Houston Music

Even Amid "Panic," ABRY Keeps Calm and Carries on Toward Pop Stardom

ABRY Photo by Micah Cadis, courtesy of ABRY
"Panic," the new single by Houston pop artist ABRY, is rooted in some real and personal anxieties. But, that uneasiness has nothing to do with the artist’s growing and exciting career in pop music.

The single released on the usual streaming platforms last Friday. Despite her young age, ABRY is a bit of a Houston music veteran and the music she’s unleashed upon an unsuspecting world this year shows her coming into her own in a major way. If you’re the kind of music fan who enjoys saying “I remember them when,” then now is the time to jump on the ABRY bandwagon. If it stays the course, it’s headed for some remarkable places.

Fans can get a first live listen of “Panic” when ABRY shares a bill with Sunset Kings and Ahz Moses Thursday, October 14 at Super Happy Fun Land. She opened up about the song’s back story ahead of the show.

“’Panic’ is definitely partly about my anxiety at night. Sleeping and getting your rest is obviously necessary, but sometimes that isolation can be daunting. You don’t have the day-to-day distractions anymore when you go to bed, it’s just you and your thoughts. Even sleeping in a sense is a distraction from those anxious thoughts, but if you can’t sleep because of your restlessness, which is super common for people, including myself, that’s when panic attacks, insomnia, etcetera comes about,” she said.

But, she added, that nervousness isn’t really the focus of the song.

“Even though the lyrics are kind of dark, the production that drives the song makes you want to dance. Once the chorus hits, it’s really exciting. You want to turn it up and move your body and you’re not really sad or anxious,” she said. “I like with that song in particular that it’s a good mix of writing something that’s relatable to people on an emotional level, you can have that emotional response in connection to the song, but also it’s a dance track essentially. You can dance and kind of forget whatever you’re anxious about.”

Again, she's not worried about the development of her music. She has a blueprint for taking her earned space in pop music’s highest echelons someday and she’s following it. When she gets there, it’ll be from humble roots singing in church as a kid and playing with middle school cover bands. We first met her as a member of Dark Spark Rays, a Houston music collective. She was part of that band when she was in high school and was a vocal standout even then.

“I think being in Dark Spark Rays was such a great introduction to collaborating with people and performing live,” she said. “I’ve always loved performing live so it was really cool to be a part of that. But, I definitely always felt that there was something more out there for me and I wanted to write my own songs and that’s why I became solo.

“It’s been a journey. I think there are some videos out there of me performing when I was in middle school,” she said. “I was probably like 11 or 12, singing ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ and I was super shy."

She found her footing along the way, thanks in large part to the Houston music fans who’ve acknowledged her talent and recognized her promise over the years.

“I remember the owner of the bar came up to me - and this was in Houston, I think it was some Irish pub or something like that - he came up to me and told me I had a lot of potential but to not be so shy and take more control of the stage and stuff. I’ve carried that with me over the years. I still think about that and other people along the way giving me nuggets of advice and encouraging me to keep going. It has been a journey and definitely I can feel with each song that I make I’m becoming a better artist and a better writer and coming into my own as far as what it means to be a solo artist and what is my message and what do I want my sound to be.”

She said she took 2018 to 2020 to learn more about the music she wanted to make, working with a longtime friend and collaborator, Micah Cadis. Cadis co-wrote, produced and mastered “Panic.”

“We’ve been making music together since I was probably 14 or 15. I started recording demos with him, so we’ve been recording together even before ABRY came about, which is really cool. He’s kind of been there from the beginning and even before the beginning started,” she said. “He’s really seen my evolution as an artist and has helped me with my vocals and my songwriting. It’s really cool to have that, I’m really lucky.”

She admits she’ll take all the luck she can get since it can be lonely trying to carve a name in pop music from an area not especially versed in it. Houston is a hip hop town. It’s known for its long legacy in blues and country music. It’s never been a wellspring for pop acts, but ABRY hopes to change that.

“I actually lived in Austin for a couple of years between the end of 2018 and right before the pandemic hit, so I was there for awhile to kind of experience what the music scene was like there. Honestly, for pop, it was pretty dry there as well as it is here,” she noted. “It is interesting to try to navigate the waters or make connections when people don’t really seem to have a concern for pop or a real interest. It’s interesting to kind of maybe start that movement of making pop important in Houston.

“Eventually the goal is probably to go to L.A. but it would be nice to get some traction in my local city because I’m from here and I have a lot of pride in being a native Houstonian,” she continued. “I would love to get a local reach first and foremost and then regional and then national and then global. I do have really big dreams and I’ve always had really big dreams. But I’ve got to start small, I’ve got to start somewhere, so I think Houston is a good starting place because it’s a melting pot and people do consume music here.”

ABRY is making it easy to consume locally produced pop. “Panic” is the follow-up single to “Already Gone,” which was unveiled in the spring. These companion pieces are bangers of the first degree, club ready and they recall artists like Dua Lipa and Charli XCX. ABRY said there’s more to the genre than its big names.

“The truth is there are so many talented artists and so many independent talented artists that are making awesome pop music all over the world, but just nobody knows about them. I’m hoping that that’s not going to be the case much longer with me but I’m still kind of in my beginning tracks as far as releasing stuff and getting back out there and playing live shows again.”

So, she’ll continue to follow her blueprint, one that affords her a calm, measured approach to chasing down her dream. More new music, some supporting videos, more live shows. No need to panic. She’s got this, she said in so many words, and we're believers.

“I’m still not completely there yet just because I love experimenting so much,” she said. “I’ve kind of accepted the fact that you don’t really have to have an answer as long as you’re making good music and you love what you’re making. That’s all that matters because I know if I love it someone else is going to love it.”

ABRY, 9 p.m. October 14 at Super Happy Fun Land, 3801 Polk. With Sunset Kings and Ahz Moses. $8.

“Panic” is available now on Tidal, Amazon, Apple Music and other streaming platforms.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.