The coincidence isn’t lost on Mary Bragg that her two new songs “Fight” and “Fool” are being released on Valentine’s Day. Both tracks, from the Nashville singer-songwriter’s upcoming album Violets as Camouflauge (out March 1st), deal with relationship struggles and the ways people respond as things are falling apart, or maybe even after they have already collapsed.
“Most things that people experience on Valentine’s Day are just the sort of saccharine, idyllic picture of what romance and relationships should be,” she says, calling Rolling Stone Country while she’s on the road. “But I am happy to address the more realistic side of relationships on a day when we’re all pretending to hold up relationships to the light.”
The mostly acoustic, meditative “Fight,” which Bragg wrote with Robby Hecht (who also adds harmonies on the recording), imagines two people trying to open themselves to one another in hopes of salvaging the relationship. “If you hide from me and I hide from you, any light between us won’t come through,” they sing. In this case, Bragg and Hecht both had personal experiences that they couldn’t easily mask as they were writing.
“In this case, we both had and have a whole lot of difficulty to use as source material,” says Bragg. “Every day you wake up and you choose how to approach your life, your relationship choices, how you choose to love the person, whether it’s with an automatic level of forgiveness and understanding, or you wake up and choose that that’s not gonna be that day. The song is aimed at uncovering these realities of a relationship that is falling apart and you’re making an attempt, at least, to choose the path that — even if you might be doomed in the end — you’re gonna fight your absolute darndest to make sure you haven’t just thrown in the towel before you were supposed to.”
The second selection, “Fool,” almost works like a companion to “Fight.” It’s a smokier, more sinewy offering with a full band backing Bragg — who previously ventured into all-out rock & roll with pal Becky Warren as the Reckless Electric. “Tell me you think we can try again,” she pleads, as if having realized a mistake.
“Say you throw in the towel and then you realize you’re an absolute fool and then you’re like, ‘Oh my god, what have I done. This is absolutely wrong,'” she says. “‘Fool’ is an imaginary next step to what might happen if you do give up at the end of ‘Fight.'”
Both songs depict scenarios in which the characters lay themselves bare, revealing pain even as they open themselves up for more. It’s a thread that continues through all of Violets as Camouflauge, which Bragg self-produced in her own studio, whether through the Nashville Sound-influenced “I Thought You Were Somebody Else” and its reckoning with deception or the gentle chamber-pop accents of “Fixed” and its reassurances against self-doubt.
“It’s probably a little nerdy, but each song gets a score,” she says. “And I look through to see why a certain song isn’t landing as much as the next, and often that has to do with vulnerability. Because that vulnerability in the song, to me, becomes the essential quality that then reaches another human being. It also directly correlates to my own vulnerability and my co-writers’ vulnerability in the room on the day that we wrote a particular song. We have to be open enough on the day we’re trying to achieve this piece of art, and if we’re not, we’re probably gonna fail at that job.”