Brianna Straut has become a staple within Denver’s Americana-folk singer-songwriter music scene. After spending the better part of the last five years focusing on joint projects such as Bison Bone and Tomahawk Fox, she has set her sights high on manifesting her own artistic vision, not only as a solo artist, but an artist with a defined message of love, community, self-acceptance, and the strength of living loud in one’s queerness.
“I’ve been trying to be more loud and feeling more comfortable than I ever have,” Straut said. “I’m recently married so I feel like I want to represent my community.”
Straut married her wife earlier this year, and while there was a lot of joy within her inner circle, the experience of seeing how little support there was from family left her with more questions than answers.
“It’s like, ‘What? This is still an issue in 2018 that I’m a lesbian marrying another woman because I love her and she makes me a better person?’” she said. “That was really the time when I was like ‘Hell no, game on!’ I’m doing this not only for myself but for other people to see it.”
While being propelled into this new state of abandoning the expectations and judgements from others, living loud is still full of complexities. Growing up in east Texas, Straut’s foundation was built upon the beliefs of a Southern Baptist household. The religious rules, gender-roles, and familial expectations within the constraints of a Christian normative never quite fit. Since childhood, she would write in her journal as a way of processing her feelings and emotions, her mechanism of coping. However, the place that she found solace in most was ultimately what forced her to confront all of the things that set her most apart.
“I was outed a little earlier than I would have wanted to be,” Straut admitted. At 18, she had fallen for her best friend and wrote about it in her journal, which then found its way into the wrong hands.
“My parents found it… I was on every prayer list in east Texas,” she said, laughing as she recalled the memory. “People were coming up to me giving me their phone numbers, and I didn’t know what was happening.”
Due to the extreme backlash, Straut decided to suppress and straighten up; she became engaged to a man and was determined to live the Christian life to please her family. Yet, she couldn’t uphold the inauthentic life for long, and she came to terms at the age of 21, when she made the decision to officially come out.
During this time, music had taken a backseat, and she wouldn’t touch it over the next couple of years. The majority of her songwriting stems from personal experiences, and as she experienced a rollercoaster of highs and lows, she was too close to the chaos to obtain any perspective in order to use writing as a catharsis. Kicked out of the place she was living, she had her car taken away and even found herself with a warrant out for her arrest.
“A lot of times, heterosexuals can go through life and work on their shit,” Straut said. “But, if you have to deal with backlash from your own sexuality, that puts off some other things.”
Finally moving to Colorado in 2008 was the life-changing perspective shift that she needed in order to clarify her vision of herself, her community, and her role within it all. It has only been within the last six years that Straut returned to journaling, which eventually became songwriting and transformed into recording and performing.
“That’s something to say about music; it’s such a good binding agent and a great way to have a conversation with somebody that’s different than you.
“These new songs that I’m writing for my next album are for people in my life. Music is a good segway into a conversations that isn’t always easy to have with people and that might be shut off from having those conversations. But, if you hear it with a cool melody and you catch yourself singing it, then you think about it. You can go from there and have a conversation.”
Now those conversations aren’t so difficult for Straut, as her definition of family and community encompasses a much larger scope than simply that of her upbringing. It’s her wife, her queer friends and allies, her bandmates, the Denver music scene, and music as a whole, which have given her a home. Having recently released a new album, appropriately titled La Mano, meaning hand, she is stoked to showcase the new music at her release party at Leon on November 2.
“It represents the hand of my community and all the people who helped me become who I am,” she said. “This whole album is based on community; I couldn’t do what I’m doing without their support.”
She has taken the hand of those closest to her, drawn them in, and created something enchantingly beautiful that she is eager to share with the world. Even drawing on the vision she has of inclusivity and standing firmly in yourself, Straut released a music video for Shoulda Coulda Woulda, which incorporates some of those very themes. Straut is strumming her guitar, singing underneath a freeway overpass as she serenades her female love interest, all while being surrounded by a badass group of women on motorcycles. How much more empowered can a queer woman who is following her dreams feel?
After spending the better part of the last year on tour, Straut’s identity as an ex-Baptist, lesbian, married, Americana singer-songwriter has not placed her into a box but has helped her define and exceed the limitations as she breaks out of the mold. Get loud, that’s her mantra, as she utilizes that inertia to refine her message and deliver that message unapologetically.
“By being courageous, you can help a lot of people,” she said. “My sister has five kids, and they’re growing up in Texas. It was important to me for them; it’s important now more than ever to live your truth and be proud about it.”