Chris Bandi is country – and he’s everything in between.
One of the most exciting up-and-coming singer/songwriters in a generation of Nashville musicians who embrace diversity in country music, Bandi has gained attention by developing a sound entirely his own. Drawing from his childhood days in St. Louis all the way through fraternity parties at Ole Miss, the emerging artist has no end to his inspiration.
“What I listened to growing up depended on who took me to school in the morning,” Bandi explains. “If my mom took me to school it was George Strait, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson – if my dad took me to school it was George Thorogood, Bruce Springsteen and Cat Stevens.”
With an early foundation in country and rock, Bandi went on to experience everything from a self-described “middle school rebellion” phase filled with Good Charlotte and Blink-182 to an R&B craze with Usher, Nelly and Chris Brown. After playing local shows in a high school band, the Missouri native took a break from performing when he made the move to Mississippi for college – until, that is, he found out about the beer.
“I figured out they would give you a free bar tab if you played songs. My junior year I would play as many nights as they would let me and I took on both my roommates. One of my roommates was my merch guy – we didn’t have any merch – and then the other roommate was my manager,” he grins.
It was during these beer-fueled performances in the small town bars around Oxford, Mississippi that he realized his years in country music wouldn’t end with the car radio on the way to school. Knowing where he needed to be in order to go where he wanted to go, Bandi graduated and made his way to Nashville.
In the four years since he has been in town, the 27-year-old has made Music City a hell of a lot of music. In 2015, Bandi teamed up with United Talent Agency and since then has played over 300 shows all over the Midwest and southeast, opening for artists including Kip Moore, Canaan Smith, The Marshall Tucker Band, Locash and High Valley.
“We originally took the map and drew a six-hour radius of where we could play – and not go broke doing it,” Bandi laughs. “We stayed in that six-hour radius for about a year and then started branching out more and more. Now we’re going to L.A. and San Diego and Key West.”
Playing everything from Garth Brooks to R. Kelly and Ed Sheeran to Marvin Gaye, Bandi strives to keep his shows upbeat and fun for the crowd. Touring, he contends excitedly, is the best part of the job.
“I have a band that I travel with and being out with them, the camaraderie, just seeing the world and the fans and being able to call it a job – it’s pretty cool,” he says.
When not owning the stage, Bandi has begun making a name for himself as one of Nashville’s most promising young songwriters. His first single, “Man Enough Now,” boasts over half a million streams on Spotify alone. The acoustic-lined track rings with touches of R&B and pop, reflecting on the true story of a love not meant to be.
“I dated a girl in college that I was too immature to be in a relationship with at the time,” he says simply. “I did a bunch of stupid stuff and she left. I learned my lesson and grew up.”
Co-written by himself along with Jason Massey and Jason Duke, both known for their smash hits with GRAMMY-nominated artist Kelsea Ballerini, the song was chosen as a “YouTube Find” on SiriusXM’s “The Highway” and, due to massive fan response, the station then bumped it up to an “On The Horizon” track. Spotify added the song to its “Wild Country”, “New Boots” and “Hot Country playlists where it has garnered over 13 million streams! CMT also picked up the video shot in Gatlinburg, TN.
Bandi and his team, who have taken a hands-on, grassroots approach to jump-start his career, are reaping the rewards delivered by the support of the industry. “Man Enough Now” has earned critical praise from outlets including Whiskey Riff, The Shotgun Seat and The Boot – the latter two of which named Bandi to their “Artists to Watch” lists for 2017.
With a personality as energetic as his live performances, Bandi, of course, shows no signs of slowing down, recently premiering his latest single “Gone Girl.” Laden with a thick groove and funky vibes akin to The 1975, the song is “about a girl that, no matter what you’re doing, if she calls you, you’re there. You’re gone.” Written alongside Jason Massey and Forest Glen Whitehead, Bandi debuted the track exclusively with Taste of Country.
With “Man Enough Now” and “Gone Girl” in tow, Bandi continues to work on an upcoming EP. Despite his early success, the singer/songwriter talks modestly of what is to come, insisting that he writes only what he knows.
“People would pitch me songs when I first moved to Nashville, but I grew up in St. Louis,” Bandi shrugs. “I didn’t grow up riding around on back roads. I couldn’t really record those songs and make them true to myself. Out of necessity I felt like I had to write what I lived.”
So it’s what he’s lived. It’s Nelly. It’s Garth. It’s Fall Out Boy.
It’s Chris Bandi – and it’s country.