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Back Issues
2012 - Summer Issue
Vida Buena
Live Performances
Article: Jessica Muncrief
Photos: Jesse Ramirez
              Bill Faulkner
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Country singer Bri Bagwell has a favorite pair of red boots. "Anderson Bean said they were sending some boots. When I opened them up, my first thought was 'what the heck am I going to wear these with?'" she remembers with a smile. "I ended up buying a dress at Dillard's, but no one even noticed the dress because they were too busy talking about the boots." The boots have since become a signature look for the Las Cruces native. Her brother Bryan even created a stunning patio area in their family home which they affectionately call Ruby Red's Cantina, in homage to the boots. I had a chance to visit Ruby Red's and chat with the close-knit Bagwell clan while Bri was in town to premiere her latest music video at the Rio Grande Theatre.

    Photo Captions

1.) Bri's signature Ruby Red Boots
2.) Bri Bagwell and The Banned at the Rio Grande Theater
3.) Bri with parents James and Marilyn Bagwell
4.) Bri with brothers Brandan and Bryan Bagwell
5.) Four generations of the Bagwell family
6.) The live concert before Bri's video premiere
7.) Bri was a former beauty queen
8.) Bri can play both guitar and piano
Despite her successes, Bri remains down to earth, and after meeting her family, it's easy to see why. They graciously welcomed Ventanas into their home and even treated us to an impromptu concert in their living room. It turns out the whole family has talent, right down to nephew Beau who kept surprisingly good beats on the drums. Gathered around the kitchen with tacos from Andele! restaurant, beer and iced tea, the entire family talked about happy memories and future plans.

"You could tell early on that Bri had talent," says her brother Brandan, Bryan's twin. "She was writing poetry as a child and even at 14 she wrote some good songs. She's certainly gotten better over the years, but it is something she has always excelled at." In fact, some of Bri's earliest performing experiences were in a band the three siblings formed. Her brothers eventually pursued other careers, but their time playing the bar scene together is a special memory for them. "We would play at these rowdy bars, but because of Bri's age, we couldn't have beer on the stage and the bouncers would follow her around," says Brandan, "but she held her own and we had some great times."

In addition to performing with the band, Bri also played volleyball and maintained a stellar academic record at Mayfield High School. Considering she was state volleyball player of the year her senior year, she had some options when it came time to apply for college, but Bri admits that the final decision was easy. "I knew music was what I wanted to do, but didn't really know how to break in. I went to UT Austin for the music scene and because they have a great business program. Plus, I've always been a UT fan. My heart was set on it. I really wanted to go there and I loved every minute of it."

Austin, "The Live Music Capital of the World," turned out to be a good choice. She studied marketing and did something she had been thinking about for years—she learned to play the guitar. "I kind of knew some chords from my brothers," she says, "but I definitely didn't play the guitar. Some of my dorm neighbors wanted to learn, so they bought a guitar. Somehow, I was the one that ended up learning." During her junior year, she went to see a friend play at Mother Egan's Irish Pub on the famed 6th street, an avenue well-known for bars featuring live bands. Her friend called her onstage and, after hearing her sing, the owner offered her a steady gig on Mondays. Her talent spoke for itself, soon earning her the coveted Friday happy hour slot. "I met some of my best friends at Mother Egan's and my best fans are those that have been there from the beginning," Bri remembers fondly. From there, it just kept getting bigger with a stint on CMT's Next Superstar and gigs at venues in other cities around Texas.

Currently, she plays with a band she loves and has made a name for herself as one of the only prominent female acts coming out of Texas; Nashville tends to be the more traditional route for country artists. Bri has also gained some notoriety for building her brand without a professional management team. "We've been trying to keep it as small as possible, for as long as possible," she says, but when the opportunity to sign with William Morris Endeavor talent agency presented itself earlier this year, she just couldn't turn it down. "Signing with William Morris was a big deal. The vast majority of the popular acts out of Texas are male. So, we went from almost no hope of getting signed to signing with one of the biggest agencies in the world. It's been a great decision! There were three major bars that I wasn't able to get into, but within one month of signing, we booked all three. It's just been amazing." Other projects in the works include representing a whiskey brand and a line of cowboy boots, as well as opening for Ronnie Dunn on his summer tour.

With her entertainment career taking off, you'd think all the fame would go to her head, but Bri is genuine and always gives credit where it is due. She shares a close bond with her parents James and Marilyn, local business owners of Bagwell Financial and Treasures of Las Cruces. While she writes all her own songs, she is quick to note that her parents often have a hand in completing them. It is obvious that she relishes the time spent with family in her hometown, so it comes as no surprise that one family collaboration she is particularly proud of is "No Place Like Home". ///
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