Brynn Elliott’s Instagram feed is filled with seasonal images of the stately campus of Harvard University, where the Atlanta-born singer, songwriter, and musician is a philosophy major in her senior year.Last fall, she posted a photo of an acoustic guitar propped against the window of her dorm room with the following caption: “I should be writing a paper on Spinoza’s conception of mind-body parallelism right now, but this misty, moody weather has got me all inspired to write songs.”
That one comment neatly summarizes how refreshingly atypical a pop artist Elliott is.She juggles her school work, which has included courses like “Faith and Authenticity: Existentialism and the Human Condition,” with an independent music career that includes writing, recording, and touring behind her original music.
Since the Fall of 2014, when she entered Harvard as a freshman, Elliott has played some 70 shows per year, opening for such artists as Brandi Carlile, Alanis Morissette, Grace Potter, Allen Stone, and Switchfoot. A gig with O.A.R. found her performing for thousands of people at Colorado’s fabled Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the last stop on her summer tour, after which Elliott flew back to Cambridge to join her classes already in progress.
In addition, Elliott has been bouncing between Boston and Nashville to collaborate with songwriter-producer Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift) on a collection of new songs.
“Every song I’ve written has some kind of connection to something I’m experiencing at school, though it might not be something academic,” Elliott says.
“ALNITR” equates the college ritual of staying up all night to study with the young woman ritual of staying up all night because you can’t stop thinking about a guy, while her current single, “Might Not Like Me,” was written while Elliott was going through a break-up and taking a class about Early Modern women philosophers at the same time.
“Even though they wrote their own philosophical principles, like Descartes, they were not considered ‘real’ philosophers at the time because they were women,” she says.
“The first session I had with Nathan, he said, ‘Your songs are really great, but they’re very deep and philosophical.’” Elliott recalls. “He was like, ‘How would you feel about just writing a simple pop song?’ And I explained that I’m totally fine with it, but I want there to be some kind of substantive message that is relatable to people.’ At the time, I hadn’t really written many breakup songs, and I said, ‘Nathan, you caught me at a really great time.’ That was the day we wrote ‘Might Not Like Me.’”