Brandon Lay Opens Up About His Biggest Influences + More
Brandon Lay’s hometown of Jackson, Tennessee, falls halfway between Memphis and Nashville, and musically so does he. His influences include artists that revolutionized country music in the ’90s, and Elvis Presley.
The 2017 Taste of Country RISER reaches further than that when he needs inspiration for a song, but for him it all begins right there, at home. His father is a pastor at a Baptist church, so hymns and congregations play a role. But it was his mother’s love of the King that stuck.
“Yeah, we’ve got a few of those,” Lay says, smiling when asked if home video of him impersonating Presley exists. “I’ve got one, in particular, doing ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ by Elvis. That was pretty much my childhood, was mimicking whatever I saw. It wasn’t just music. If I saw a Pistol Pete basketball movie I’d be out shooting hoops, or if I saw Indiana Jones I’d be cracking a whip, so music was no different in that regard.”
The “Back on the Wagon” singer will kick a hole in any box you try to put him in. Hip-hop mix tapes out of Memphis left a mark. So did Guns N’ Roses for a few years, and later stories of life on the road with Carl Perkins from a local guitar picker named Charlie Baker. That’s who first encouraged him to try Nashville. Until that point a career singing songs was just a hobby.
“My very first live performance was an open mic night at a Tennessee River bar, a Highway 412 block building bar where I sang three songs,” Lay recalls, a smile on his face. “There were eight people there, two of them were bartenders. But I just remember the feeling on the way home. I felt like it was something I wanted to keep doing.”
Now married and signed to UMG Nashville, Lay is preparing to release his debut single this spring or summer. He paid his dues in a self-financed RV, playing colleges across the Southeast. Characters from both home and the road populate his songs.
“My most personal song is one called ‘You Don’t Want Me Loving You,’” Lay says. “I wrote that after a pretty rough label showcase a few years ago. The highs and lows of music can pull out some pretty good stuff. That’s where that song came from. Luckily for me my wife does love me, but that song for me is the most personal.”
Look for Lay on the road playing fairs and festivals this spring and summer, including a stop at Tortuga Music Festival in April