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Brandon Ray

Every now and then, an artist crosses my path and I can’t wait to share their gifts with the world. Brandon Ray is no exception. Brandon is the type of artist that truly fuels my passion for music because it’s obvious that he shares that same passion. Not only is he talented, but he is also extremely kind and very supportive in helping others follow their dreams. He is the type of artist that I hope to work for personally one day. Anyone can get on stage and perform, but it takes a special artist to really engage with people in a genuine way. Brandon is one of those people.

Brandon Ray was born in Big Spring, TX. In earlier years, he was in a rock band with his brother called “Crimson Soul” and their music was played on rock radio in Dallas. The band started playing regionally before playing nationwide. Then, they did the Warped Tour together. Eventually, band members started to move on and things began to fall apart, but Brandon says “Thank God they did because I had wanted to be in Nashville the whole time to write songs and eventually do the ‘artist thing’.” When he made the move to Nashville 10 years ago in 2009, he never looked back. “It’s home. I’ve planted roots here. I’m not going anywhere.”

On or off stage, Brandon is the real deal. From his incredible vocals, to how he interacts with crowds of hundreds and even thousands of people, to how he backs a band and how he interacts with his fans online… this guy will impress you. Although I was familiar with his single, “Ends of the Earth”, it was when I saw Brandon performing at The Ryman at Bobby Bones’ “Million Dollar Show” in January that I truly knew he was something special. I very distinctly remember saying “This guy is going to be HUGE in just a couple of years”. His immense success in the music industry is already proof of that too. Brandon has written with and shared the stage with countless artists (including the inspiration for “Shine On Music City”, Keith Urban) as well as Dan + Shay, Brett Eldredge, Kip Moore, Jon Pardi, Luke Bryan and many, many more. Although Brandon has performed or worked with practically every current country artist, it’s when he’s up on stage belting out his original tunes that he really SHINES the most. You just FEEL the music when he performs.

Although Brandon has garnered success and emits an impressive stage presence, he is truly humble and down-to-earth. Brandon is always quick to credit others for supporting him throughout his journey. He credits his wife, his family, Keith Urban, Bobby Bones, and (of course) his fans and many others for their unending support. Brandon’s hits “Bring Your Love Back” and “Ends of the Earth” are definitely crowd pleasers, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover songs that speak to your soul… songs like “Unbreaking” from his “Shake ‘Em Off” album… Brandon may have been born in Texas but Nashville, TN is lucky to have this incredible, soulful country artist.

When I first approached Brandon about spotlighting him on Shine On Music City, he shared the same excitement in the idea as I did. Not only that, but he appreciated the opportunity to be featured… There are so many qualities that make him worthy of the success he has gained so far, but this interview and his music will give you a peek into why we think Brandon is so special.

Brandon, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to do this. This means a lot to me.

This means a lot to me too because I can tell how passionate you are about this and music and everything. We’re all in this together and I think we need to just help each other in any way we can.

Exactly! So… I know we both have connections to Keith Urban and I’ve told you about my connection to Keith’s music. I’m curious though…

How did you get connected with Keith Urban?

Bobby Bones played a song of mine called “That Could Be Us” on his show and Ross Copperman (who I had written with a few months before) heard my song and called me. I mentioned that I was leaving my current publishing deal with Sony and that I was looking for a new home for my music and a new producer to work with and to record some new music. Later on that week, I met with Ross Copperman and Joe Fisher. Both of them own and run a publishing company with Keith Urban called Boom Music. Normally, it’s just a publishing company, but after meeting, Ross and Keith asked me if they could produce my record together.

When asked “What’s next?” Brandon responded by saying:

We’re closing out the year. We’re doing the rest of the Chase Rice tour and some more festivals in California toward the end of the year. We’ll be ending the year with Jon Pardi. As far as music and releases, for the current recording and current EP we released “Small Talkin”’, “Bring Your Love Back” and “Second Thoughts”. There are two more songs that we are releasing that will complete the EP that I believe we will be releasing toward the end of October. In December, we will be going back into the studio with Ross and Keith to record the next project.

What’s the hardest part of being an artist?

I think being gone is one of the toughest parts. I’m married and as much as she 100% supports it and is behind it so much, it doesn’t mean it’s not hard and that we don’t miss each other and all that. The ultimate goal one day is to have her be able to come out and tour with us. Honestly, another hard thing though is staying healthy and making sure my voice is where it needs to be… making sure we’re not sick because we’re constantly in different climates and seasons… making sure our diet is good, we’re working out and that we’re taking the proper supplements to battle the different allergies in the different regions. Music is the easy part… and the fun part.

What do you do in your downtime? Do you even have downtime?

When I used to have down time, I used to work on cars. I love old cars. My dad taught me how to work on cars as a kid. Last year, I turned around 3 Ford Broncos. I had a blast doing that, but honestly no. I don’t have time to do anything but sleep, catch up with family when I am in town… and write. I have a full-time job with Warner Brothers Publishing, so when I’m in town I’m writing. I’m recording. It’s music 24/7 which is a blessing.

Who would be on your “dream tour” with you?

Keith Urban, Kip Moore, Bryan Adams, Allen Stone and Ben Rector

What’s been the best moment in all of this so far? Have you had that moment yet where you’ve thought: “That was amazing. I can’t top that”?

The lucky thing for me is that I am starting to have “that moment” more frequently. Getting to record with Keith Urban and sing harmonies on a mic together and getting to chill and hang out and really absorb advice from him to where he has become one of my mentors… that was a huge moment for me. I guess there is validation in that, and also the realization that I’m really not alone in this and I’ve got one of my heroes behind my music which is incredible.

Most recently, being out on the road… I’ve never been to Fort Wayne, Indiana or Kalamazoo, Michigan in my life and being up there and singing my songs… songs that I have out currently and hearing people sing those songs back is unlike any other feeling I’ve ever had in my life… and that just keeps happening. That’s the fuel that makes me want to keep going and keep doing this… writing better songs, putting better songs out and investing into these fans.

That’s one of the biggest reasons I wanted to spotlight you on Shine On Music City. I feel like you “get it” and you’re such a good fit into what I want to do and what I want to be a part of in the music industry too. You’re kind of an extension of me in a way and I want to keep putting artists like you that I’m excited about and I believe in out in the spotlight. You’re helping ME set a new bar right now, whether you realize it or not. I want to keep growing and I love the perspective and when an artist like you shares your personal experiences. That’s the connection I have with music too. It’s such a personal experience. This moment is so surreal to me. It’s so cool!

I appreciate your passion and your belief in me.

What’s one of the most valuable lessons you have learned in the music industry or in life?

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to always be on time and be kind. You never know who you’ll be encountering in your day-to-day. Whether it’s a personal or professional situation, punctuality is always a reason for someone to want to work with you and know that you’re dependable. In the same way, kindness reflects who you are as a person and is what everyone needs and deserves.

Knowing everything that you know now, would you do anything differently in your career?

I can’t say that I would do anything differently.  I’m very thankful for every opportunity I’ve been given.

What advice would you give an up-and-coming artist or someone just starting out trying to “make it” in the music industry?

I could write a book on advice and stuff, but simply… what’s most important is to truly be yourself in everything you do. It’s easy to hear a song on the radio and think “Oh, I need to write a song like this…” or “I need to sound like this.” – That hurts a lot of people because it’s contrived from the very beginning. I had to learn: What is my thing? Who am I and how I am going to stick to it? I just think that’s the most important thing… Don’t be afraid to ask questions from your heroes and your mentors and people doing what you want to do because that’s the only way you’re going to learn. Half the work is just showing up and doing it. If you’re willing to put the time in and you have a passion and a belief in this, you’re going to succeed.

I think we sometimes put something out there and hope that someone will catch it. My goal is to stay involved in music as much as possible. Is there anything someone like me can do or anything in the industry or in your career that you wish there was more of?

Keep being a supporter of music. When you come see us live, that means the world to us. When you share things, when you do the things you’re already doing, that’s what makes a difference for us.

The music industry needs to continue supporting genuine artists like Brandon Ray. Shine On Music City is excited to see what else the future has in store for him. We’re just glad he took us along for part of his journey so far.

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Be sure to follow Brandon on social media and keep an eye on his full schedule on https://www.brandonrayofficial.com to see when he is coming to a city near you!

(Photo credit: Ford Fairchild)

 

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Joseph Aaron

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Joseph Aaron was born in Virginia and made the move to Nashville in 2013. After working on the business side of the music industry with Capshaw’s Red Light Management for 10 years, he decided to pursue his solo career. He has shared the stage with David Nail, Edwin McCain and Everclear. NSAI has deemed him as one of their “Artists to Watch”. His current EP “The Mountain, The Lion, & The Labrador” is nominated for the 2016 Indie Ville TV Awards for Indie Pop EP, which will be on May 6, 2016 at Rocketown. Joseph is also currently working on his newest EP, which is set to be released in the summer/early fall.

I recently caught up with Joseph as we discussed his journey in the music industry so far.

What’s your favorite part about being a musician?


There is no ‘normal’ day. You could be behind the piano one day and 500 miles away playing a show the next.

What do you think makes you unique as an artist?


I think using the piano as a front instrument is a major point of differentiation. The fact that I play the piano like a lead guitar also probably helps. Though I’m pop, I have a strong narrative style that blends my background in folk with my love of soul of pop.

What’s the most challenging part (to you) about being a musician?


Remember how I said there’s no normal? Because every day is different, every day brings new challenges. Sometimes it’s a business challenge, like ‘how do I get my music out to a wider audience?’ Sometimes it’s an internal challenge like ‘I need to write..but I feel like I’ve exhausted the creative wells inside today.’ Navigating the personal and professional is hard for anybody, but when your career depends on blending the personal and professional, it can feel overwhelming at times.

Is it challenging to have a real social life outside of performing? What do you do to keep the balance? What do you do in your personal downtime?


Hibernate. I have only so much social battery before I need to recharge on my own, whether that’s writing in a coffee shop or reading at home.

Who inspires you musically?/ What’s the one album you can’t live without?

I don’t know that there’s one album I can’t live without, but I will say at this point in time I’m enthralled with the latest albums by needtobreathe and Coldplay.

What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?


Oh, it’s always the same. Forgetting lyrics, playing the wrong song…I’ve been fortunate enough to have always had a band of solid players…so they usually cover my mistakes.

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment (so far) in music/what has been the coolest experience you’ve had in your career so far?


Crazy as it sounds, opening for Everclear. It was a sold out show and the crowd was really into it. It makes such a difference when you have an active crowd. You want to give more/play harder. I’m not really sure how to explain it.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give other artists that are out there trying to make it in the music industry?

You’re going to want to give up. Don’t.

What venue do you like to perform at the most?

Small clubs, for sure. They usually have their own dedicated following that’s pumped to discover new artists. So even if you don’t have a fan base there, you’ll have a good show.

Knowing everything that you know now, what would you do differently in your career?

Start earlier. Without a doubt.

What projects are you currently working on?


I’m working on my follow-up to “The Mountain, The Lion, and the Labrador”.

What’s your favorite way to connect with fans? Pictures, Social Media, Interaction at shows?

Always in person, for sure. Outside of that, probably Instagram.

What was your first gig?


Definitely a 4th grade elementary school talent show. That counts, right?

How long have you been performing/playing music?


Since third grade…so just this side of ‘forever’



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Where do you see your career in 10 years? What are your goals for the future in music?

I’d love to tour in Europe, but my biggest ambition is to get to a level of success that can support me and a family. That’s my definition of success.

Was there one defining moment for you where you knew that you wanted to play music?

When I got shortlisted for a Ryan Gosling film…I guess I needed that validation to put me over the edge.

Have you ever had an experience that turned into a song?

More or less, all of them.

With a genuine personality that can light up a room, Joseph’s unique artistry and passion for playing piano with his signature pop/rock/blues vibe makes him an artist you will want to keep your eyes and ears open for. With his clear vision for the type of music he wants to share with the world, Joseph truly has something special as an artist.

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Be sure to stay up-to-date as Joseph continues to release more music by visiting his website www.josephaaron.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also stream Joseph’s entire EP, “The Mountain, The Lion, and The Labrador” on SoundCloud here.

(Photo credits: Brandon Bishop of Bishop Photography)

Chris Freund

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Chris Freund moved to Nashville from Neosho, MO in February 2012. He grew up playing gospel and country music, and even though he primarily plays country music, he has also recently started playing some Blues and 80’s Rock music as well. When Chris isn’t working on his own music, you can usually find him playing keyboard and singing background vocals in downtown Nashville with the mother-daughter duo, The Taylors.

I recently had the privilege of meeting Chris through a mutual acquaintance that was very excited about connecting us with each other, and I must say that I personally am very happy that we were brought together. Chris’ endearing and enthusiastic personality shines through from the moment you meet him. In this interview, we get a peek into Chris’ positive attitude and how he manages to stay balanced in his personal and professional life. The way Chris plays keyboard, mixed with the lyrics to his single “My Past in Front of Me” make for an emotional and touching song.

What’s your favorite part about being a musician?

I love the interaction with people. For me, it’s all about the connection with people. I want to see smiles on faces; see people singing along. If I can help someone forget their problems, even just for a few minutes, then I’m doing my job.

What’s the most challenging part (to you) about being a musician?

Being on stage is the easy part! The hardest part is the setting up and tearing down of equipment, the driving to and from the shows, and the stress of making a living at music. Being a musician on stage is only a fraction of being an actual “musician”. So much happens behind the scenes, away from public view.

Is it challenging to have a real social life outside of performing? What do you do to keep the balance? What do you do in your personal downtime?

It can be a challenge at times. My wife, who is my biggest supporter, works during the day. I work primarily at night. My friends all seem to be in the music business, so if I don’t see them, it’s probably because we are all working around town at the same time! I try to have at least one night a week off to spend with my wife. I love cooking, and watching baseball (Go Cards!).

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment (so far) in music/what has been the coolest experience you’ve had in your career so far?

I’ve gotten to open for some pretty cool artists (Justin Moore, Joe Diffie, Kentucky Headhunters) and I’ve gotten to play for some great artists. My biggest accomplishment, however, has been getting into the studio to record my original music. That’s when people get to see the real me; my thoughts on life and what is important. I’m so excited to get the recording completed!

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give other artists that are out there trying to make it?

Don’t worry about trying to make a major label as soon as you get to town. Work on your singing, your instrument, your songwriting; whatever you do, always do your best and never settle for just getting things done. Trust your gut. Trust God. Have a plan (a 5-year plan is best) and take the smaller goals just as seriously as the big goals. Never. Stop. Dreaming. Never. Stop. Working.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am working on recording four original songs in the studio. When those are complete, I will have five songs available as an E.P. on my website and at my shows.

What’s one thing you want your fans/future fans to know about you?

I’m just like you! I have my faults, weaknesses and difficulties. I get to make a living playing music because of you. Feel free to talk to me at shows; ask for pictures. Let’s interact!

What’s your favorite way to connect with fans?

I have all the social mediums, but I look forward to actual interaction with people. Typing conversations are good; in-person ones are even better!

How long have you been performing/playing music?

I’ve been playing piano since I was three, and chording since I was eight. I picked up other instruments along the way, but keys are my main instrument.

Who are your biggest supporters?

My wife Rachel is without a doubt my biggest supporter, followed by my parents and friends. I’m so incredibly lucky to have them all in my corner. They believe in me, even when my self-doubt almost takes control of me. They keep me going.

If you could perform with one artist or band, who would it be?

Brad Paisley. I love his playing and singing, and I love his views on music and life itself. He seems like the kind of guy you could hang out with and enjoy a good brew (iced tea or beer) and discussion.

Where do you see your career in 10 years?/What are your goals for the future in music?

I see myself playing my original music and singing with my band. That’s the ultimate goal. Large crowd, small crowd, whoever will listen. The goal is to make an impact with my music and help people. If I can do that, big record contract or not, I’ll consider that a success.

You can catch Chris Freund performing in downtown Nashville each week with The Taylors at Layla’s 9pm-1am on Tuesdays, and Wednesdays 2-6 pm. He also performs at The Wheel on Thursdays 6-10pm and Sundays 2-6:15pm at Crossroads.

I’m very excited to see what else is in store for Chris Freund in the future. I’m looking forward to hearing his newest music released on his upcoming project “The State I’m In”.

“My Past in Front of Me”

www.chrisfreundmusic.com

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©Photo courtesy of Joe Caliva