Born and raised in Raleigh, this singer-songwriter is headlining a European tour for her album Welcome to the Block Party this fall.
As told to Ayn-Monique Klahre
From classic country fare (see: whisky, heartbreak) to her viral song with a cheeky message about body positivity, there’s a strong chance you’ve heard of Priscilla Block. The North Raleigh native moved to Nashville right after graduating from Leesville High School. There, a chance encounter with Taylor Swift gave her the momentum to rev up her career. We check in with her on the cusp of her European tour for Welcome to the Block Party.
How’d you get started in music?
My neighbor was a piano teacher, that’s how it started. But I was a terrible piano student. I never practiced! But then I ended up finding a guitar in our attic and I started teaching myself to play through YouTube. It brough my joy to play it, where piano always seemed like a chore. My mom really wanted me to be involved in music, so she pushed me — she said if I could just find something that excited me, she’d support it. I loved that I could take the guitar with me everywhere.
Then I started writing songs when I was about 15. I wrote about the typical high school stuff, navigating through those years, the first crushes and little heartbreaks. The sort of stuff I would write in my diary turn into songs. Then my first gigs were at the Caribou Coffee on Brier Creek. I played at Sola a lot— I’d play anywhere they’d let me play! I performed all over Raleigh and Clayton, I played a lot with a guy named Johnny Orr who would just let me follow him around and hop on stage. Then right after high school I just packed up some of my stuff and threw it into my Chevy Malibu and moved to Nashville.
What did your parents think?
I think they always knew I was going to do it. There was no, if this doesn’t work out…, it was just, All right, there she goes!. I’ve always been kind of fearless, so my parents weren’t shocked to hear that this was a plan. And when I got there, I did everything I could to pay my rent, from walking dogs to nannying, I worked in a yogurt shop for a long time, I would find a couch next to a dumpster by an apartment building, and take pictures and sell it on Craigslist — whatever I had to do to pay rent without asking my parents for money.
Tell me about the Taylor Swift encounter.
So I’d always loved Taylor Swift, growing up that was a huge reason I fell in love with country music. Here was this girl doing it who made me feel like I could do. So I’d done a lot of research about her moving to Nashville, I’d studied her career. But in reality, I was working at that yogurt shop 9-5, and then doing community college 6-9, and there wasn’t so much time for music. I was calling my sister telling her, I’m so depressed, this is the hardest thing.
And then one day I’m leaving work, and I’m wearing my Taylor Swift shirt, and she —Taylor Swift! — she saw me from her car, and pulled over, and said, I like your shirt! She literally pulled over and leaned over the console and opened the door. And we talked a little bit, I didn’t even tell her I did music. But that meeting, running into my idol, was everything I needed to keep going. I quit my job, quit school, decided to say yes to everything — any gig, any person that would write a song with me, any person that would take me up on coffee. I literally started taking every opportunity, just walking to people, introducing myself and telling them I just moved here, I want to do music.
How did you start to find success?
I had my first big success in 2019. I define “success” as when I could pay my bills my playing music! I was playing full time in bars, I was able to pay my rent, I was getting by.
And then the world shut down. And I thought, my life is over.
The bars shut down, there was no work. Even my side job, cleaning AirBnbs, I didn’t have that because no one was traveling. I was behind on rent, I had to move out of my apartment into this shack with no AC. It’s kind of crazy, because everyone tells you, you don’t know when you’re at rock bottom, but you truly don’t know the good thing is just around the corner.
And I wrote this song, Just About Over You, and it just took off. It was an incredible feeling, I just knew in my heart that something was happening, but I couldn’t even have dreamed that I was going to sign a record deal, that my life was going to change. It was such a whirlwind. One second my world is crumbling, the next the world is picking me up. It took so long — I’d been in Nashville for eight years — but then it happened so fast, the process of people knowing who I was, of touring, or hearing myself on the radio. I never could have imagined it.
What’s next for you?
I just released a new single TODAY, Off the Deep End, and the European tour for Welcome to the Block Party is next. I’m super excited to go out to Europe again, I’m really excited to do a tour where I’m headlining. It’s just awesome, the crowds just show up, with their hair on top of their heads and their hoops on, and they know every single song! It’s hard to describe but it’s amazing. That’s the reason we’re going again this fall, because the spring was so good, I decided to try it on my own, to see If I could headline. I did a show in Charlotte this past spring, but I’m always thinking about when I can get back to Raleigh, I want to do a special show in my hometown at some point. But it’s just, the whole album is about me and my life and the things I’ve been through, and it’s really exciting to see the album meet real life.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
This article was originally published on waltermagazine.com on August 5, 2022.