'California Country' Singer Turns Ballad Into Heartbreaking Plea For Queer Inclusion

With "Boy Goin' Nowhere," Brandon Stansell recalls his coming out struggles.

Singer-songwriter Brandon Stansell puts his personal twist on one of 2017′s most acclaimed country tunes, reinterpreting one artist’s career struggles as a poignant plea for acceptance.  

As originally written, Ashley McBryde’s “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” is a paean to self-empowerment and overcoming adversity as a woman in the music industry. Stansell, however, says the song ― the title track of McBryde’s forthcoming debut album ― struck a chord for a different reason.  

“I think everyone that I grew up with knew that I would always pursue a career in music, so I didn’t relate to the song in the way that she wrote it,” Stansell, who is based in Los Angeles but hails from Tennessee, told HuffPost. That changed, he said, once he came out as gay at age 22. “All of these people that I had loved my entire life and had known to be my biggest advocates and supporters just ... weren’t anymore,” he said.

Stansell, now 30, said those setbacks informed his take on McBryde’s song, now called “Boy Goin’ Nowhere,” in the above video. Like McBryde, he’s learned to look beyond hardship. 

“Things didn’t really work out the way that I had wanted them to, but I’m really proud of the person I am,” he said. “I don’t really know if I’d be that person if I hadn’t had to go through the things that I went through, or if I hadn’t been the one who had to fight to survive.”

He added, “I know that there are people out there with similar struggles.”

“Boy Goin’ Nowhere” kicks off what’s likely to be a banner year for Stansell, who released his first full-length album, “Slow Down,” last October and was named one of Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” the following month. 

In early February, he’ll return to Tennessee to shoot the video for “Hometown,” a new ballad which is inspired by the pain he experienced coming to terms with his sexuality. That same week, he’ll take the stage at The Basement in Nashville, marking his first performance outside of Los Angeles since the “Slow Down” release. 

Stansell first gained widespread attention in 2016 with his first video, “Slow Down,” which showed him traversing the desert with a male love interest in a pick-up truck. His subsequent videos, including “Never Know,” have also emphasized LGBTQ themes. 

As his music career progresses, Stansell is vowing not to shy away from expressing his authentic self in other creative ways. 

“I want to make music, and I want people to like it ― I think that’s the goal of every musician,” Stansell, who described his sound as “California country” and lists the British trio Years & Years and Dolly Parton as influences, said. “But I have a strong passion for advocacy, and I want music to be the platform that gets me there.”  

Brandon Stansell performs Wednesday as part of “Jim Caruso’s Cast Party” at Upstairs at Vitello’s in Studio City, California, and Feb. 6 at The Basement in Nashville, Tennessee.