8 min read

Bear Bailey's Ambitions As A TikTok Sensation

Bear Bailey's Ambitions As A TikTok Sensation

I promised you the year of yee-haw, and I plan to deliver.

While I continue developing a series of essays and other fun stuff, I wanted to keep you entertained with some of my other projects. Namely, I recently became the latest contributor to Music Mayhem Magazine, a country news outlet run by my longtime friend Andrew Wendowski.

Andrew is a curious human. He got his start in alternative music but realized shortly before the pandemic that country was more his speed. Two years and hundreds of articles later, Andrew transformed his hobby into a full-time job, and Music Mayhem is garnering more than 4 million pageviews each month.

Despite writing about music for more than a decade, I know very few people in country music. Andrew knows everyone and has nowhere near enough time to cover everything. Together, we help one another get ahead.

I tell you all that to say that the interview you're about to read served as my first assignment from Andrew. Bear Bailey may not be a name you know, but anyone on the music side of TikTok will recognize his voice in an instant. Bear rose to viral popularity after clips of him performing cover songs in a Louisiana convenience store surfaced online. Bear saw his audience grow with each new performance, and soon he found himself taking meetings with the biggest names in Nashville.

Fast forward to 2022, and Bear Bailey is finally ready to share original music with the world. I spoke with Bear in mid-May to discuss the release of his debut single, "Put Your Heart On My Tab," and how he's handling fame.  

The following interview is the result. Enjoy.



When Music Mayhem asks Bear Bailey what he wants everyone to know, the country singer doesn't hesitate to respond. "I want to make music that helps people."

Much like Dante in Kevin Smith's cult classic film, Clerks, Bear Bailey isn't supposed to be here. Born James Bailey, the father and husband from Louisiana never thought of singing as a career path, though he admits to having a lifelong love of song. After a whirlwind two years took him from singing songs on TikTok to working alongside top industry songwriters in Nashville, Bailey has been on a fast track that even he could not have predicted.

"I've always sung because it made me happy," explains Bailey. "It's something that just brightens my day up. I posted a story on Instagram the other day, and this little boy from the UK responded to it. That's all I ever wanted."

He pauses for a moment before adding, "This whole thing is straight up from God. I just walked through a gas station, man. I'm a big goofy boy from South Louisiana. I had no idea that going into a gas station and singing to people I'd been singing to for years would ever do this, and I literally have people call me to say their loved ones were watching my videos while on their last leg in the hospitals. Things like that, man, it just blows my mind."

This is the first conversation Music Mayhem has had with Bailey since announcing the release of his debut single, "Put Your Heart On My Tab." The track marks the beginning of a new chapter in Bailey's career, which has thus far been defined largely by cover songs. Bailey wrote the song alongside Blake Bollinger and Eric Arjes in Nashville, and it's clear from the tone in his voice that he believes in the material.

"There are other songs," Bailey explains, "And to be honest, I never thought this one would be the first to release. Then we started working on the material, and the track really came together."

In a clip posted to Instagram at the beginning of May, Bailey teased the upbeat romantic track by sharing the first verse and chorus with fans:

"Damn / No one ever seen a face like that / lookin' so fine and so sad / and I'm sorry but I ain't the guy who can leave you like that / you need a quarter for a heart broke song / or a double shot of a hundred proof strong / well you can lean on me," Bailey sings in the clip.

He then belts out the anthemic chorus, "Put your heart on my tab / put your name on my lips / where I'm sittin' / underthinkin' while we're overdrinkin' / just might do the trick / so what if you're all done with love / don't hold back girl / words of whiskey / lay it on me / whatever you're gonna have / put your heart on my tab."

It's impossible to chat with Bailey and not sense his genuine excitement for everything happening around him and his gratefulness to be here at all. He understands how rare it is to be in this position, let alone under these circumstances. "Somebody told me recently that releasing music is one of the most vulnerable things you can do," says Bailey, "You put yourself out there and say, "Hey world, do you like my shit?" He laughs before adding, "I think that feeling makes it special, man."

The gas station he's speaking of is the Super Serve Gas Station near Houma, Louisiana, a town with a population of just over 33,000. Bailey had been a regular there for years and was known for his singing, but life quickly began to change after he shared a clip of himself singing on TikTok. "The first time I posted a video of myself singing, it hit a million views," Bailey explains with a tone that conveys a sense of lingering shock. "I thought to myself that I would try again the next day, and that clip went crazy."

Scroll through TikTok any day of the week, and you'll find a singer or songwriter with raw talent reaching listeners for the first time. The fortunate among those musicians have a video or sound that goes viral and launches them in front of thousands, if not millions of eyes. Rarer still is managing to find viral success twice. Harnessing that activity and converting those eyeballs into fans who then return to watch every video you post is a feat every label and music marketing professional would love to master. Bear Bailey did it without quitting his day job.

"Within a week and a half of posting that second video," he says, "I'm out with my dad in a nearby town, and this group of people rushed up to me asking for photos and… It was crazy. I didn't plan any of this, man, so it was nuts. It still is if we're being honest."

Finding yourself suddenly thrust into the spotlight can be a lot for anyone to handle. Between the need to develop your craft while delivering high-quality content regularly, not to mention engaging with fans, and somehow living a life outside of music, the pressure to be everywhere is exhausting. Bailey has already felt the weight of his new position, and he's smartly taken steps to prevent early burnout.

"When this thing took off, it was great, but it was a lot at the same time," he tells Music Mayhem. "It was heavy. Sometimes I think it's best that I pull away from social media and other things. Not in a bad way. I'm super grateful for everything, but at the same time, I find myself comparing myself to others. When that happens, I have to pull away, and I did for about two months. It wasn't all about the comparisons, but that was a large part of it."

Often in cases where someone encounters sudden success through social media there is a backlash among followers who believe the creator has either sold out or somehow betrayed their simple roots, but that energy is nowhere to be found in Bear Bailey's fan community. If it does, two weeks of social media monitoring by Music Mayhem couldn't uncover it. Whenever Bailey posts, regardless of the content, fans are positive, and he wants his supporters to know that their comments are felt.

"I don't really know how it all came together," explains Bailey, "but I know God was behind it. I'm just so grateful for the things he's given me and the people he's put in my life. You know, I want to help people, and now there are people I don't even know rooting for me. That's wild, man. I never could have imagined any of this, and it just keeps getting better."

The release of "Put Your Heart On My Tab" is just the start for Bailey. Though he's unable to speak at length about most of his plans for the coming months, he isn't shy to admit he's keeping busy. "We got a lot of stuff coming out really soon," he begins with a laugh. "The song [is out now], and more material will follow. I've been writing a lot. We also have gas station sessions, which we post every week. We have live shows coming up. I'm pumped, dude."

Our call is one of many Bailey will take during May. Demand for his presence in media has grown in recent months, but his team has wisely kept interviews to a minimum until now. That delay hasn't stopped Bailey from feeling the whiplash of the music industry's breakneck pace. He's gone from complete unknown to one of Nashville's most sought-after new voices in less time than it takes to earn an associate's degree at most colleges. We couldn't help wondering if he would do things differently if he knew in 2020 what would happen in the years that followed, but without hesitation, Bailey says that he wouldn't.

"I would offer one piece of advice," he adds. "I've been able to meet people I only dreamed of and I've done some cool things I've never thought possible. I think sometimes we get obsessed with what's coming next and miss out on the now. That's something I'm guilty of, and I would tell myself to slow down. You know, enjoy it."

A glance at my watch tells me my time is running out, but Bear continues to speak. For someone who never saw any of this coming, I'm curious where he hopes it will lead. Making music was the goal, but now he's doing it, so where does he go from here?

Bear doesn't hesitate. "The next goal is the Opry. That's my biggest dream, man, and it always has been. It's the pinnacle of country music. I grew up watching those programs, and for me, it's like, if you can sing there, nobody can take it from you. No matter what happens, you sang at the Opry. Everyone has sung there. Once you do it, you can tell people you've done it. Not to be cocky or anything, but because it matters. The Opry matters."

He continues, "Gary Levox (Rascal Flatts) invited me to join him at Opry. He is my favorite singer of all time, man, and to be invited to spend time with him was a dream come true. I watched him sing from backstage and saw that circle, but I never stepped in. That's a special place to me, and I'm not going to step into that space unless I'm invited."

Bear Bailey's debut single, "Put Your Heart On My Tab," is out now everywhere and available to purchase HERE.