With smooth, soulful vocals at the forefront of her sound, 2023 marks a decade since Bailey Wiley began releasing music. Her latest single Baby Mama is a mellow RnB groove, laden with lush harmonies and inspired by Wiley’s experience of being a mother, as Nur Lajunen-Tal finds out. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.
When Bailey Wiley last spoke to NZM it was about her self-titled fourth EP, which was released in 2019. Since then, She has had two children since then, the older one now three , and continues to make music, though her focus has necessarily shifted away from multi-song projects.
“Since I released the EP in 2019 I have just released singles. I’ve just been in a place of singles. I haven’t been able to commit too much because I’ve got the kids. Things have changed and I don’t wanna over exert myself ,or bite off too much more than I can chew, because I’ve realised that in doing that with my music it sucks all the fucking joy out of it. If I can commit to just singles, at this stage, it brings me joy!”
Alongside motherhood and music, 2023 has also seen Wiley returning to academic study. As Anzel Singh noted in NZM’s May/June 2019 issue, Wiley has a musical theatre degree from Christchurch’s National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Arts (NASDA). This year she’s studying towards a Master in Creative Art Therapy at Auckland’s Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design.
“So I’m gonna become an art therapist, it’s pretty crazy!” grins Wiley, her passion for the subject evident. “It involves learning about the creative process, why people do what they do, and how, as a therapist, I can help facilitate that space. It’s just using creativity as a tool, I guess, for wellbeing. Someone might come into a session, and you might play around with some different mediums and modalities depending on what they want to explore, and then through that, you might conversate about something that is on their mind, or maybe transform that artwork into something else.
“Mediums and modalities are painting, or sculpture, or creative writing, or music. It’s everything! A music therapist does just music stuff, but a creative arts therapist can use all of those modalities and use them with clients. People in the music industry have asked me, ‘Why didn’t you do music therapy? Wouldn’t that have been more up your alley?’ And I’m like:, ‘No!,’ because it just pigeonholes me to doing one thing, whereas I wanna be able to work with people and do all different types of creative art form things. It includes music, it includes vocal stuff that you do with your voice, it includes movement and dance, it’s whatever!”
Evidently having two young tamariki hasn’t stopped Wiley from keeping busy doing what she loves – an idea which lies at the heart of her single Baby Mama.
“Baby Mama is such an important korero, because it is really emphasising that it’s all good to put many hats on, and be a creative person, be a creative mama, and not feel guilty about not doing something. I can look after my kids, and I can make music, and I can study creative arts therapy, and I can be a great partner, and all of those things. I’m hoping that Baby Mama highlights that, and it’s not saying that I have to just be one thing, you know?”
She wrote the song after having her first baby.
“I guess I was just navigating that space between being a mama and being an artist. And also grieving over the fact that I couldn’t just be an artist anymore, and that I had to create space for this motherhood phase in my life. (Well, not ‘phase’ because it’s never gonna fucking stop!) I just wrote it at my coffee table when my bubba was asleep, and one of my friends called Ghos, he sent me the beat, and that’s how it began.”
“Once I solidified the melody and lyrics and stuff, I later took it to the studio with some friends, and we put all these live instruments on it. It felt like one of those songs that needed live instrumentation, not just a loop beat, you know? I worked with a guy called Guy Harrison, and he is one of New Zealand’s don musicians. He’s on every fucking album. He can play every instrument, it’s crazy! He featured most of the live instrument stuff on there. Also a guy called Jason Herbert. He did the gat on it, and then Tom Broome was an engineer and also producer.”
Wiley is similarly pleased with the song’s music video, which she co-directed with Andy Day of Studio Butter. The video features her along with several friends in a stylishly luxurious location, and she explains that she really feel it important as a female artist to reclaim that part of yourself back.
“I came to him with the idea originally and just said, ‘This song’s called Baby Mama. I’m so wary that when some artists have kids, their life just becomes about being a mama and there they are with their kids, or they’re making music that is about kids.’
“I still wanted it to be elegant. I wanted it to have sex appeal. I wanted it to be beautiful, and I wanted that to translate visually. I was really unsure of where the balance of all that would fit. I wanted it to be honest. I wanted it to be a really honest representation of now, and who I am – and my girlfriends that have had kids. I spoke about that with Andy and he said, ‘Well, why don’t we try and give it a dreamlike feel?’ and and that he had this really dope venue in mind. And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m kind of seeing white picket fence vibes.’ So we found this dope venue, and it was this really bougie house in Parnell, like, so nice!
“I got some girlfriends involved, and all of the girlfriends that I got involved are mamas. I wanted it to be a true representation of motherhood, even though it’s a little bit luxurious. I wanted it to be an honest representation of women. I didn’t want it to just be random girlfriends that I knew that had cute faces or anything like that. I wanted them to be women that I have had a personal connection to throughout motherhood.”
With the right venue but no set idea of how the story was going to be told in the video, direction was done on the fly.
“All of the movements that the girls do, or wherever they’re sitting, or if they move over there or whatever – it was just in the moment. And I kind’a put my capricorn hat on. I just was like, ‘You, move there. You, move there.’ It was so mean! There were so many dope elements about it that in hindsight, it’s easily the best creative experience I’ve probably ever had.”
The video sees Wiley and her friends dressed in eye-catching vintage outfits, chosen by stylist Zoe McNicholas of Yohozoland.
“She honestly brought the aesthetics to life,” says Wiley. “I told her what my vision was, and how I wanted the women to feel good, look comfortable and just enhancing their beauty individually, not making them all look the same. I wanted them to feel powerful in their own wairua. We just picked a colour palette together, and then she sourced all of these vintage pieces from her collection and other secret G spots that she knows about or whatever!
“We got a few pieces from local brands, but I really wanted it to be primarily vintage stuff, and that’s because mothers are really resourceful and really good at making something out of nothing. I wanted that to reflect in what the women were wearing. She just fucking pulled this wardrobe out of nowhere, and brought it to life, and I honestly believe that that’s what makes the video so good, because it’s so aesthetically pleasing. All the colours fit not only with each other, but it fits with the landscape in every single fucking frame! Without that I don’t think that the video would’ve had the same impact. Her being so passionate about the way things looked, and the way us mamas looked and felt, brought so much more to the whole project. It was really nice to share something with her in that way, because she was just as passionate as I was.
“Making this just felt really special to me individually. I think, as an artist, everything is so self-focused, and the difference with this project is that I wanted it to be so much more than that. I didn’t want it to be just for me. I wanted it to be for all mamas, so when they see it, they feel like they’re part of it. Like they’re part of something bigger. Often, mamas aren’t really talked about when they’re in this post-partum phase, or they’ve just have kids, and I just wanted to highlight that sacred time in a woman’s life. I feel like we kind of captured that.”