It’s pretty unusual for people to begin a lifelong career while still in their teen years, but Avenue Beat has done just that. The genzennial collective of Sami Bearden, Savana Santos, and Sam Backoff formed their powerful all-female country/pop trio years ago in the small town of Quincy, Illinois.
“We’re kind of realizing how rare it is. A lot of times, people will ask us if we’re related because it is so weird for three friends to start messing around singing when they’re kids and turning it into a career,” Bearden, the band’s high harmony singer, told Country Now, reflecting on the group’s journey into country music so far.
Now, at 22 years old, the Big Machine Label Group artists are making a name for themselves in Nashville with songs that showcase clever lyrics, smooth harmonies and the right kind of girl power attitude. Avenue Beat’s recent single, “Ruin That For Me,” featured on their 2019 debut self-titled EP, has already found a place on country radio. Their latest track, “Thank You Anxiety,” written with Summer Overstreet, couldn’t be more relevant in today’s world, as people all over the country continue to shelter in place amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Avenue Beat, who plans to tour with Rascal Flatts later this year, has been keeping in touch with their fans while in quarantine. On April 24, they released their digital EP, Quarantine Covers. The inspired project features their take on songs like John Mayer’s “New Light,” and Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind.”
The trio’s Sami Bearden recently chatted with Country Now about Avenue Beat’s latest music, musical history and what’s to come for the trio. Read on to find out more about Avenue Beat…
Melinda Lorge: The three of you have been friends for a long time. Can you share the story of how you all met?
Sami Bearden: Sam [Backoff] and Savana [Santos] have known each other since they were babies, and Sam’s mom coached Savana in gymnastics. When Sam started doing musical theatre, she wanted Savana to do it with her. So they both went and did that. I met them around age 14 at the musical theatre camp at our community theatre. One night, they invited me over for a sleepover, and we started singing together and we haven’t stopped since we were 14 years old.
Lorge: How did you come up with the name Avenue Beat?
Bearden: We were entering a competition in our hometown of Quincy, and we needed to put our name on the sign-up sheet. So we went on an online band name generator, clicked it once or twice, and we were so happy with [the results]! We were like, ‘Yes! This is fine, and we can always change it if we ever want to.’ We have changed it a couple of times, but we always ended up coming back to Avenue Beat. So there was a point when we were like, ‘Okay, this name has some good mojo. Let’s keep it!’
Lorge: As a collective, do you three share the same musical influences?
Bearden: As individuals, we’ve always been pretty eclectic, but we all have different backgrounds and different favorite genres. Sam has listened to country music her whole life. She didn’t know any other music existed until she heard a pop song. Her playlists are epic now because she pulls from all different genres. Savana loves singer-songwriter stuff like John Mayer and Kacey Musgraves. I go a little more indie rock. I like The Avett Brothers and bands like that, but I also love classic rock like Queen. So we all have different musical tastes, but we always joke that our music is mostly inspired by musical theatre since that’s how we met.
Lorge: How did your musical theatre backgrounds help prepare Avenue Beat to get to where it is today?
Bearden: I think musical theatre fosters creativity when working in a group setting. You’re working together, you’re collaborating, and you become a family through the entire process of doing a show. I think that prepared us for working with each other and for being a team and a family. But, it’s also helped prepare us for how we write. We always try to [land] the comedic timing or emotional moment in a song. That’s always been important to us. And, that’s the kind of stuff that we think about because we’ve gotten so used to having these musical moments in theatre. So we try to emulate that in what we write.
Lorge: What were some of your first few shows like?
Bearden: Our first few shows were in our hometown, usually in front of our parents’ friends. We’d play oldies covers, and they’d be like, ‘Wow! They’re pretty good!’ But, over time, we played more shows. Those first few shows, we were looking at an iPad, not knowing how to play our instruments, and forgetting lyrics. So, it’s been a growing process, from humble beginnings like coffee shops and bars in Quincy, to everything we’ve gotten to do recently. It’s very different, but it’s all been really fun!
Lorge: Do the three of you live Nashville now?
Bearden: Yes. We moved here the summer after high school, at age 18, and we lived in an apartment together in Brentwood, [Tennessee] for two years. We didn’t have any other friends for those two years. We only had each other. A little over a year ago, we moved closer to downtown. Sam and I still live together, and Savana lives on her own. Sam and I got a cat, so life is good! It’s nice not having to share a bathroom with anyone anymore! (Laughs).
Lorge: What were your first few months living in Nashville like? I’d assume it must’ve been a culture shock.
Bearden: We had been making monthly trips down here for a week at a time to write during our senior year of high school. So we already had a sense of what we were getting ourselves into. But moving here was very different from visiting. I’ve noticed people here are super friendly. They’ll strike up a conversation with you if you’re standing around. So I think that was a big thing for us. But we weren’t able to get fully immersed socially because all of our co-writers were much older than us. When we moved here, we weren’t 21-years-old yet. So we couldn’t get into a lot of shows or bars. So we slowly started making friends. But everyone was always super friendly.
Lorge: Tell me about your recent single, “Ruin That For Me.”
Bearden: We wrote that with Justin Ebach. We’ve been writing with him since we came to town. He’s always been such a great person to be around, and he’s so kind and talented. Anyway, that song was inspired by an amalgamation of all our exes. Specifically, Sam had [been dating] this guy in high school, and things had gone south between them. We were getting ready to go somewhere, and I was like, ‘Oh! How about this dress? It’s really cute!” She said, ‘No. That was his favorite.’ So slowly over time, you come out of it, and you’re like, ‘No. I’m not going to let this person ruin a dress just because they liked it. You know what? I like it too. So I’m going to wear it.’ So that was the inspiration behind that song. It was about her not letting that dude ruin a dress for her.
Lorge: A lot of your songs seem to have a strong girl-power vibe to them. Is that intentional?
Bearden: I think, for us, it’s pretty natural. We’ve always said that our music is a representation of the friendship we have together. So, I think our themes are stronger because we’ve always supported each other. We have always been there for each other, and we’re all young women, so I think it’s something that happens naturally with our music.
Lorge: How about your current single, “Thank You Anxiety.” Can you tell me about that song?
Bearden: With everything that’s going on right now, I think that everyone is feeling more anxious than ever before. Sam and I both have struggled with anxiety our whole lives. We’ve always liked to write about what’s happening to us, and hope those other people will relate. When people do relate, and it becomes an anthem to where they feel seen, it makes [us] feel better too. So we thought, what better time to put out the song when someone might need it?
Lorge: As a trio, do you all agree on what songs to put out when it comes to releasing music?
Bearden: We usually agree on what’s most important. We’ve been doing this since we were 14-years-old, so there were times, where we would handle things with maturity. We fight like sisters, and we always have. So we would have these petty arguments. Now, we all put our heads in, and we figure out how to have a dialog about it. But, usually, we agree about the songs we want to put out. We fight more about where we’d like to go to eat and that sort of thing. (Laughs).
Lorge: How do you find a balance between your professional and personal life?
Bearden: For us, it’s important to have those to blend together because we’re in a band, and we work together. Sam and I live together, but we also hang out all the time outside of that. We have a lot of the same friends, so everything is cohesive, which is nice.
Lorge: What’s next for you?
Bearden: Looking forward to touring with our music. I think we’re going to try to put out more music in whatever form that takes. We have so many songs, and we’re so excited to get all of them out, but we’re taking it one single at a time right now. If people want to check us out and say hello, we are most active on Instagram, so that’s probably the best place to find us. But we use all social media because we are Millennials!