and write more music. She was exposed to bands like Emery, Underoath, and The Chariot, who ended up being pivotal in her writing process.
She made the decision to move to Nashville for about a year to further her connections, but realized that due to the large community of musicians trying to break into the industry, getting her work heard would be a more difficult process than she was anticipating. After hearing about the underground Christian-music festival, Audiofeed, through friends, she decided to perform on the impromptu stage for an open-mic there, and from there, things as a solo artist began to look promising.
Brianna began to open up and express her vulnerabilities in her music, believing it created a sense of community with listeners. She knew she wanted to share her music, but she felt limited in her options. Recording in a studio required financial backing that the aspiring artist didn’t have. She sought for answers from God and asked to receive a sign that would tell her if music was her destined path.
“I kind of broke down and was like, ‘OK God, if you don’t want me to do music then just tell me what you want me to do and show me what you want me to do,’” Brianna says.
The day after her self-proclaimed crisis, Brianna says a friend contacted her and asked her if she wanted to record an EP at a home studio in Texas. Feeling like this was her sign, Brianna saved up money, moved to Houston, and traveled up to Denton, Texas, to record each of the six songs on the EP within a week.
“I recorded that and it was under the band name Captain which was really lame and I hated it, but I got really bad at coming up with that stuff, so I released it and it was out for a year before I got signed and re-released it,” she said.
Right before Brianna got signed to Other People Records, an independent record label based in L.A., she went to a show with a friend and met the members of the band, Souvenirs. While talking to the band, her friend mentioned that Brianna’s sound resembled the band Daughter.
“[They were] like, ‘What? Give me a C.D.,” Brianna recalls. “The band commented on my Instagram and was like, ‘Do you mind if we share this around?’ I thought they were just going to show it to some friends, and then two weeks later—this was last August—I get an email from Other People Records and they were like ‘Hey, we’re really interested in your EP.’”
The label’s owners, Thomas Williams of the metalcore band Stray From the Path, and Jesse Barnett from Stick to Your Guns, indicated the label was not all about making money, but rather, about making “good” music. Brianna was in.
When her EP Hollow Body was re-released in 2015, Brianna knew that she had made a conscious and brave decision. She thought that laying out all her vulnerabilities and questions she had, through her music, could be healing to others. In the EP namesake song Hollow Body, she calmly sings through her experience of the feeling of having someone take the life out of her and having to recover.
The lyrics hit deep: “It's tucked right underneath my feet / My brittle bones they can't contain / The weight of when we speak your name / But in spite of everything / I curse you with the breath you gave me”.
While her words resonate with listeners because of universal themes of hurt and anxiety, many people may not know that the artist has trichotillomania, which started in high school.
“I lived all throughout high school thinking that if people knew about it, they would think I was a freak, and that [I was the] only person that struggled with that,” Brianna revealed.
But after Brianna decided to post a picture on Tumblr showing off her newly shaved head to symbolize “starting over,” influenced by her frustration with the disorder, she had countless girls message her and disclose that they were going through the same thing. Finally, something clicked.
“I realized ‘Oh my God, because I opened up about this, I was able to make people feel comforted in the fact that they have the same struggle,’” Brianna says. “And [I] made them feel less alone in their struggle. That’s really important.”
Because of her strong Christian faith, Brianna originally started to do music as a ministry. She still has that goal in mind, but doesn’t want to put herself in the “worship music” genre.
“I wanted to do something that could cater to all backgrounds,” she says.
By making her lyrics and sound sincere, she wants the music to be about other people being able to relate, and less more about her personal standpoint.
“I realize that’s what I want to do because that’s what’s going to make people feel loved and feel cared about,” she says. “Not me just being like ‘Jesus loves you’ because that doesn’t fix their problems. Once it [the music] stops being about other people, I’m not going to do it anymore because that’s what I need to do in my life. That’s what I feel called to do - make people feel comforted and less alone.”
But being able to share her struggles and open up comes with its hardships—especially when it comes to being a female musician who puts her heart on the line every time she releases a song.
“There’s a subconscious sense of having to prove myself,” Brianna stated. “I have to be better than people expect because I am a girl.”
Since she also started off in her hometown as being one of the only girls pursuing music, Brianna said she started to become “territorial” and judgmental when it came to other girls who shared her same dreams when she realized music is what she wanted to do.
Her religious upbringing also bled into the belief that women were never oppressed, so Brianna was turned off from feminism for some time, but while writing and experiences started to become visable through her music, she soon started shifting her beliefs and views on feminism, as well as religion.
“In the past two years I have had to reexamine myself,” she said. “[I] pretty much relearned Christianity, Jesus and the gospel and realizing that Jesus never hated those people. I had to recognize that I [didn’t] like women and it was really dumb. It stems from my own insecurity with myself. I had to recognize that I [didn’t] like women’s self-love and happiness because I didn’t have much love for myself.”
Brianna also said that when she was a child, she had this perception that there were only a limited number of spots for solo women artists, which also created disbelief in respect to her craft.
“I had to be unique and do something different but there are plenty of guy acoustic acts that are good enough on their own, so why do I think that there’s only room for me?” Brianna questioned. “There’s not. There’s room for so many girls and I need to encourage that.”
From feeling self-righteous through valuing the teachings in The Bible, Brianna looked back and took the time to reflect at her present self, and realized she was no longer the same person as the one she was growing up.
“I realized that we’re all imperfect and what I needed at the time was somebody to care about me and tell me it’s okay,” she says. “Basically fucking up and making mistakes is what helped me have more compassion towards people. I sin all the time, so who am I to tell someone else whatever they’re doing is wrong when I got my own shit that I have to deal with?”
By defying those stereotypes and classifications, Brianna feels confident in her music and herself, despite also dealing with her own personal struggles. By being influenced and inspired by artists such as Julien Baker and Daughter, she understands that there is often a misguided belief that artists like herself adopt a “sad girl/acoustic jam trope” and although Brianna said she embraces it, she also tries to work against it because she wants to encourage others to do the same.
“I want to challenge people to think differently and I don’t want to just be about making sad music,” she said.
She recalls one incident at a show where someone came up to her after hearing her perform and told her, “I hope your life gets better.”
“The thing that helps me deal with sadness is writing and then I’m able to disconnect from it after I write about it,” she says. “It’s like a growing process for me. I’m not just sad, I’m generally a pretty happy person. Depression isn’t just sadness. It’s a bunch of things.”
As for advice for young artists who might be in Brianna’s shoes? She encourages them to “just fucking do it.”
“You don’t let yourself be discouraged by people who are doing it better, because there’s always someone who’s better than you, but that’s not what it’s about,” she advises. “It’s about you, your own process, because nobody’s the same. Whatever you have to say is important and there’s somebody out there who needs to hear it.”
Check out Many Rooms on tour with This Wild Life, Have Mercy, and Movements this September and October.
Click here to stream "Hollow Body" on Spotify.