Brandon Stansell is a breath of fresh air in country music. His love for classic stories of love and heartbreak stems from icons like Dolly and Shania, but his openness about his sexuality is what's going to change the direction of the genre.
How did you get started in music?
Brandon: When I was six-years-old, my parents used to drive me back and forth from Nashville to Chattanooga 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. So, 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!
Why did you gravitate towards country music?
Brandon: Honestly I never felt like I could help it - it’s in my blood. I grew up listening to 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.
There’s not a lot of openly gay country artists, why is that and why should there be more?
Brandon: Well, I think visibility is important. I also think the strong stance and anti-gay social stereotype 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.
Tell me about your song “For You”, it’s so sweet, what’s the story behind it?
Brandon: So, I co-wrote “For You” with MYLEN- we both currently shared inspiration to make something that encapsulated all the goodness our partners bring into our lives. To create that feeling in anyone who listens to it. I always tell people that my boyfriend is the most kind-hearted loving person I know. My life is so much better for having him in it and I wanted to write about it. The song is bubbly and bright, so it feels like a pretty good representation of people we were writing about.
What was it like working with Eureka O’Hara?
Brandon: I mean, it's not often someone you admire is as amazing as you hope they will be! Working with Eureka was everything and more - she’s tough as nails and funny as hell. She is also a fellow Tennessean, so having her on set felt a lot like being home except she had more hairspray and heels than my momma ever had! Being from the South, she also understands and shares my passion for LGBTQ visibly in the Country Music space - if we want to be included, we have let people know we want to join the team!
What has been on of the biggest challenges in your career?
Brandon: 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.
Whats your best piece of advice to your younger self?
Brandon: The best advice I could 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.