Photo: Jack Alexander

Braden Bales

The "CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS" singer releases his debut EP 'NOMAD'

Intro 

For Braden Bales, a 21-year-old Ontario-born singer/songwriter now based in Nashville, the release of his song “CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS” earlier this year caused the breakthrough he had been working so hard for. The tune, an open omission of his struggles with mental health and anxiety, reflects his signature rap-sung style, with a hint of pop-punk, emulating artists like Don Toliver, Lil Yachty, and NF.

The success of “CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS” and other tunes such as “PICK ME UP” and “20 MISSED CALLS” led to his signing with Geffen Records, and his debut EP, titled NOMAD, is out now.

“CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS” 

If “CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS” is your first dose of Bales, you’re immediately hit with his skilled penmanship and catchy melodies as he maturely and openly displays his innermost thoughts: “So if I’m honest / I think I’m beginning to question how much I want this / Overloaded serial stresser / I’m sitting nauseous / Panic on a loop in my head / I’m chronically cautious / How can I get off this?” “This is the first one where I’m questioning my life in general,” he said. “Everything else is about a certain topic in my life specifically pertaining to me, with relationships, but ‘CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS’ is my most existential song. It’s like, ‘Where am I in life? Where am I going? What am I doing?’”

Part of Bales’ existentialism and anxiety comes from social media, despite his attachment to it on a personal and professional level. “I think the most unhealthy part about social media, and why it stresses me out, is that you’re seeing everybody in their best moments all the time,” he said. “Also, as an artist, you’re seeing all the success of people. Every song, every video, everything has a number attached to it. So not only do you judge your own stuff, you judge other people’s stuff based on their numbers.”

While fully engrossed in the culture, he has the wherewithal to be realistic about it. “I feel like we as content creators are all told we need to have an opinion about everything all the time,” he said, a smile crossing his face the closer he got to the end of the sentence, reveling in the strangeness and modernity of it all. “And I feel like that isn’t normal.”

Jeremy

To understand Bales’ ability to open himself up and really, truly explore his psyche is to understand his influences, consisting of the alternative pop heavyweights of today such as Alexander 23, Chelsea Cutler, and, most notably for him, Jeremy Zucker. “As a young producer, I appreciated the fact that the entire song, not just the lyrics, was conveying emotion,” said Bales, explaining his connection to these artists. “For Jeremy Zucker, when he is producing his own stuff, there is so much in the production that is going on that are little intricate, not necessarily musical, details. A perfect example is his song ‘Orchid.’ It was the first time I listened to production as a second set of lyrics. The way he conveyed emotion through pure sound, not even his voice, was something I really admired, and I wanted to incorporate that into my own thing.”

Making Every Word Count

Prior to the success of “CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS,” Bales had been trickling out releases consistently for over a year. Songs like “SEX WE HAD” and “BREAKUP ON A TUESDAY” stand out from the bunch, as does his personal favorite deep cut, “I FOUND YOUR SWEATSHIRT.” The tune sounds like a cross between a JP Saxe and Jeremy Zucker piano ballad, with Bales intimately reminiscing on an old flame: “I found your sweatshirt in my closet / The smell of you just made me nauseous…no.” “That was the first song I made that I felt was ahead of my time for where I was at skill-wise,” he admitted. “I have a huge appreciation for that one just for the simplicity of it and how every second of that song is planned out and intentional.”

With most of his songs clocking in at around the two-minute mark, Bales maintains the mindset of keeping every second intentional. “I like to get right into the song, and I don’t like a crazy long outro,” he said. “If you have to choose your words carefully because you don’t have many of them, it can let you be more potent. And it means that every line HAS to be good.”

Photo: Jack Alexander

NOMAD 

All that time honing the craft, experimenting with sound, and scratching and clawing his way to success has led him to NOMAD. In a trailer for the project released to YouTube, he explained its concept. “NOMAD is about all of the aspects of my life that have felt up in the air,” he said. “The feeling of longing for a home, but having that be nowhere. The feeling of never being comfortable.”

“CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS,” as well as a stripped-down version of the track, are included on the project. As is “PICK ME UP,” which features the lyric appropriate for the occasion: “Mom, come pick me up / All the kids here are doin’ drugs / And I’m tired and alone / A nomad who misses home.” The two new additions to Bales’ catalog, “FAIRWEATHER FRIENDS” and “ROI,” round out the project nicely.

The former focuses on the selfishness in modern dating, and how there’s always a motive. “Too bad these earbuds couldn’t cancel out the sirens / I guess nobody gets close if they’re not getting something back / I’m so lost / We’ve been friends at what cost? I can’t afford it/Didn’t think it was important.”

“FAIRWEATHER FRIENDS,” thematically, leads perfectly into “ROI.” A similar vibe to “CHRONICALLY CAUTIOUS” musically, but is Bales’ most self-aware tune on a project full of self-awareness: “Baby what’s the R.O.I? / Cause I’m spending all of my capital on borrowed time / We’re sailing a sinking asset into higher tides / Searching for clearer waters under darker skies / What a life.”

“’ROI’ is about the thought that relationships won’t fit into my life,” he said. “I’m very open about that going into relationships now… music is my main goal and anything outside that is extra to me. That song is just about how I’ve looked at myself in terms of not being able to be there for somebody right now.” “ROI,” like the rest of the project, is Bales coming to terms with hard, adult decisions, while trying to pursue this thing that is tangible yet for so long was so far out of reach. Now, he has moved the goalposts. He has an EP out, and is looking forward to connecting with his fans… the people whose connection with his music has gotten him to this point, in a live setting.

Stream NOMAD and watch the trailer for the project above