"This is our mission field, our battle field..."
Country music artist, Brandon Chase, is nothing shy of a miracle. At only a few days old, he quit breathing 64 times in 12 hours. Doctors told his family Brandon could be deaf, blind, mentally impaired, or possibly all three. But not only did Brandon pull through, he went on to graduate high school at the age of 15. Brandon taught himself how to play the piano and guitar and has been writing original music since age 14. He ultimately completed a masters certificate in songwriting from Berklee College of Music at age 17.
After SHINE (where he was a finalist for Overall Singer/Songwriter), Brandon was featured on iTunes’ “New and Noteworthy” and “Rising Stars of Country” section, following the release of his latest EP Country Enough. But his most visible achievement was appearing multiple times on Season 5 of NBC’s The Voice as a member of Blake Shelton’s team. While eliminated, the experience was life-changing, especially when Shelton told Brandon “it’s in your blood to be a country singer.”
Brandon, how did everything start with you?
Prior to age 14 I had no music background at all. When I was 13, God totally changed my life at youth camp. All the dreams I had up to that point kind of shifted. I had wanted to be a professional athlete, but God revealed that it wasn’t what He had planned. So I let go of that, overnight. I came home, told my parents that I wanted to be homeschooled and to intern at church, and that’s what I did for 2 years: filed papers; took out the trash; whatever they asked me to do I did it. Through that process, I learned about being obedient and serving.
The youth worship team was having auditions for the band. I had no musical background whatsoever, but I felt God tugging and saying "This is for you" and, "I’ve designed this and you can do this." I was like, "WHAT? how can I do this?"
Being extremely shy, I was definitely not ready to be on a stage. I tried to get friends to do it with me, but I couldn’t convince a single person. I wanted badly to skip out. I didn’t know why I was thinking I was supposed to do this. Up until I walked on stage I didn’t even know what I was going to do! I kept telling people to go ahead of me, waiting until the last moment.
I got up and sang. And whatever came out, the worship leader saw something in me. It wasn’t necessarily my voice, but probably the Spirit of God in me. I was there in obedience, and I knew instantly that it was what God had called me to. I jumped into it. I learned how to sing, play the piano, write music, play the guitar, and now produce. It all opened up and it was all from that one step of obedience. I never thought that I would possibly be able to do that, but He taught me so much.
What is He still teaching you?
So much. Still learning. Still growing. I don’t think you can ever come to a place where you know everything. Like in music—there’s always something new to learn. Things constantly change and evolve. New technologies come out. And it’s like that in our spiritual walk. We can never learn it all. You can know word for word the whole bible, but you can never know it all because our God is so huge. We can’t even begin to fathom ½ of the knowledge and wisdom.
Tell me what you learned at AMTC. How was your experience?
I was 17 when I came to AMTC. Up until that point I knew I was called to music. I knew that is what God had chosen for me. But I didn’t know what outlet exactly until AMTC. My experience was so incredible.
Up ‘til then all I knew was worship music. I thought "this is the extent of my gift." Going through AMTC, God totally laid everything out in front of me and said, "Yes, you’re on the right track. Yes, I called you to music, but you haven’t seen the full picture yet. Here it is."
He showed me, through AMTC, that He’s called me to reach people who would never set foot in a church. And that was huge. At the time I put limits on what I could be doing, and I think we all do this. God’s plan is so much bigger than ours.
I try to not even set up expectations anymore….like The Voice . At the time I was thinking "This is going to be the biggest thing in my career." But God is saying, "No, The Voice was a tool, it was the start, but it was just one thing." It’s a little stroke with a paintbrush on the full canvas.
What has The Voice opened for you?
Just like AMTC, it gave me a new confidence. A new perspective. Of course, AMTC is getting to be with like-minded people, with fellowship and learning and counsel in your craft in a spiritual way that glorifies God. The experience at The Voice was kind of like being in the opposite environment, but I got to apply all the things that I learned in the positive environment from AMTC.
You actually got to come back to SHINE as a guest star. What was that like?
I sat on a panel where they were talking about LA and how dark it is. During that discussion God showed me that the whole world is dark. This isn’t our eternal place. This is our mission field, our battle field. The whole world is a war zone, not just a particular city or job environment. But we have Jesus inside of us. He is the Light, no matter where we walk, even in the darkest of places. When we walk in we should be saying “this place isn’t dark! All I see is light.” He is shining through us. That’s what God revealed to me.
Getting to be a light in the darkness. That’s what we’re doing. That’s why this convention is called SHINE.
What are you going to do when you get home? And where is ‘home’ now?
I was born and raised in Dallas and am still in Dallas at the moment. But I’m working on my first full length record in Nashville and the country market is in Nashville, professionally speaking, so I may move there. I’m a country artist and it’s where God steered me. Looking back, my roots were country, so God showed me it was in me the whole time. That’s another way I saw that you don’t set your own path. God sets it. You don’t even realize what He’s doing in the moment until after.
What about Christian Country? There’s Christian pop, Christian rock…
Country is really different from the other genres. Most country artists claim to be Christians. Not all of them live like they should. People say, and it’s kind of a joke, but country music is: Jesus, Drinking and Partying. So it’s kind of interesting. Almost every country artist will sing about their faith. Not all will live it out. It’s not as clear cut. It’s just “country.”
So you won’t be writing about drinking?
(Laughs) Exactly. That’s not in my music at all. There are a lot of songs that to me are directly about God, but as a non-believer you wouldn’t know it. You could think it’s about a girl, or a place, but what it’s really about is God. It’s reading beyond what’s written, and that’s what God has called me to do, to speak covertly.
He’s called us all to excellence. Some are called to the pulpit, others are called to speak through music, so God will resonate in hearts in a way that another song that has nothing to do with God can’t. When God’s attached to it, a listener may feel something completely different, whether they recognize it or not. It’s God speaking and planting seeds. And then there’s a harvest to be reaped.
On life’s path there are always bumps and twists. How has your path been?
There are always obstacles to overcome, whether you’re a believer or not, and I think that’s one of the greatest opportunities to be a witness. When you’re going through the storm and it’s a make or break, or everything gets flushed down the drain, people watch, especially in the entertainment industry. People know. When things start coming your way, when things start happening to you in different situations they see how you react to it. We need to handle things as Christ-like as possible. I mean we’re all human. We’re all going to make mistakes of course, but as long as we do our best to look and act like Christ.
What about personal challenges?
When I was born I was supposed to be blind, deaf, mentally impaired—any of those things from losing so much oxygen. But God used that as a moment that I can talk about now. It’s a witness to people. It was one of those undeniable miracles because of everything we know in the medical field. I’ve also had several other close calls, near death experiences, that God has just worked through.
A smaller thing was when I first started going through AMTC. I was criticized by my church. They didn’t understand and didn’t believe in my journey of being called to the secular industry. I wrestled with that because I looked up to my leaders and wasn’t sure if I was hearing things wrong. It was one of those slaps in the face. I had put years in that ministry, and I was just being obedient to God. But I knew God was speaking to me and His voice was louder than man’s voice. I knew it wasn’t just my thoughts and desires. Looking back, had I not been spiritually strong, it could have been a situation that I turned my back on the church, because they weren’t supportive of what I wanted to do for the Kingdom.
It’s actually a great testimony. Through our journey there are always people who are going to come in and try to stir up doubts and disbelief, but as long as we listen to His voice and understand and recognize which voice is His, we’ll be okay.
How do you stay spiritually strong?
Through the people that God’s placed in my life. If I didn’t have the support system around me I would have fallen apart a million times over. My mom is one of the strongest rocks in my life. I have an incredible best friend for 8 years now. And AMTC. At different times and points in my my life, I’ve met mentors. God has brought them to me on this incredible journey. When I started doing something that was not right, they told me so. They didn’t hold back or comfort me. It was "what are you doing?" Getting me back on track, keeping me in line and accountable.
Also, having my own time in worship, in my own house, pulling out my guitar and giving Him praise. Not in front of people, but behind closed doors. That’s what it’s about, worshipping God. You can do it in front of a crowd, but if you can’t do it in your own time, then it’s most likely all in vain.
How can you encourage people who want to go in the industry?
When you know God has called you to it, to be in this world of entertainment, there’s going to be a desire and a passion that’s so strong in your heart that you can’t run away from it. You can’t get away from it – even if you wanted to. Everyone’s journey is different. We all have different paths. Some people have to give up everything, and others don’t. The most important thing for me is to keep working.
AMTC is amazing. But coming out of it, you can’t expect to have a career overnight. You can’t expect it to make you into something you’re not. That’s not why you should come to AMTC. It’s to train and learn and put yourself on your feet. You still have to go home and work. That’s where it all starts, when it’s real. When I got home I literally played in every single venue in Dallas and Nashville that would let me in. I just drove up to Nashville and booked 15 gigs in a week without anybody telling me to. I didn’t have a manager. I didn’t have an agent. I knew that I had to work because nobody was going to work for my career as hard as I was.
So even with the callbacks you got, you didn’t have an agent?
I had callbacks but I hadn’t signed a contract. I knew that God was working for me, so I had to work for Him. I had to meet Him at that level because He is always coming down to us. He’s always working for us. We’ll never be able to outwork Him.
So, I played in restaurants, small bars, coffee shops, anywhere! Sometimes the crowd was 50 to 100, or two to five people. Sometimes it was disappointing, but I had to remind myself that it wasn’t about the size of the crowd, or even about what I was doing. I’m being obedient and through this I’m getting more experience and doing what I’m meant to do, regardless of what how it appears from a worldly view. As long as you’re doing everything you’re supposed to and you feel right in your spirit then you’re on God’s path. It’s not your problem that there are only five people in the crowd. That’s His problem. If there are only five people that He wants you to minister to at that gig, then there’s only five people!
We have to remember that we’re not doing it for our glorification, to become rich or famous or anything like that. We’re doing it to ultimately show Christ. If He wants to take us up to the top of the entertainment business, then He will. If He doesn’t and wants us to be in our local markets and our local coffee shops, then that is equally important and equally big in the Kingdom.Because as long as we look at things with a Kingdom mindset and not a worldly mindset, then we’re set... because success is different as a believer.