“Speakers, Bleachers and Preachers,” one of Brandon Lay’s popular songs, sums up the influences he felt growing up. He loved music and sports. His dad was a minister, and faith was a given. Lay talked with us just before his performance at the 2019 National FFA Convention & Expo and before kicking off the Brantley Gilbert Fire’t Up Tour in 2020.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your formative years and how you got into music?
A: Basketball was my first love. In high school, everything revolved around playing basketball. I played basketball in college, too. It wasn’t until I was in college that I found music. And I channeled all that passion for sports into music.
Q: What was the turning point in your commitment to music?
A: It was after I played an open mic night. I really like the feeling of playing my songs live. I kept going back, and eventually I put a band together.
I knew when I finished college that I wanted to move to Nashville. After four years, I got a publishing deal. Another three years after that, I finally got a recording contract. It took a while, but I got to meet a lot of cool people, and I wrote a lot of songs. I traveled as much as I could with my band. We were big in the college market in the Southeast for a few years, and that helped propel a record deal.
Q: Who are some of the musicians who have inspired you?
A: My earliest influences were Clint Black, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks and Travis Tritt – the “class of ’89.” My mom always listened to soft rock – Journey, Chicago, Bryan Adams, that kind of music – so I was a fan of a little bit of everything.
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
A: Touring with Kenny Chesney, no doubt. That was the summer of 2018, and we played 21 football stadiums. Kenny was a big influence on me. The tour exposed a lot of people to my music who wouldn’t have heard it otherwise.
Q: What advice would you give FFA members who are beginning their careers and advanced studies?
A: Everybody’s story is different, and everybody’s circumstance is different, but I would say you can’t be afraid to experiment. I just would like kids to realize that they write their own book. Whenever I have had regrets about my career path, it’s been when I have tried just to fit in. That’s usually when things have stalled out. So you write your own book, whether it’s in music, farming, opening a mechanic shop or being a school teacher. Obviously, you have to put in the work. That’s a given for trying to accomplish any kind of goal. But other than that, you can’t be afraid to get outside the lines.
Q: You’ve received a number of honors recently and had a Top 40 song this year. What’s next?
A: I just released a new song, called “Still Rock & Roll.” I’m going to be releasing more music early next year. I just would appreciate it if people look for it and stream it. That really helps.
Photography: Dove Shore