Brandon Stansell Talks 'Slow Down' Music Video and the Growing Gay Country Music Scene

Dustin Diehl

Brandon Stansell made waves earlier this year with his music video for the song "Dear John." Joining a growing number of out gay country music stars, Stansell hasn't played coy regarding his sexuality—or his talent. Partnering with director Trent Atkinson and fellow out gay country singer Ty Herndon, Stansell's "Slow Down" captures the sound and feel fans should expect from his upcoming LP.

Stansell chatted with PRIDE to discuss his new video, the election, musical influences and more:

PRIDE: Your song, "Slow Down," seems to be a counter-message to today’s instant gratification culture, where everything from groceries to sex is just an app-click away. How do you see this song resonating with a gay community that largely operates at breakneck speeds?
Stansell: I think we all move about our daily lives at a rapid pace whether gay or straight, and to that I’d like to use one of my favorite Dolly-isms: “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life!” However, the song was less about actually taking life and relationships slow and more about enjoying those initial feelings of attraction when you first meet someone without over-complicating them. So many times, we get wrapped up making sure that everything makes sense that we forget to enjoy the person right in front of us in the moment. 
PRIDE: Gay country artists are still a rarity, but a few have begun to pave the way for newer artists. You’ve collaborated with Ty Herndon already; how have artists like Steve Grand and others influenced your career?
Stansell: I owe a lot to artists who are already navigating these waters, so working with Ty on "Slow Down" was not only an honor for me but also my way of saying “thank you” and acknowledging him for being a leader in this world I am stepping into.
I think any musician will tell you that the music is the most important thing, and artists like Ty have inspired me to write music that is both reflective of myself as an individual, but that is also accessible both to members of the LGBTQ community and country music fans in general. Typically I write about personal experiences, so the challenge is to write about those in a way that allows anyone to relate to the lyrics no matter the person’s sexuality. I want to write music for and about people. All people.
PRIDE: In past interviews you’ve mentioned your concerns about inclusion, job security and protections for LGBT people, especially growing up in Tennessee. How have the results of this recent presidential election affected these concerns?
Stansell: I think if you have ever been in a position where policy dictates whether or not you get to keep your job or marry the person you love, politics, and more specifically the fight for LGBT rights, becomes really important really quickly. Even though things have been moving in a positive direction over the past few years, this year’s election is a clear indicator that the fight for our most basic human rights is not over.
Though it can be tiring and frustrating to continually try to convince others that you deserve the same rights afforded to them, I will say, the upside to having to stand up for yourself so often is that your legs end up being a lot stronger than other people’s. And I don’t want to toot my own horn or anything, but I have some pretty big hams these days.
PRIDE: You’ve described your sound as “California country.” What does that mean to you?
Stansell: Well, I can’t say that I coined the phrase or anything, but I can say that "California Country" is what I feel best describes the music I am writing and recording. A sound that is just as reflective of my life in Los Angeles as it is in my Tennessee home. 
Growing up, I spent a lot of time listening to artists like Reba, Vince Gill, and LeAnn Womack, but I was also a huge fan of older country artists like Brenda Lee, Elvis and, of course, Dolly. As an adult I started to broaden my horizons a bit and have been heavily influenced by artists like Brandi Carlile, Years & Years, and Tracy Chapman.
It took quite a bit of writing to finally settle on my sound, but I feel it reflects the relaxed, full life I have created for myself here in LA with, and nods to, the artists who have inspired me to do what I do.
PRIDE: What can you tell us about any upcoming projects fans can get excited about?

Stansell: I am mainly focused completing the full Slow Down LP to be release in the fall of next year. I just recently began writing for the project, so I am excited to start pulling together the remaining tracks for what will be my first full-length record!
We also just finished shooting a new music video for Never Know, the third and final track on the Slow Down EP. Trent Atkinson, who directed the music videos for "Slow Down" and "Dear John," will once again be heading up the project. We are most likely looking to release sometime in December or January. 
We will also be shooting a video for "Spare Change" in December, a project I am extremely passionate about. After the recent election, Trent created a vision for this video that I knew we had to shoot. So many of us were looking around trying to figure out what we could do in the wake of the election results and producing this video is going to be one of my very first steps. 
PRIDE: What role do you see yourself playing as an artist who identifies with a minority group? Role model? Advocate? None of the above?

Stansell: I’m a writer and singer, but I am also vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights. 
I had a tumultuous coming out and if sharing my story can save one person from having to go through what I went through, then that is something I am passionate about pursing. 
I have a story to tell and I don’t mind telling it through a microphone or a megaphone. 
PRIDE: What advice do you have for aspiring LGBT musicians, especially those interested in country music?

Stansell: Actively pursue your dreams. Set goals for yourself and put actual plans in place on how best you can achieve those things. It’s easy to talk about dreams but it’s something quite different to act on them. There is little room for self-doubt and definitely no time for it. If you believe in you, somebody else will too. 
And I would just call this standing life advice whether you are LGBTQ, straight, a musician, or you don’t have a musical bone in your body.

Check out Brandon's latest video "Slow Down:"

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