Country artist Bridgette Tatum turns tragedy into a second chance
By Steve Wildsmith | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sitting in the dark on Hatteras Island, her bandaged face slowly healing from an attack with a razor blade and a hurricane howling outside her door, country singer Bridgette Tatum felt the presence of God.
It’s not that her faith ever wavered, or that she was angry with the Almighty over the hand she’d been dealt. But sitting there while a storm raged around her, reflecting on it all, she realized that it was all part of a grander plan.
“After I was attacked, it took me about six to eight months to recuperate, and I went to Hatteras Island to do it,” she told The Daily Times during a recent phone interview.
“During the hurricane I went through there, I remembered the power of God. He’s the one who moves everything. I could have died when I was attacked; I could have died in that hurricane; and in the middle of it, I remember thinking that God has a purpose for my life, and I’m pretty sure it has to do with music.
“That was the end of the beginning. I moved to Nashville two months after that, I got a job, I put myself through school. I have a very blessed and amazing life today. I know I wake up, and I’m doing my purpose.”
One of those purposes? Writing great songs, for herself and for others. Her biggest hit to date is the No. 1 country smash by Jason Aldean, “She’s Country.” She co-wrote it with Danny Myrick, and it doesn’t include one of her original lines.
“My first initial thought is that I wanted to rhyme South Cackalacky (a slang term for “Carolina,” North or South), and that was the only line they made me change!” she said with a laugh. “I did it and took half of it to Danny, and we got it done. It was on hold for nine or 10 months, and it was like waiting on a baby. Then Danny called me out of the blue and said Jason wanted to release it as the first single off of ‘Wide Open.’”
Tatum grew up in Florence, S.C., and got her start singing gospel music at nursing homes and tent revivals. When she was 13, she started paying closer attention to the lyrics, and songwriting became a new obsession, she said.
“Between 13 and 15, I really started discovering songs and the meaning behind songs and how you could use them to get emotion out,” she said. “There was all this music I’d been listening to and growing up on, and I started discovering what emotion was in a song.”
At 15, she picked up the guitar, and after two lessons she taught herself to play Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” Before long she was coming up with melodies and incorporating a lot of string-banging into rhythmic patterns, and she discovered some of her favorite singer-songwriters along the way.
“I love words that move and guitar riffs that move,” she said. “Jerry Reed, Steven Tyler, Roger Miller — the way they move words and put them inside these melodies is beautiful.”
Around that time, the first of two life-changing experiences took place: Her father wasn’t a big part of her life, but a man whom her mother started seeing became so.
“He was a cowboy — the real deal,” she said. “He rode horses all day long, he ate steak, he competed in the rodeo. I hadn’t know about those things, and I got introduced to all of that in a day. And when he played Garth Brooks, I knew from that day on I wanted to go to Nashville. I knew I wanted to write lyrics that were that meaningful, and that I wanted to write the fun stuff, too.”
The second life-altering experience was the aforementioned attack. During her shift working at a South Carolina motel, a customer came to the front desk wanting change. Tatum didn’t have it, and the woman suddenly, unexpectedly attacked, slashing her face with a razor blade.
“I didn’t fight her back, because I saw the look in her eyes, but I made it through that moment,” she said. “On Hatteras Island, I did a lot of soul-searching and songwriting, and I wrote more songs about forgiveness in that six months than I ever thought possible.”
Besides “She’s Country,” she’s released her own song, “Loud,” that became the official theme song for the Atlantic Coastal Conference during the 2010 football season, and while it’s a big, fun song, along with many of those on her 2010 debut album, that’s not an accurate measure of the depth of her songwriting abilities, she said.
“My music runs a lot deeper than just the fun stuff, and on the next record, I’d like to include more of that,” she said. “I’m just taking the space and time to live and feel what is supposed to exist and pay attention to that.