Brandon Ratcliff is a natural behind a microphone. It runs heavily through his veins.
The budding singer-songwriter was born into fame, as he’s the son of Suzanne Cox – a vocalist and mandolin player in the GRAMMY Award-winning bluegrass band, The Cox Family.
From an early age, Ratcliff diligently learned the art of storytelling and the power of speaking the truth through music. As he grew old and decided to pursue his craft professionally, he faced a difficult decision – to stay in his hometown of Cotton Valley, Louisiana, or flee to Nashville to surround himself with like-minded creatives.
When Ratcliff found his footing in Music City, he quickly fell into the inner circle of esteemed writers such as Pete Good, Aj Babcok, Robert Chavers, and critically acclaimed songsmith Shane McAnally. The collaborators are the masterminds behind his latest release “Drove Me Country,” a track that serves as a teaser to his forthcoming 2023 album “Tale of Two Towns.”
The promising artist exclusively told CMT that “Drove Me Country” signifies his current reality and displays his growth since moving to music city in 2014.
“I think part of the reason why I love this one so much, is just because it’s kind of where I am in my life right now,” he explained. “A lot of this record is sort of its seasons of me over the past five or seven years. ‘Drove Me Country’ is where I’m at in my life currently. So, I think that’s why it really strikes a chord with me, why I love playing it, and why I love listening to it. It speaks to the man I am at this moment in my life.”
Lyrically “Drove Me Country” is a traveling song that describes how a man feels leaving town. To bring his story to life, the innovative creative turned to his team to make a video series.
The first video was his title track “Tale of Two Towns,” a melancholy melody that displays his swampy sound. Within the haunting single, Ratcliff contemplates whether or not he should stay in his quaint hometown or chase his music dream. Meanwhile, his second installment, “Always Moving On” showcases what his life would look like if he stayed or left. “Grow Apart” conveys how fast time flies, and “Someone Who Believes In You” is a friendly tribute to the influential individuals who saw his worth, despite his uneasy doubts.
“I wouldn’t have even been able to make these songs if someone didn’t believe in me to do this,” he pointed out.
The upcoming 18-song project came to fruition during the global health crisis.
“It’s cool because I hear the evolution of the things I’ve loved throughout my life and how they poked their heads out at different seasons," he said. "I started working on this right after the world shut down in March 2020. It was a unique moment of silence I’ve really never had since moving to Nashville. I used that time to lean into that and sort of go, ‘Hey, if nobody is listening…maybe dare to say something vulnerable and honest.’”
Ratcliff said he challenged himself during the unprecedented downtime to push his musical boundaries.
“I challenged myself to write some stuff that I actually felt like was part of my life. It can be scary, and you can be riddled with anxiety, but it’s also a sense of freedom,” he pointed out. “From a musical perspective, we tried to make it very poetic in some way. I think this is by far the most artistic project that I’ve ever been a part of.”
Initially, Ratcliff said he was hesitant to do a video series and transform the truth-soaked collection. He explained that he didn’t “understand” the value of having a visual component. However, after reviewing the final product, he witnessed how each state-of-the-art clip accentuates the story.
“I’m just happy that I have leadership on my team that was able to see that, because it really helped. It’s meant to be consumed together, like one big feast,” clarified the vocalist. “The cool thing I love about this whole video series is the fact it has context involved. When you zoom out and look at all the videos, there’s sort of this duality thing – it’s almost an abstract look at the little stories we’re trying to tell on this record.”
The highly anticipated project sparks light on the power of decisions and how one simple choice can cause a “ripple effect” and change the trajectory of one’s life. The must-watch artist hopes the project serves as a “fresh handshake” with fans.
“I hope that some people get to know me and see themselves in the journey that I’m on. Even though I’m telling my part of the story, really my story is a lot like everybody else’s. We’re all sort of travelers through this life – leaving places we grew up, starting new seasons, pursuing opportunities, and all the fears that come along with those decisions. This record is dealing with all of that, it’s asking those important questions,” said Ratcliff. “I’m trying to open myself up, in hope that people understand where I’m coming from.”
Although it was difficult for Ratcliff to place his heart on the line to cultivate a well-rounded album, he said that the outcome was worth every sleepless night and creative hurdle. He encourages other musicians to take risks, even if they seem impossible.
“I hope it gives artists and writers permission to make something of quality. The world that we live in now is so quantity driven that I think a lot of people lose their way, and they sort off start doing stuff that they don’t know why they are doing it,” he shared. “I feel like artists need someone to inspire or blaze the trail to go, ‘there’s plenty of road to run out here and more room for us.’ Hopefully, that leads to some sort of renaissance of music and art. Hopefully, we start living in that generation.”