Country Next: Chris Bandi
We take pride in introducing fans to country music’s brightest new stars through our Country Next series. Here, we chat with Chris Bandi.
Chris Bandi; Photo by Matthew Berinato
Chris Bandi is poised to take country music by storm.
Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, the emerging artist discovered his passion for music at an early age. He grew up listening to everything from rock to pop to R&B. But, songs that reflect on real-life situations truly made him fall in love with the country genre.
After earning a degree at Ole Miss, Bandi moved to Nashville, where he found himself honing his craft through open mic nights and songwriting sessions. It didn’t take long for folks to realize he had a knack for storytelling, and one song in particular resonated with listeners far and wide– his coming-of-age smash, “Man Enough Now,” which racked up more than 6 million views on YouTube.
Bandi dropped a radio-edited version of “Man Enough Now” in October 2019, and an accompanying video followed shortly after. The updated track is set to impact radio on Feb 18. Much like his captivating message of maturing with time in “Man Enough Now,” Bandi’s career is continuing to develop beautifully. The singer recently inked a deal with RECORDS, a joint venture label between Barry Weiss and Sony Music Entertainment. On Feb. 28, he will reach another incredible milestone when he makes his long-awaited Grand Ole Opry debut.
“Growing up listening to country music, The Grand Ole Opry was always the pinnacle of where this crazy dream could take me,” Bandi said in a statement. “Seeing all of the people I idolized growing up who have played here and have later gone on to become members, you step back and see how much history there is here. To have the opportunity to walk out on that stage is something I will never take for granted and have been looking forward to for many, many years!”
Bandi, who is currently on the road touring with Matt Stell, caught up with Country Now to talk about his artistry, music and more.
Check out our exclusive Q&A with Chris Bandi below.
Melinda Lorge: What led you to want to pursue a career in country music?
Chris Bandi: I started playing music at an early age, and I also joined a rock band in high school. From the first time we took the stage, I knew music was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Mom and dad’s rule, though, was for me to go to college and get a degree. So I went to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). While I was there, I started playing out at the bars downtown. Then, I heard about Nashville and was told that you could make living playing music and writing songs. I knew as soon as I graduated that Nashville was where I wanted to go. So I moved to Nashville about six years ago and started hitting the ground running.
Lorge: What were your first few shows like back in college?
Bandi: It was pretty funny. I signed up for this ‘open mic’ night at a bar in Oxford, Mississippi, called Soulshine Pizza [Factory]. I told all of my friends to come out and support me. So we brought a huge party with us, and the guy who was running the show told me he was initially going to have me play first, but since I brought so many people, he asked me if I wanted to play for a while longer. So that first night, I probably played for an hour and a half, which led to them inviting me back to play every Thursday night. By the end of college, I was playing Monday through Saturday at different bars around town.
Lorge: When you moved to Nashville from Mississippi, how did you navigate your career as an artist?
Bandi: I moved to Nashville about two months before I made the final move. I spent the summer before my last semester [of college] in Nashville, and I didn’t know a soul. I went to as many open mic nights and writers rounds as I could, and that led to so many relationships that I still have today.
Lorge: For those just now discovering you, how would you describe your sound?
Bandi: One of the main things I try to focus on in every single co-write is the lyrics. That’s what drew me to country music in the first place, how true the lyrics are. They’re about life experiences, and that’s what I always want to portray in my songs. We do try to mix it up a little bit. In one of my songs called “Rain Man,” we have a reggae beat, but the lyrics can still stand on their own. And, if it can work with acoustic guitar by itself, I feel like it can work in country music.
Lorge: Tell me about your current single, “Man Enough Now.” What’s the inspiration behind that song?
Bandi: I had a co-write with two of my best friends, Jason Massey and Jason Duke. I just so happened that day to be thinking about a relationship I was in before that point in my life. I was thinking, ‘You know if we’d started this relationship now, would I have made the same mistakes that I made as a 21-year-old today?’ I was like, ‘I don’t think I would because I feel like I’m man enough now for a relationship.’ I brought that idea in, and they loved it, and we wrote that song in about an hour and a half.
Lorge: Already, that song has racked up over 70 million streams, congratulations! What would you say has been the best fan response so far?
Bandi: We’ve gotten to travel around and play that song at weddings for people who have broken up at one time and then gotten back together. And, they say that this song means so much to them because it’s their story. I’ve had people come up to shows and say, ‘This song has helped me through a breakup,’ or ‘This song helped me realize what I had when I had it before it was too late.’ As a songwriter, all you want to do is connect with your audience and connect with people because that’s the real power of music.
Lorge: It’s so great that people are connecting with it! So can fans expect an upcoming EP?
Bandi: Yea, so “Man Enough Now” is going to be on there, but we’re also cutting six more new songs that we’re excited about. I wrote four of the songs, and then we have a couple of outside cuts as well. I’m honored to have these songwriters believe in me and trust me that we’re going to do a great job with their song. Then the songs that I wrote are true to who I am as an artist and what I want to say. So it’s been an awesome experience.
Lorge: What can fans expect to find as far as subject content on the upcoming EP?
Bandi: So, we’ve got songs about drinking, girls, and dirt roads on there. I think we’ve got all of the country topics covered, but we tried to spin it in a new way that seems fresh and not too cliché. So we love all the new stuff. And, it’s been fun to get into the studio and to be able to have a full project.
Lorge: Is it difficult for you to choose which songs go on the EP?
Bandi: That’s one of the hard parts because I’ve been songwriting professionally in Nashville for about three years. You write seven songs a week. So having to narrow it down to which ones are your favorite is sort of like picking your favorite kid. It’s very hard to do because they all hold a special place in your heart. So it’s been awesome to be able to bounce these ideas off of the people on my team and to be able to see what they think, what they like, and what they believe will work.
Lorge: What’s next for you?
Bandi: I’m excited to get this new EP out soon. I’ve been saying that we were going to have an EP out since I moved to Nashville, so it is going to be fun to have a product with my stamp on it with songs that I love and believe in.
Fans can keep up with Chris Bandi on Instagram.
Melinda Lorge is a Nashville-based freelance writer who specializes in covering country music. Along with Country Now, her work has appeared in publications, including Rare Country, Rolling Stone Country, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, Wide Open Country and more. After joining Rare Country in early 2016, Lorge was presented with the opportunity to lead coverage on late-night television programs, including “The Voice” and “American Idol,” which helped her to sharpen her writing skills even more. Lorge earned her degree at Middle Tennessee State University, following the completion of five internships within the country music industry. She has an undeniable love for music and entertainment. When she isn’t living and breathing country music, she can be found enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.