Brandon Stansell Talks With TMI About His Rise To Country Stardom
When did you know that you wanted to pursue a musical career?
When I was six-years-old, my parents used to drive me back and forth from Chattanooga to Nashville to do shows at Opryland. I did my very first show on the Opry stage, so naturally, I joke and tell people I have spent my entire adult life just trying to get back to where I started. I have been performing my entire life – I’ve done everything from dancing on Taylor Swift’s Fearless Tour to singing in a lycra onesie Off-Broadway – it’s been quite the journey. But I didn’t start writing my own music until I was a bit older. One of my biggest hangups was the fact that I didn’t feel I had much to write about – and then I got dumped by my first long-term boyfriend and suddenly the floodgates opened. The one true upside to a broken heart!
What inspired you to pursue music?
My mom took me to a Reba McEntire concert when I was little – I remember seeing her drive onto the stage in limo, get out and start singing Fancy in a long white fur. At that point, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
How would you describe your musical style?
California Country – a little bit country, a lot care-free
What artists do you look up to right now?
I’ve got a real soft spot for the ladies – insert joke here. I grew up on mostly 90’s female country – Reba, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Shania Twain, Faith Hill. And then when I was in college, I started falling in love with artists like Skeeter Davis, Brenda Lee, and Dolly Parton. And now I’m crazy about this new wave of female singers coming out of Nashville – Kacey Musgraves, Raelynn, Cassadee Pope, Maren Morris, Cam, etc. So, it’s not that I don’t love the men – because we all know I do love men – but it’s always been the women of country music who have inspired me and been my greatest influences.
Your recently released your new single “For You” – How did this song get created?
Basically, we wanted people to feel good! I co-wrote “For You” with MYLEN who also co-wrote Slow Down & Hometown (among others) and we both just wanted to make something that captures all the goodness our partners bring into our lives. I always tell people that my boyfriend is the most kind-hearted loving person, so when it came time write something that was reflective of the person he is, it had to be bubbly and bright!
What has been your thought about the reaction of the new single?
Everyone seems to like it – which is a relief! Sometimes when you create in a silo, you never really know if what you’re making is any good at all. I guess that is why I have always just tried to write music that I like and am passionate about. If people like it – great! And if they don’t, it’s ok, because at the end of the day I’m doing something that is genuinely me and something I’m proud of.
Can we expect any new music soon? If so can you spill some details about them?
We’re working on a few remixes of For You which will be are coming out this week. And then later this Fall, we’ll be making a bit of right turn and releasing a new video for my new single Hometown, which I think is going to knock people’s socks off in a totally different way. It’s an exciting year!
What’s the process of choosing a song for you to put out?
To-date I have released two EPs, a full-length album and a few singles and the process for writing and releasing those have all been different. There are a lot of upsides to being an independent artists but most of the time I feel like I am just flying’ by the seat of my pants so I don’t have an exact process I follow each time.
What’s your favorite song to perform live?
Well, I always tell people artistry and advocacy go hand-in-hand for me – with advocacy work being the thing I am most passionate about. In October of last year, I recorded and released the track mentioned above, Hometown. I love singing this song live because it’s the time in the show when I get to tell my story – my coming out story that complete changed my life. It’s important for me to talk and sing about my experiences – especially in the south and especially to fans of Country Music. I think it’s the first real step and my part to play in helping to facilitate change in the South and in Country Music in regards to the LGBTQ community – my community.
What’s the feeling you get when on stage and your fans are singing your songs back to you?
It’s the best feeling in the world. I wrote most of my music with a guitar sitting in my living room, so it’s crazy seeing people at shows singing those songs back to me!
Does your fanbase have a name?
No, not yet! So, I’m taking suggestions. Ready, set, go!
What social media platform do you use most to stay connected to your fans?
I’m pretty well connected on all the social channels, so if you’re looking for me I’m pretty easy to spot.
One of your biggest accomplishments in your career so far has to be when you were a back up dancer for the one and only Taylor Swift. Can you tell us how that opportunity came about for you?
It was actually pretty crazy – I went to an audition as a favor to a friend who didn’t want to go alone, and after a 3-day dance audition, I found myself a new job on Taylor’s very first headlining tour.
What was that experience like for you?
It was special time – Taylor eventually coined a song about our tour on her second album – Long Live. I remember her taking us all up to her hotel room when we were playing Atlantis in the Bahamas and letting us hear this song she had written about our experiences together – it was pretty special. We started the tour in small arena in Evansville, Indiana playing to about 3,000 people and ended the tour at Gillette Stadium playing to about 65,000 people! It was unbelievable to watch her career skyrocket right in front of me. She is one of the most talented singer-songwriters I have ever known and such a powerhouse performer – well deserving of her superstar status. Plus she does one hell of a Kristin Wiig “Target Lady” impersonation.
What’s the best thing that has come out of this career so far?
The fans – especially the fans who tell me how thankful they are to finally feel represented Country Music. I think visibility is important. I also think the strong stance and anti-gay social stereotypes started to crumble when Chely Wright came out in 2010 (I love her for that!). Our common ground here is – everyone wants to feel connected and represented. Everyone wants to hear a story they can relate to, but for LGBTQ fans of Country Music we don’t often hear our stories on country radio. I’m hoping to be part of changing that. That said, country radio will barely play female artists right now – so I know for a minority, a career in country music can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Lucky for me, I don’t mind a climb.
What’s your biggest struggle in this career so far?
The biggest challenge for me has been learning how to handle the word “no,” because people seem to like to use it a lot! I adopted a philosophy that I have stuck with for a while now and it’s a basic “side-step” in this crazy life dance we’re all doin’. Whenever someone puts a roadblock in front of me, I try not to let it dissuade me from where I was headed – instead I just side-step. There is always another way. There is always someone else who can help. It’s just means I have to work until I find my path forward.
Do you have any advice for aspiring music artists?
The best advice I can give is “don’t wait for opportunities to find you, go find them!” If I had waited for someone to open a door for me, I’d still be sittin’ behind a closed door.
You can listen to Brandon’s single, “For You” here and check out the fun music video starring RuPaul’s Drag Race star, Eureka O’Hara, here!