“And at the end of the day, if anyone watches this video and is kinder to one stranger —especially someone who doesn’t look like them — then I’m happy. #joyfulresistance”
Last week we wrote about the brand new music video for “Spare Change” by rising country star Brandon Stansell (Read more here).
This week PureM got the chance to sit down with Brandon and talk about all things music related, where it all began for the singer, “California Country”, what’s in store for the future and the launch of his new Kickstarter campaign. Oh and did we say that he spent two years touring with the phenomenon that is Taylor Swift?
Check out the interview with Brandon and PureM’s Garreth Browne below:
You grew up in Nashville, arguably the mecca of music, how did that influence you to pursue music, and in turn, your music and writing?
I actually grew up nearby, in a small town just outside of Chattanooga. I spent my entire childhood wanting to live in Nashville and thanks to my parents who drove me back and forth almost every other day to sing in shows at what used to be Opryland USA, it basically felt that way at times. Regardless, growing up in Tennessee, I was surrounded by Country Music. I’d wake up listening to what my older siblings were into – Alabama, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and Amy Grant. Musicians who all have had an influence on me to this day. Thank god my siblings have good taste.
Amy Grant, was actually the outlier, but she is THE reason I started singing. I heard “Baby Baby” for the first time when I was 5-years-old and knew then what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. A side note – I met Amy Grant shortly after hearing her song for the first time on the 1991 Heart In Motion tour. We took a picture together and it proudly hangs in my apartment as a constant reminder of when this journey of mine first began.
What, if any, artists would like to collaborate with? Any dream collaborations?
Where to start! There are so many incredible country artists – and others who inspire me. Dolly Parton, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Lee Ann Womack, Miranda Lambert, Pink, Year and Years, Allison Krauss, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Kacey Musgraves, Brandi Carlile and Tracy Chapman. Right now I’m imagining us all in a “We Are The World”-type situation where Dolly and I are the Lionel and Michael of the bunch.
You’ve worked with Taylor Swift in the past, what was that whole experience like?
Well, I don’t think you can spend so much time with an artist like Taylor and not be inspired. She is an amazing writer and performer that just gets better with every record and tour she puts out. Her songs are relatable, she’s beautiful, an all-around sweet person and a powerhouse performer. But, watching her night after night for almost two years, I respect her most for being an uninhibited writer. No topic is taboo. No person is off limits. She writes about her life, her feelings, her story. People say a lot about Taylor Swift, but I’ll say this, she is well-deserving of her superstar status. The girl is talented. Period.
You worked with Grammy Winner Ty Herndon, how has he helped you to create the artist you wanted to be?
Ty has been a huge supporter of mine, almost before even I believed in my music. Ty not only sang on the title track for what will be the full-length album, but he also introduced me to my producer Erik Halbig – the brilliant mind behind the Slow Down EP. As a new artist, getting paired with the right producer is a make or break it moment, so Ty played a integral role in putting me on the path I am on now.
How have you changed as an artist since “Dear John” was released to now, two EPs later, and about to record a full studio album?
Absolutely. Dear John was a passion project and my first attempt at writing, so I have grown a lot as a writer since then. For these reasons it was perhaps not as reflective of the sound I eventually wanted to call my own. I will always be proud of my first record, but I feel much more confident now in my writing and the kind of sound I am trying to achieve.
You describe your sound as “California Country”, for some reason I got visions of surfing cowboys when I read that, but how do you describe “California Country”?
That’s hilarious. It’s a good question, but there is so much amazing country music in California and has been since Buck Owned and the Bakersfield Sound Era in the 1950’s, so I can’t pretend to be a total anomaly. That said, I would describe it as a more laid back/care-free style of Country – a mood which seems very California to me.
You recently signed with Ammo Artist Management, how does it feel to have a team around you now and to not be handling everything on your own? Did it make it all more real that there are a team of people who believe in you and want to work towards you being a success?
I can’t tell you what a difference it makes being a part of the Ammo family. I have always purposefully had a small team of people around me – my friend Trent Atkinson who has directed every video I have released to-date, my producer Erik Halbig who has taken terrible work tapes (at times) and turned them into music actually worth listening to, and Tim Zollner at the Press House who had the impossible task of trying convince people to write about an unknown unsigned gay country artist living in LA – for a over year that has been my team.
I met Ryan Aceto, owner of Ammo, earlier this year and over the course of about six months I saw in Ryan something I knew I had in the rest of my team members – someone who believed in me. Ryan is not only amazing at his job, but he is also a fan of the music and wants people to love it as much as he does. I find myself lucky to say that every single person on my team is someone who wholeheartedly believes in what I am doing so it feels like were all working toward a common goal. It really does feel like family.
PureM has been following you since “Dear John” and we loved the progression between “Dear John” to “Slow Down”, what have you in store for the new album? Is it all new material?
“Honestly, I am so excited for and proud of this project. There are some fun, light-hearted things about the album as well songs with a bit more gravitas, and like many of my songs, they reflect deeply personal experiences. One song in particular, “Hometown,” speaks to something a lot of people in our community struggle with: how to reconcile the ideas and culture of where you grew up and your family life with your identity. There is a real vulnerability to some of the new tracks that I am both nervous and excited to share, but I can confidently say this is the best music I’ve made (so far…).
The “Spare Change” video recently came out and has a wonderful message, but also makes a powerful statement. What exactly did you want to say with this video, the last in the “Slow Down” series?
One of solidarity in resistance. And that this moment in time is a painful, but shared experience. I wanted this video to be as entertaining as it was thought-provoking. We have an Administration actively dismantling the rights of minorities in this country and I wanted to use my music as my own form of protest. One thing the queer community has always been good at is protesting in colorful and creative ways, so this new video is just another voice in the choir. Like I always say, if you’re going to take the time to make something, it better mean something. And at the end of the day, if anyone watches this video and is kinder to one stranger—especially someone who doesn’t look like them—then I’m happy. #joyfulresistance
More and more artists are taking control and going down the fan-funded route, what made you choose “kickstarter”? What have you learned from the process so far?
I think there is a lot of freedom to being an independent artist but one of the major downfalls is typically we independents don’t have the deep pockets to pursue all the things we’d like to do. That said I haven’t been too limited in pursing projects thanks to crowdfunding efforts like Kickstarter. Last year, we raised almost $8,500 as a result of a crowdfunding effort to produce the Slow Down EP, as of today, we have 200+ backers that have contributed to fund my first full-length record.
Kickstarter, specifically, is both exciting and horribly nerve-wracking all at the same time. After creating a budget for this project, which includes the production of seven new songs, two new videos, and all the many, many dollars it takes to pretty-up this face in pictures, I realized it was going to cost roughly $30,000. Which was more than I had access to, unless I wanted to start selling my body for money or rob the offering plate on its next time around. But with Kickstarter, I think most people know it’s an all-or-nothing situation, so if we fail to raise the money needed to actually fund the project, it won’t happen. Which means it’s probably time for a shameless appeal—the campaign is live right now through September 10 only – tinyurl.com/BrandonKicks
You’ve gotten an incredible reaction so far from fans, how does it feel that there are people all over the world wanting you to release new music, and helping you to create it?
There are no words other than to say how incredibly grateful I feel.”
Do you have any future plans to tour? National or international, maybe Ireland?
No major touring plans just yet as I most of my energies are being spent prepping to 🤞🏻record this new record in September. That said, I will be playing the Rainbow Festival in Sacramento Labor Day weekend alongside my friend Ty Herndon, and then I’ll be putting a pin in the live show until October 8, which is the scheduled night for the album release show at Rockwell Table & Stage here in Los Angeles.
Tickets are on sale now at http://rockwell-la.com/
Can you tell us one thing about yourself that your fans may not know?
There is not a Golden Girls episode I can’t quote from start to finish. I’ve always considered this to be my true talent. I also apparently repeat punchlines to jokes three times – and laugh at them every time.
Tells us five words to describe yourself/your music.
Classic, authentic, surprising, somewhat sophisticated but definitely not on purpose.
Brandon’s debut album is slated for an October release and we couldn’t be more excited for this next chapter. The singer/songwriter has been making waves since “Dear John” and is on the cusp of something pretty special. Brandon is one of those artists who want to use their music and platform for the greater good. If kids today can listen to his music and feel comfortable and accepting of themselves then that’s a job well done. Whether artists today want to believe it or not, they are social influencers, and if Brandon’s music and mentality can help even one person, then that’s a positive step forward in what is currently a very confusing and unpredictable political climate in the U.S.
Brandon’s Kickstarter campaign (here) closes on September 10th. To help him and his “#JoyfulResistence” head over and donate anything you can, you might even get some pretty sick gear too.