Since 2015, local musician Bayleigh Cheek has hopped from one North Texas venue to another with her candy apple-red Gretch electric guitar to accompany her haunting vocals. For a while, she would stand alone onstage with her long hair draped down her shoulders, suited up in a bohemian-styled outfit, mesmerizing audiences. Despite a few years of solo work, Cheek says that when she writes, she hears orchestras.
She was just getting a band together in 2018 when she released her single “Ransom St.” The song is consistent with a lot of Cheek's work, reminiscent of artists like Kula Shaker and Tom Waits. But, ahead of her forthcoming single “Release Me,” Cheek says her sound has completely changed. She’s not even sure what to call it anymore.
While she doesn’t have an orchestra behind her yet, the young singer-songwriter now fronts a four-piece band with local musicians Conner Farrell, Paul Grass and Jake Stewart, and for a good portion of 2019, they were in the studio working on a debut EP, expected to be released early this year.
It looks like 2020 is going to be a formative period for Cheek and her band. If nothing else, the songwriter can say she’s come a long way since she first started playing guitar at age 13.
Cheek has been around musicians most of her life. Her dad was a member of the locally successful band About Nine Times. For about half of the last decade, Cheek followed in her father’s musical footsteps. She started out playing open-mic nights at places such as Drugstore Cowboy and Opening Bell Coffee, developing a slow blues-soul sound that cuts like a knife.
Eventually, she realized she couldn’t produce the big sound she heard in her head when she wrote.
“In order to have all the different elements and key sounds that I wanted, I needed a band. On top of that, I needed a very creative team to understand that vision and help bring it to life.” — Bayleigh Cheek
“In order to have all the different elements and key sounds that I wanted, I needed a band,” Cheek says. “On top of that, I needed a very creative team to understand that vision and help bring it to life.”
So, about two years after she hit the local scene, Cheek started to get a band together. Stewart was the first to join Cheek, around the same time she stepped in the studio to record “Ransom St.”
Not long after, Farrell and Grass followed suit, and Amy Miller’s The Local Show featured the single on KXT.
The addition of Farrell, Grass and Stewart brought a psych-rock element to Cheek’s music, noticeably drawing influence from acts like Pink Floyd and Radiohead. The group performed live for the first time in front of an audience just about two years ago. Later, local musician James Roy replaced Grass on drums.
“They just bring so much to the table,” Cheek says.
“Release Me,” which will be available to stream after Jan. 10, was the only incomplete song Cheek and the band took into Elmwood Studios when they began work on their EP.
“It’s a five-song EP,” Cheek says. “Four of them I’ve had written for a few years now and I just needed one more song to fit the general vibe of the EP, so I started writing ‘Release Me.’”
After months in the studio, with help from local musician Dalton Hamilton on bass, the EP is finished. Cheek says the EP, Immortals, will be released March 6, but she has not settled on a date for a release show.
The EP doesn’t have a central theme. This is a deviation from the norm for Cheek. In one of the most Floyd-ian moves of her music career yet, Cheek says she has just about finished writing two concept albums she hopes to start recording after the release of her EP.
Until then, local music fans can catch Cheek with her shiny red guitar in hand and the band behind her on many a stage across North Texas.