Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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Q&A with Brandon Stansell

By Christopher Treacy

Originally coming from an area of Tennessee about three hours out of Nashville, Brandon Stansell has country music in his blood. But as well all know: country isn’t country anymore. Stansell is unafraid to bring the pop element to the forefront of his songs, and on the new “Wild Ride,” the formula works marvelously. Having tackled some tough topics in previous singles “Hurt” and “Hometown,” the latter of which was the first LGBTQ-themed video ever premiered on CMT and named one of Rolling Stone’s 10 Best Country Videos of the Year, Stansell brings us something breezy and infectious with a good-timey feel this time around. Of course, you can’t be celebrating how far you’ve come without inherently acknowledging the obstacles that attempted to hinder you along the way, and those trials are also acknowledged in the song. Stansell’s forthcoming full length, This Must Be The Place, 6/24, is an expansion of last year’s EP which bears the same name, featuring four new songs along with the half-dozen already released; “Wild Ride,” which is our Song of the Week in Wednesday’s CQ Roundup, is one of the four. We got to ask him about the duality of the struggle and the success in the lyric (as well as that awesome sax solo) in this short Q&A.

There’s a duality running through this song… there’s a breezy pop element that glides along, but the verses allude to episodes of self doubt and anxiety – all part of the ‘wild ride.’ Is it fair to say that the song is about (among other things) taking the bitter with the sweet?

It’s all a part of life – right? That’s what I was always told – the good, the bad, the in-between. We take what life gives us and we run with it. I have been on top of some high mountains and through some valleys so deep I didn’t know if I’d make it out, but then I did. And looking back I am thankful for it all because my journey wouldn’t be complete without any of it – I wouldn’t be complete without any of it. Over the past few years, I’ve been able to do some things I’m really proud of, making the music I do, and if the past predicts the future, I’m thinking there are a lot more good days ahead of me than bad. 

Continuing with that idea, would you say that being overwhelmed is just a natural part of personal growth? I’m hearing a recurring theme about overcoming obstacles, but inherent in that process is (usually) a feeling of being overwhelmed. 


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

Well it’s like my mom used to say, “when we rest, we rust” – I don’t think I ever saw that woman sit down… and I am a lot like her. I think the sense of being overwhelmed is natural for everyone, but I think the “personal growth” part of that is how you deal with it – do you let it poison you or propel you? It’s an almost daily decision, and I always try and choose the latter. 

“I know enough to know, it’ll all be worth it.” This speaks to me about faith. Is it a blind faith in the general rightness of the universe? In a deity? Or, is it faith based on your experience thus far?

Personally, this is not about right and wrong or a religious faith, it’s more about that little bit of delusion I think every artist has to have to keep going. We have to believe in ourselves more than anybody else does. It’s like the saying goes, “I didn’t come this far, only to come this far.”

I’m a sucker for a sax solo. Sax solos were HUGE on the radio in the 70s and 80s, but seldom appear in pop songs anymore. What made it seem like a good idea to you for this track? Your idea? Someone else’s?

I will, one-hundred percent, take credit for this sax solo. I was a big Reba fan when I was a kid, and her song “Take It Back” which has a similar sax solo breakdown, was the first time I had ever heard anything like this. I loved that song and have always been looking for the right time to bring that moment into my own music.

How does this track fit into the context of your forthcoming album?

“Wild Ride” really encapsulates most of the themes included on this album – it’s retro and retrospective while also looking to the bright new world ahead.

Christopher Treacy has been writing about music and the music industry for 20 years. He’s contributed to The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, and Berklee College of Music’s quarterly journal, as well as myriad LGBTQ+ outlets including the Edge Media Network, Between the Lines/Pride Source, Bay Windows and In Newsweekly. He lives in Waitsfield, VT.