For five generations, the Bradfield clan has carved farmland out of the rugged southeastern corner of the South Island. These rolling, scrub-filled hills at the end of the world are not easily tamed, tempered by nature’s pace, where the seasons mete out their lessons and the ground demands patience.
From young age, Raylee Bradfield learned to mine these lands for song. After all, nature has her own way of teaching us about the human condition.
“I’m fascinated with how nature can go from flourishing to desolation to renewal” says the songwriter, “It’s this beautiful metaphor for human catharsis; the cycle of life, death, hope, and redemption.”
While she may have traded the rolling hills for urban cityscapes years ago, Bradfield’s knack for mining the stuff of life is still finely tuned – her songs search for both the personal and the universal. Nine years in the making, debut album Where Wildflowers Grow is a collection of songs carved by seasons of personal desolation; Raylee’s mother died months after the release of her 2008 EP Walk a Mile, weaving a vein of bittersweet remembrance through the new songs. There are also hints of the universal in the album’s storytelling.
“Most of my songs are written from imagining what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes.” Bradfield explains, “The words often tumble out and I begin to see the story emerge that I’ve been carrying around inside me without realising. I’m moved by people’s situations, and the universal themes that tie us all together.”
Lead single Give Me the Answer begins with the hallmarks of standard folk fare; a tale of the prodigal woman and the man who bets it all in life’s loaded roulette wheel – dig a little deeper and you’ll find the songwriter has tapped into a universal story about our need to find clarity, and the power of nature’s hidden guidance.
“I think answers are everywhere if we look for them. And they are seldom found in a sentence but more often found in moving breathing things: mountains, rivers, stars, heartbeats, and mystery. They’re found in silence and solitude.”
Musically, Bradfield channels a raft of alt-country poets, from Gillian Welch (“She doesn’t waste one word”) to Patty Griffin. True to country music form, Bradfield recorded Where Wildflowers Grow in a converted barn in the fields of Waiuku, just south of Auckland, lending a live warmth to her storytelling, from the sparse and winsome Wounded Heart to the porch-lit spring of Love You So.
“I hope this album feels like renewal” the singer muses, “These songs were created with redemption in mind.” Having mined the seasons for gold, Bradfield’s Where Wildflowers Grow promises more Spring than Winter, more bloom than desolation.