For Brandon Stansell, his love of country music collides with his passion for advocacy for the LGBT community, being open with his fans about his journey and using his music to connect. Growing up right outside of Chattanooga, Tennesee, Stansell recalls his entire family listening to country music. At the age of six, his mother and sister surprised him with tickets to see Reba McEntire, a night that he says changed everything. “It was one of the first shows I ever saw, it was one of those moments where I was like ‘Yup, this is what I want to do’.” Shortly after that, his parents brought him to Nashville and he was one of the children who performed at Opryland. It’s where he cut his teeth as a performer, learning to sing and dance and spent his childhood around very talented people who all loved country music. “I was six when I did my first show, it was on the Opry stage so I joke about telling people that my first paid gig was at the Opry house then I’ve spent the rest of my adult life just clawing and scraping to get back to that circle,” he laughs.
Graduating Belmont University in Nashville in 2009, he pursued his music career in Nashville for a few years, but never quite felt like he found his voice. After a brief stint in New York City, he moved out to the West Coast where he now resides. It took him leaving Nashville and experiencing the hustle and bustle of New York City to finally start writing his own music and find his songwriter’s voice.
A big part of Stansell’s personal journey is his coming out story, which he explains to us as something he always is sure to talk about during his live shows. “It was actually really painful and difficult and it didn’t go as well as I had hoped, but fast forward a decade from there those experiences have really shaped me into the person that I am and that’s a person that I am deeply proud of,” he tells us. “I just don’t know that I would be the person or be doing what I am doing now if I didn’t have to go through what I went through to get me here.” Blending artistry and advocacy is what he strives to do with his career, participating in festivals across the country and even playing at the Concert for Love and Acceptance hosted by CMT’s Cody Alan earlier this summer during CMAfest.
I feel like music has been for me, as an independent artist, has been a vehicle where I’ve been able to talk to people especially in the south that I was in years ago, that are having struggles and I have been able to connect with them,” he explains. “In those exchanges I feel that there is a sentiment that we are not that alone even though we may feel it at times, and it’s an easy thing to feel when you are LGBT in the South and have a conservative or religious family that doesn’t understand you or support you and can’t find a way around their religion to love you in the place where you are.” Using his platform he is proud to talk about his experiences and to try and help others going through similar things.