Don’t get it wrong, bells and whistles and over-the-top theatrical bullshit typically work just fine for us, but every now and again you want a song that cuts to the quick with its simplicity. It’s a concept Brianna Lea Pruett’s beguiling “No Diamond Ring” gets to in the lyrics. “Don’t need no diamond ring, to know that you love me,” she sings. But also on display is its minimal instrumentation and structure.
“No Diamond Ring is about what’s really important in life, to me anyway… other people,” the California musician tells us. “Material things are nice but can’t hug us, laugh at our jokes, celebrate with us, or love. I wrote it to remind, I guess the people around me at the time, but then later felt like I wanted to share it with everyone, what I really needed and appreciated from them.”
“There’s a lot of pressure in our culture to keep up with what ads and maybe recent historical traditions tell us is the right way to be in this world. I wanted to share another message, and let the women know too what they really ought to expect from their man… not a rock! Love, time, attention, nurturing, protection. These are the things we need to celebrate.”
While she pulls from California folk traditions on her lovely Gypsy Bells, out in October on Canyon Records, she says a lot of her influence comes from her Native American heritage and her family’s roots in Appalachia. She told us more, and shared some pictures.
“My family is mixed Native American of several tribal affiliations and settlers from different parts of Europe,” she explains. “I happen to know a lot about them all, it’s a hobby of mine. I have the stories going at least 8 or 9 generations back, from one of my grandmothers and my own study. And I still collect the stories, while weaving my future. I have written parts of film scripts in the convalescent home one of my grandmas lives in, to work and then take break,s and hear the stories. Stories are a big part of my creativity. There are songs that are in my family, that have been in my family for generations, and we don’t know exactly who they came from, but we know they are from our family. I’ve copyrighted many of them and added to them as well, as folk musicians often do. My family several generations back lived in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, before the relocations of the Cherokee and Choctaw people. That’s Appalachian country.”
There’s a rich vein of folk tradition to pull from there, but that doesn’t even cover it all, she says. It’s taught her to think outside the pop music paradigm when writing.
“My extended family lives in California, Oklahoma, and Arkansas now. I have African American heritage too from that region. I’ve always been drawn to, and written music, that has the sound of the folk songs from there. Basically you have songs that go round and round with either no chorus, or a chorus that appears sporadically. It’s not the pop arrangement with a bridge and all that. It has a different flavor to it. I do write songs with bridges too, but I if I feel out on a limb musically or like I don’t know what to do next, I always return to how my family wrote songs and listening to that, letting out what’s flowing naturally. I wish I could write songs like Justin Timberlake sometimes, like super pop stuff, but I’ve found that I’m happier writing and singing from a perspective of what comes naturally to me , celebrating where I came from, tradition, my family.