Brandon Stansell is in an upbeat mood after coming off his first CMA Music Festival. To be certain, it’s a pressure-packed event, not only because you’re playing for thousands of music-hungry fans but also, and perhaps more importantly, in front of Nashville’s industry power brokers. But by all accounts, he aced his initial big test. Stansell was featured in one of the week’s best attended shows, the Concert for Love and Acceptance at the Wildhorse Saloon, presented by Ty Herndon and GLAAD. The concert featured an all-star lineup, including Vince Gill, Cam, Tanya Tucker, Michael Ray, Thompson Square and Cassadee Pope.
“This was my first CMA Fest,” Stansell notes in an upbeat tone. “I had a lot of fun and the shows went really well. It was important for me to be part of that week.” Vital for a couple of reasons, certainly professional but also on the personal side.
Stansell has openly come out as gay, a declaration made by other artists in the past several years, Chely Wright and Herndon among them. The Concert for Love and Acceptance, now in its third year, was held to celebrate the idea of inclusion and lead to a more understanding dialog. Herndon, whom Stansell lists as a close friend, has been the driving force behind each concert. “The night was awesome,” Stansell raves. “The lineup was incredible. It’s great to see the artists and our allies come together.”
He leaves no doubt that country music is where he wants to land. The sounds and the stories drew him in as a youngster growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “I think I started singing when I was about six,” Stansell recalls. “I was listening to country at an early age. That was my genre.” In his teens, Stansell came to Nashville to perform at one of the music shows at the Opryland theme park. “I was one of those Opryland kid performers,” he laughs. “Then, I moved to Nashville when I was 18 to go to Belmont [University].”
Eventually, Stansell made his way to Los Angeles, where he still lives. It was there where he developed his distinct brand of “California Country,” combining a breezy West Coast sound with country storytelling. Stansell released his first full-length album, “Slow Down,” in 2017. The deeply personal album dealt with Stansell’s coming out experience and the reaction he received. He approached the subject honestly, particularly in the selection “Hometown.” In the same vein, the music video for the title track depicted a gay couple, a serious departure for a country music clip.
Over the years, Stansell has become a strong, committed voice in representing the LGBT community. “I am equally passionate about my advocacy,” Stansell says. “I write about my story for the most part. And a big part of my story is my coming out. There are a lot of people going through the same things now, so it’s important for me to share that. I want to tell them that you can make it OK.”
Stansell devotes a good deal of time writing, mostly about love and relationships—the ones that create sparks and the ones that fizzle out. He’s set to release a new single, “For You,” which he wrote. “This is a unique song for me,” he says, “because it’s a bit more pop country. It’s a summer kind of song, inspired by my dating relationships. I have a few other things I’m working on also. I’m not playing a full-fledged tour,” he adds, “but I never pass up an opportunity to do the Pride events in different cities. I am always honored to perform at those.”
Like all new artists, Stansell has put in the necessary hard work to forge his career path. “My goal has always been just to write music and get it out there to the world,” he says. “I’m lucky to be able to do what I’m doing, and I’m trying to do it well.”
Look for Stansell’s new single “For You,” beginning July 12.