Watching her hold an audience in the palm of her hand, it’s hard to believe that three years ago, Brittany Kingery sat behind a desk in a state government office building in Olympia, Washington. Reviews of her performances back then might have said that she “follows directions, and works well both independently and as part of a team.” Less than two and a half years after leaving her secure government job to move to Mexico and pursue a dream, her reviews now describe her as “intoxicating” and “bound for stardom.” And with her recent coronation as the 2015 Female Vocalist of the Year by the international Trop Rock Music Association, she has risen to the top of her genre in a remarkably short period of time.
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That personal experience is reflected in both her original songs and her stories. And it’s part of what flavors her “Dream in Blue” show and charms audiences at Act II Entertainment’s Red Room Cabaret every Monday night. Her move from the United States to the fishing village of Bucerias, Nayarit in 2013 coincided with her commitment to the music career, and so her story is that of a young single woman leaving a safe and secure life in the USA to not only chase a longshot dream but to do it in a foreign country.
“Before I loved living in Mexico, I loved visiting here,” Brittany says. “And so a lot of my original music is about the journey and about the things that attracted me to the tropical life style and this area in particular.”
More than half the songs she performs at her shows are original songs that many in the audience are hearing for the first time, but Brittany observes that those are typically the songs that get the greatest reactions.
“I like to think that’s at least partially because they are good songs,” she laughs, “but I think it’s also because the songs are very relatable to people who live here, or who winter here or even just vacation here.”
Those people, she explains, are of course lovers of the sun and the beach, subjects that she writes and sings about often. But more than that, they tend to be people who tilt toward escape, adventure and risk-taking.
“With all the negative and misleading press that Mexico gets North of the border,” she observes, “those of us who come anyway are people who want to see things for ourselves and who’d rather live life than read about it.”
And, she says, many of them come with stories like hers, of seeking and finding purpose or happiness by choosing a road less traveled.
“People often describe my music as escapist,” she says. “And I think that’s a fair label, but I think of myself as singing about escaping into real life rather than from real life. And I think audiences here in Puerto Vallarta understand that more than most.”
In a way, Brittany says, she’s known deep down that music was her destiny all along. Trained as a percussionist as a teen, she didn’t start singing publicly until late in high school. And when she did, heads started turning. After two years studying music at a community college, she accepted a scholarship to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan, where she earned her degree in Musical Theater.
But it would be the connection with singer-songwriter Rob Hill a few years after college that would point her toward songwriting….and toward Mexico. Most of the songs on her Mexico-themed CD Edge of the Ocean were written by Hill, who had been vacationing for years in Bucerias, and by the time she released the album in March of 2013, Brittany was already seriously considering making the move. And by the day she arrived in Bucerias to prepare for her album release concert that spring, she was already getting a welcome message from the town she was hoping to call home.
A week in advance of the scheduled release of the album, Brittany published a music video of her Bucerias-inspired song “Treasures” – a video shot on the streets and beaches of the town the year before – and the video caught fire among people who lived in and/or loved Bucerias.
“I knew something magic was happening when the video had thousands of views in the first few days,” Brittany recalls. “But when I was recognized and stopped and literally embraced by people on my first walk into town, I think I pretty much knew I was home.”
As she prepared to make the move to Bucerias later that year, meanwhile, her music was being discovered by deejays and fans of “trop rock”, short for tropical rock, a loosely defined genre of mostly acoustic music associated with artists like Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, Jack Johnson and the Zac Brown Band, among others. While she performed over 100 times in venues from Vallarta to Guayabitos and grew a following in Mexico, her music was finding a worldwide audience in the genre.
But it was the 2014 release of her sophomore CD Dream in Blue, her first foray into songwriting, that triggered an avalanche of accolades, earning rave reviews and ultimately four nominations for the 2015 Trop Rock Music Awards, the most of any artist for the year and the most ever earned by a female artist. When the awards were presented in Key West in November, Brittany walked away with statues for three of the four nominations, including Female Vocalist of the Year, The Horizon Award (honoring the genre’s rising star), and Song of the Year for her rocking and playful “Tequila Talking”.
“The nominations and awards are a great validation for me,” Brittany acknowledges, “but the real reward for me is being able to sing my songs for a live audience, to share my experience, to connect with people on an intimate level through music.”
And that’s something that Act II Entertainment’s Danny Mininni was confident she would do when he asked her to perform a weekly show at the Red Room Cabaret this season.
“I first discovered her through her music videos on YouTube,” Danny recalls. “And I instantly thought this would be Vallarta’s next superstar. It’s an amazing, intimate experience. And since she’s doing so much of her original music, there’s no other show like hers.”
Brittany Kingery, accompanied by guitarist Cesar Medina and percussionist Carlos Mencilla, performs live at the Red Room Cabaret at Act II Entertainment Theaters at Basilio and Insurgentes in La Zona Romantica every Monday evening at 730 pm. Tickets are available at the Act II Entertainment Box Office and online at VallartaTickets.com.