What inspired you to pursue music?
Motown baby! Artists like Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie and so many more helped me find my voice in music. My mom put me in voice and piano lessons by the age of 5 and I spent 10 years with my first teacher, Nancy Jo Grobmyer. My passion for creating music comes from the raw emotion behind the lyrics, which is why I often find myself writing more cinematic, ballad style records. Though I do enjoy a nice bit of funk and jazz, I love the drama in the costumes and the showstopping qualities artists like Elton John, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga bring forth. Before I could talk I was mumbling melodies and humming along to music on long car rides. I would dance around in my bedroom for hours and hours, pretending I had 10 backup dancers behind me. I was living! Ive always told myself I would never put my artistry in a box. I will always be me. Lots of people hear my southern accent, then they hear me sing and wonder if it’s even the same person. But what can I say, genuine soulful sounds move me.
How would you describe your musical style?
I am a neo-soul, afro pop and R&B singer. I pull most of my influences for my sound from more recent artists like Alicia Keys, Sam Smith and John Legend, my wardrobe from a slightly more reserved Elton John/Prince style and my on stage swagger from Michael Jackson. My sound is very important to me, because a dance track needs to be upbeat and fun. I’m always thinking about how it’s going to look, feel and sound on stage in front of thousands of people. My slower more honest ballad records need more elements of story. But I always find myself pulling from the same wheelhouse of instruments in all of my records. I think that’s what rounds out my style, cause it’s really not like anyone else.
What artists do you look up to right now?
I think I kind of answered this in a previous question, but I’m more than happy to dive in again. Motown artists like Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie and so many more are icons I would not be the same without. Current artists like Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Sam Smith, John Legend, Adele and a few more are who I follow more day to day. But we can’t forget about my girls Mary J. Blige or Fantasia, with all the raw emotion they leave on the stage anytime they perform anything.
What are your friends and parents thoughts on your career in singing?
This is a good question. Early on I caught a lot of negativity for wanting to pursue something no one really understood. I grew up in a small town called Carrollton, Kentucky and in this town you don’t really leave. Most people stick around and build a family there. My graduating class was small, the town occupancy is small and unfortunately, so are many of their beliefs that “anything is possible.” I think I’ve built a respectful understanding now. My mom was really the driving force behind my music. My dad thought I was talented, but he was more interested in seeing me pursue athletics, which I also had a passion for. My close friends supported me when they could, but again, nobody really grew up to become an entertainer. That’s just a fantasy to people back home. I kept being reminded by teachers in my school system, parents of friends and occasional family members to “have a plan B.” It wasn’t until my run on American Idol did everyone’s mentality of a “plan B” change. I reminded them anything is possible.
You made it on Season 12 of American Idol. Can you tell us about that experience?
Absolutely. I get asked this question all the time. I will say the experience was incredible. I always tell people my season was the one with the feud between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. They always perk right up and are like “yeah I remember that season.” I’m sure you do. We can’t forget, right? That feud by the way, was very real. I remember walking into my first audition with Randy Jackson, Nicki, Keith Urban and Mariah sitting right in front of me, honestly they all looked so perfect. I had stood around all day, and was literally the second to last singer to audition. I probably looked like a greasy thumb at that point. Let’s also mention I had a major crush on Mariah, AND SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL. Nonetheless, that was the start of the whole American Idol experience. Before that I had 4 rounds of screenings with producers, casting directors and one that even included Nigel Lythgoe. Which thankfully he loved my rendition of House of the Rising Sun, so he didn’t even ask me to prepare anything else for the celebrity judge round. I made it further and further and made lots of friends in the process. Nicki wasn’t a fan. She said I reminded her of an artist that was already on the radio. Mariah, Keith and Randy disagreed all through the show. To be fair, Nicki was hours late before filming every day. She was even late to a live taping. She was just a bit hateful all through my journey. Not just to me, but to lots of artists on the show that season. Our season had a lot of great singers, but we didn’t get much airtime because of the feud. I just felt bad for Mariah because she was pretty professional the entire time. I also think Mariah, Keith and Randy were incredible mentors. I still run into Randy at events on occasions. Overall I’m extremely grateful for the experience and haven’t ruled out returning to their platform now on ABC. I’m a huge fan of Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan is hilarious and Katy Perry is my spirit animal.
Did you have a “break out” song that started things for you with your followers?
I just released a new single on February 1st called “War Zone” that is killing it in sales right now. I will say most of my EP is unreleased and will be coming out this year. My team and I decided to drop them as singles so it’ll be an exciting process for my fans. We’re giving them a little at a time. I have a couple collaborations coming out this year also. A single called “Bad Habits” with Charisse Mills and a single I’m featured in called “Oh” with JoPaul.
How has your overall LA experience been?
It’s incredible! I could do without the traffic, but other than that I love it. I finally have an LA family out here now and it’s nice to have that. I do miss home a lot though. The people in Kentucky are so kind and caring. They are still the rock in my career. The OG Brando fan base.
You also partnered with Awesomeness TV to relaunch your YouTube channel. How has this been for you? What kind of content have you been releasing on your channel?
I’m so glad you asked me this! This is my team and I’s focus in 2019 actually. AwesomenessTV and my rep there, Parker Roberts, are some of the most helpful and supportive people I have ever met. I also have a brand strategist, Alitalia Adams and my manager, Joel Parent working day and night to bring content to the channel. We’re branding it like a mini Netflix. It’s a play on my name “The Brand On Network.” We will be holstering several different web-series, short films and music videos working with a variety of content creators looking to bring value to the channel. Many of these shows and shorts will actually be used as back door pilots for bigger network pitches. As far as music goes, we are developing a musical series called “Ghostwriter” that’s like a cross between “A Star is Born” and “The Greatest Showman” about a drug addicted songwriter who finds his voice through music. We are even bringing the award-winning singing competition, “Shine” to the channel this year for a season 2. We’re even dropping a new music video mash up of Abba’s “The Winner Takes it All” and Journey’s “Faithfully” at the end of February featuring my friends David Hernandez, Ranella Ferrer, Liddy Clark and Nastachia. Lots of content coming and lots of content in development. I’m excited!
The landing page for all the content is at www.officialbrandonstewart.
That’s Awesome!! What’s your reaction to all the success your channel has been having lately?
It’s been incredible! We haven’t hit a HUGE audience yet, as we just rebranded, but the channel is growing quickly and my fan base is getting bigger everyday. We don’t make content for viral activity particularly, instead we focus on quality. We know the views and popularity will come as the consistency stays on target. With introducing all of these new content creators this year, all the concepts and the new music, we have no doubt about the viewership will hit an all time high this year.
Does your fanbase have a name?
How do you want your relationship to be with your fans?
Very personal. My fan base hasn’t hit the millions yet, so with the help of my social media team I stay pretty involved. They make sure I see when they’re engaging regularly, when they want merch and who is reaching out week to week. They’re really supportive, sweet and engaging. I’m a people person, so I don’t think I could ever get tired of hearing from them. I rarely get to respond to all of my direct messages, but my team makes sure I see them.
What was the craziest fan encounter you have had?
I honestly don’t think I’ve had any weird ones actually. I know, boring right?
What social media platform do you use most to stay connected to your fans?
I would say I’m really active on Instagram and Twitter. My facebook is also pretty active, but they all have severely different demographics. The easiest way to show you’re following me and enjoying my content/music is definitely Instagram or Twitter. All of my social media is the same (@BranMStew).
Are their any other projects in the works you can tell us about?
Yes! As I mentioned before, I have my EP dropping as singles all throughout this year, couple of collaborations I mentioned earlier, Brand On Network dropping new content every month, my new movie “Moondance” coming out later this year and a couple of films in development for production later this year too. To stay up to date with all the craziness, it’s best to just follow me on social media or visit my website at www.officialbrandonstewart.com
What goals have you set out for yourself in your career and in your personal life?
I’m a perfectionist. So I’m pretty hard on myself. I have so many lifelong goals, like owning a theater, having kids, or even starting a fund for scholarships for kids in small rural areas that want to pursue the arts. I like being able to give back. I believe in inspiring and love speaking to kids. Entertainment has been a big part of my life since I was young and I want to always create what I want and when I want. So far, I’ve been fortunate enough to do that. But as time progresses, I want to continue to learn and build. I want the music, the records and the content to mean more than to entertain. True stories. Moving stories. That raw heartfelt emotion that gives you goosebumps when you witness it for the first time.
If your life was a movie, what would be the title?
“50 Shades of the Spotlight.” Is that clever?
Who would you want to play you?
What has been your biggest accomplishment in your career so far?
I would say acting alongside Snoop Dogg in my latest film, “Future World.” The casting director, Cynthia Huffman cast me after a film I wrapped with James Franco months prior. Milla Jocovich and Lucy Lui were in it too. We had a lot of fun filming it. Lots of stunts and lots of talent involved.
Do you have any last things you want to tell your fans?
Other than how much I love and appreciate their support, Id love to tell them to keep engaged because things are going to get really exciting this year. This journey has only just started for all of us and I’m so honored to get to share it with all of you.