Catch up with LA-based country singer-songwriter Brandon Stansell and watch the video for his latest single "Slow Down" off his Slow Down EP, out now, and read more about Brandon in our last interview here.
Tell me what you've been up to these past few months since releasing Dear John.
I actually didn't think I was going to be doing another project so soon but [laughs] here we are. But, no, I was really excited to do this and get a chance to write about things that were a little less heavy. So, anyway, I just collaborated with some friends here in LA and back home and just wrote a collection of things that were in this vein of feelings that I was having - which were definitely more Summer and fun and full of life. So, I wrote about 15/20 things for the project and then picked 3 and took those into the studio and recorded them. Then came back and started working with Trent again - who is a friend of mine here who wrote and directed the "Dear John" video back in February - and we put out this "Slow Down" video that I'm just super proud of so, yeah [laughs]. It seems like a quick mouthful, but it's taken almost a full year to get it all done. But that's what I've been up to [laughs].
Are there any artists or bands that you're hooked on, someone you think everyone should listen to?
Yes! I have been wearing out the new Johnny Swim record, I don't know if you've listened to it or not, but it is so good [laughs]. It's so good. I had a few records like that this year. The Years & Years record was like that, I think I listened to it, probably, a hundred times. Loved that record. There have just been like, in the world of country, there have been not necessarily records that I've been able to listen through, start to finish, but things that I've really, really loved. Like I loved Maren Morris' record, I loved the Brothers Osborne record. Just some really amazing writers - and singers - which is something I've been just so excited about and excited to listen to.
What's your guilty pleasure song that you're listening to when no one can hear you?
Oh my god! Well, see, I don't really care [laughs], I just sing regardless. Like I said, I've been stuck on this Johnny Swim record and they have this song called "Villains" that I am just crazy about. I think it's so smart; I think the writing is just so well done; I think they encapsulate the feeling of people in a relationship. It's really hard to explain, but they do it so well, so you should just listen to it! There's basically this back and forth in the chorus where it's like "all the things that you don't say are what breaks my heart" and it's like, oh, all the things that I didn't even know I was doing and I don't know, it's just this perfect picture of how crazy and complicated relationships can be. And the hook is "how we make villains out of lovers" but my favorite line of the song is one that says "we're dodging arrows that we think we see" and I just think that's so smart [laughs]. I wish I had written it!
Do you have a favorite spot for coffee?
Oh, yeah I do! One of my new favorite places is just down the street from my house here in Hollywood; it's a coffee shop called Verve on Melrose. So, you know, if you're trying to stalk me, you can usually find me there [laughs]. If you're looking to hunt me down, there's a good chance I'll be there.
Dogs or cats; which one and why?
Oh. I'm a dog person. I grew up with both, but I have forever had a dog name in mind, I've just never actually owned a dog as an adult. So [laughs] I've always said that I'm going to have a dog named Biscuit, and one day I'm going to find him. I just haven't found him yet, but one day.
Beyoncé or Taylor Swift?
Oh my gosh, that's an easy one because Taylor's my old boss and a friend, so I have to say Taylor Swift [laughs].
How would you describe your current sound, as it is on this new EP?
This is definitely a right turn from the first record. I think it's still very much country, but I think it's a lot more accessible than Dear John was; I think Dear John had to be exactly what it was and that was an outpouring of feelings in my voice and that is very much country. This kind of got to spread its wings a little bit and open itself up to a wider audience which I'm really excited about, because we've heard people that really liked the first record - and they love this one, too [laughs] - but then, people that don't even like country music like this one and I love that, because I love country music. I grew up with it, I spent my entire life writing it and singing it and, if I can swing open the doors for people that have never liked this genre before to actually begin liking it, then I feel like I have just become a miracle worker [laughs].
What were your inspirations behind your single and video for "Slow Down"?
Well, the song I wrote with a friend of mine, but we had never written together, so "Slow Down" was actually the first song that we ever wrote together. We spent an afternoon writing it and it was inspired by a recent failed dating attempt [laughs]. We make it sound so good in the song but it was actually inspired by a failed dating attempt and it was just the jumping off point to writing something that was light and fun and things that I had felt that I had not ever had the opportunity to actually write about; something that I really did want to dip my toe in and see how it would turn out and I think it turned out well! [Laughs] I'm pretty proud of it. So that's what inspired the song. And then, once it was all finished, I literally just handed the track to my friend Trent who is just a super talented writer and director here in town and he's the one that conceived the treatment for the video and then ended up directing it, so that's basically how it all worked.
You've touched on this, but could you tell us more about your Slow Down EP and how it compares to Dear John?
Yeah, so, like I said, it's definitely a right turn, but I think a good one and a necessary one. I want to sing country music, but I know that my first record was limited in the amount of people that could enjoy it - for subject matter reasons and just the simple style of the music - and so I was so happy to be able to put out something with Slow Down that was just more accessible; that was more fun and that you could literally put in your car's stereo and just roll your windows down and just have a good day and enjoy the music. That's what I really wanted out of this record and that's what I got. Like I said, we probably wrote 15-20 things for it and were just really, really searching for this carefree country sound that I wanted to make my own and something that felt very genuine to me, which is something like this easy, breezy, laid-back country vibe that I think we really captured with the three songs that we eventually recorded.
In one sentence, how would you sum up that Slow Down EP?
[Laughs] In one sentence, you had to say that, didn't you [laughs]? Slow Down is all the country that I want to sing, but it is all of my other influences - and there are many - all rolled into one and for people that, like I said, may not have ever envisioned themselves listening to country music, I would encourage you to give it a try and maybe I can be your little gateway drug into this genre that I love so much.
Where would you like to see country music going in regards to the representation of LGBT artists?
I was reading an article this morning, on The Boot actually, about the CMAs and the uproar about Beyoncé's performing with the Dixie Chicks and people's just [laughs] responses to everything that is not straightforward and easy to understand and not outside of what country music has always been. And I am such a traditionalist in the fact that I love old-school country and I think that there's a place for that and I think that that style of music is beautiful and people should continue writing it and singing it and I want to be a part of that, but I also think that we need to be pushing boundaries, not just in the music, but also in the people that are singing it. It's not always going to be straight white people. That's not me and that's not many other aspiring country singers that are out there and I think that, even though there are some that raise their voices to [laughs] be upset about Beyoncé singing on the CMA awards, I think that there are just as many - if not more - people that are open to expanding the genre beyond what it's been and I think that that's a really, really good thing and I would encourage those people to be just as vocal as their counterparts.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
I hope that people enjoy it. My goal here is not to make a statement, it is to make music, and I hope that people just get to actually enjoy the work that we've done because it has been a lot of work and everyone that's had their hand in this project, I think, is extremely proud of it and they should be. I want people to enjoy what they hear.