Brynn Elliott On The Empowering Breakup That Inspired Her Feminist Single

Photo: Jimmy Fontaine
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For every breakup tune in which the singer laments about love lost, there's another that spins a split into an empowering life event. Kelly Clarkson has "Since U Been Gone." Katy Perry has "Part of Me." But it's Brynn Elliott, a name not quite as recognizable (at least, not yet) whose breakup anthem "Might Not Like Me" is also an ode to every woman who was made to feel smaller in a relationship for someone else's benefit.
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"If you don't like girls who are smarter than you/Then you might not like me," sings Elliott in her much-streamed single. With over 1 million plays on Spotify, Elliott's track is the perfect thing to send your friend post-breakup. It's not a slap to one's ex, as much as it's a cheeky reminder that – "Hey, maybe it's not my fault that I'm so awesome." Maybe that's because Elliott wrote it from her own experience.
Refinery29 is exclusively premiering a new video for "Might Not Like Me," this one featuring nothing but Elliott herself. For an anthem that's all about the awesomeness of the dumped, well, that's pretty perfect.
We spoke to Elliott all about the single and what happy accident inspired this one-take music video:
What inspired this song in the first place?
"I was a sophomore in college and I was dating this guy. The relationship was one where I felt like I couldn’t really be myself. I was very busy with music and I was in school [at Harvard University], studying philosophy. I was doing a lot and I think this guy was a little intimidated by that... I had this moment where I thought to myself 'Oh my goodness maybe I am too much! Maybe no one is going to date me until I tone it down.' And at the same time, I was in this class about women in philosophy in the [17th century] in England. Women in [17th century] England didn’t really do philosophy, except for a couple and those women published their own philosophies under their own names. I was so inspired by these women and so empowered by them I ended up writing my senior thesis about them. I broke up with that guy and three days later I wrote "Might Not Like Me." So it’s really a song about embracing yourself. It's definitely a song that I wrote about being a woman but I think it’s kind of a song about any kind of empowerment and that idea of being yourself and not being afraid of what anyone thinks about you."
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How did you balance your life as a student at Harvard with your music career?
"It was honestly amazing but also really hard. I was an independent artist the whole time I was at college. There were moments where I would be out on the road on the weekends or in the summers, but I would still have schoolwork. I would have a paper due at 10 p.m. but I was going to be on stage [that night.] It was a lot of time management and sort of thinking very creatively about when I did things and not a lot of sleep. But it was also very fulfilling and I was doing two things that I loved so much."
What inspired this version of the video?
"It’s actually really funny because we put so much into this video, my team at Atlantic and I. We had all these different set ups and I was in all these different outfits originally. We really wanted it to be this big, huge music video.
"I remember the day we shot it. Everything was going well and the shoot was going so wonderfully but you kind of know when you have those magical moments where you’re so connected to the song and the scene. I remember having a conversation with the director Sarah McColgan. We were in this alley which is where we shot part of the video. It was almost an apocalyptic set up. Before the actual take, Sarah looked at me and she says 'You know, I was dumped in an alleyway once. But it was such an empowering moment for me and I’m so excited for this shot because it really means something to me.' When she said that to me I freaked out. We had been working but I had never heard her take on the decisions we made for the video. It just got me so excited and so into it.
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"So we ended up getting the multi take video and it just wasn’t connecting. We saw this one shot and it just — that’s it. I’m really proud of it because the one shot is just me, authentically who I am and there are some really funny moments. And that’s what the song is all about, me coming into my own and not worrying."
What has the feedback been like for the song in general?
"A lot of young girls seem to gravitate towards it. I have 50 videos on my phone of little girls singing the song and that’s really fun to see. I think sending a message of embracing yourself to younger kids during such a formative time is important. It’s done really well on Spotify. Spotify has these Feminine Friday playlists or Women in Pop playlists and that’s where it started to see some organic growth. Spotify just sort of just put it on there and that was really cool...I didn’t sit down to write a female empowerment anthem but I feel like now is really the time for women to take up space and be themselves. So that’s really been the response to it, that’s it a timely song and an important song for just being yourself."
What advice would you give young women hoping to break into the music industry?
"Take as many opportunities as you can. If it speaks to you, say yes. Say yes to playing shows and just getting yourself out there. I feel like when I’m asked this question I’m like 'Oh just be yourself!' And that is the thing that I truly believe. But maybe something that’s a little more helpful and proactive is as you get more and more opportunities with music, every experience counts into making you the artist you want to become. So really take time to reassess. Like 'Oh, I played this show, how did I feel after? What do I think I can better at? What do I think I did really well?' Take those moments of reflection to really hone in on who you are and what you want to bring into the musical space. It’s a hard thing.
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"My dad actually said to me sometime, right in the beginning as I was starting to play more shows. He said: 'Brynn, just do the next right thing.' I think that philosophy really stuck with me, like just do the next opportunity. Do the next right thing and it’ll slowly build and blossom into something beautiful."
Watch the video for "Might Not Like Me," below:
This interview has been condensed for length and style.
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