“I use songwriting as an outlet,” Bolton said.
The covers and original songs Bolton posted to Instagram in high school drew the attention of a manager and a producer, who reached out via Instagram DM. Before long, Bolton was in meetings with record label scouts. As a high school student, she recorded songs in a professional studio, unbeknownst to many of her friends.
But just as her musical career was taking off, the pandemic hit and Bolton was starting her first year at UVA as a student-athlete, running on the track team. As she focused on running and her studies, her musical career slowed, and Bolton split with her manager. It was discouraging, but her parents helped her realize she didn’t have to stop making music.
“I took down all my music that I had put out in high school and the beginning of college, and I started from ground zero during my second year here,” Bolton said.
Being on a Division I track team, keeping up with a rigorous courseload and making music wasn’t easy for Bolton to balance. For most of her college career, music has been a way for Bolton to balance the stress of being a student-athlete.
Sometimes, her music and academics overlapped, like when she took an independent study in hip hop professor A.D. Carson’s rap lab, which houses a “mini-recording booth.” But even without access to professional-grade equipment and tools, she can still hash out her musical ideas in her Notes app.
Bolton described her current sound as “raw,” in contrast to the more heavily produced music she made as a high schooler, but the subject matter is still the same.
“It really hasn’t changed. It’s all about the ebbs and flows and trying to figure out how to grow up,” Bolton said.
Bolton said she doesn’t concern herself with branding the way she did when she had a talent team behind her, but she’s learned a lot about how the music industry works.
“I don't think people realize how much work she puts in behind the scenes,” said Vann Stewart, a friend of Bolton’s. The two met because they were both from Alabama, but they bonded over music: Stewart is a musician, too.
“She's a really great vocal talent, but she also knows a lot about music, which takes a good bit of studying. She knows how to produce for herself, she knows her way around the studio,” Stewart said.
Unlike when she was started out, Bolton doesn’t hide her music from friends. Cameron Boom, who met Bolton during their second year of college, said she loves watching as Bolton’s ideas turn into full-fledged songs.
“She shows us her songs and asks for feedback. I always really like her music,” Boom said.
When she graduates from UVA in May with a degree in cognitive science, Bolton plans to continue with music – just behind the scenes this time.
“I’d love to help develop and grow artists, find them when they’re really small and help them become big if that’s something they want,” Bolton said.