How Brandon Ray’s ‘Stories’ Became the Theme Song for the Launch Of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network
Brandon Ray’s latest release, “Stories” has become the track behind the launch of the Magnolia Network, Discovery’s joint venture with…
Photo Courtesy Brandon Ray
Brandon Ray’s latest release, “Stories” has become the track behind the launch of the Magnolia Network, Discovery’s joint venture with “Fixer Upper’s” Chip and Joanna Gaines, formerly known as the DIY Network.
After his wife was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis (MS), Ray realized he needed to make a change in his career, one that would allow him the flexibility to remain at home more often. Returning to his job of writing music for film and TV, Ray was led to this most recent project.
“I was doing 150-250 shows a year so I needed to start getting off the road and venture out into different avenues,” the singer/songwriter explains to Country Now.
Before moving to Nashville in 2008, Ray lived in Los Angeles, CA. where he sang on national commercials and was hired as a songwriter in the film and TV industry. With the move, he shifted his focus exclusively to country music, and eventually signed with Warner Music Chappell. In addition to writing music, he was also a guitarist for several country artists and bands including Brett Eldredge and Florida Georgia Line.
A few years later, after learning of his wife’s diagnosis, he decided to make the transition back into synch, meaning he began writing for film and TV once again. This time, he found a true passion for his job as a songwriter and carried what he learned along the way with him, as he continued to write music for various outlets.
“Through necessity with our life situation did I make the pivot into tv/film, but then I found out I love this,” he says. “Whether it’s writing to a brief, writing a song from the heart, whether it’s a hype sports rock song or an acoustic heartfelt ballad, it’s honestly changed my life.”
This new venture brought him placements on many different platforms, such as HGTV, Disney Plus, Netflix, NFL network and MLB Network. The opportunity to write “Stories” presented itself following a connection between him and music supervisor, Pam Liptak.
“Around may 2020, she emailed us all and said ‘Hey, I’m meeting with Chip and Joanna Gaines.’ What they were calling Magnolia Channel at the time, they were wanting to launch this soon and she said, ‘I just want to see if you’re interested in writing something,’” Ray recalls.
One week after agreeing to work on this project, Ray was given a brief, outlining the details of what they were looking for in the song. He and his co-writers, Christian Hale and Jess Cates, got to work over Zoom and within an hour and a half, the song was written.
Although Ray and his team were expecting rejection with the assumed overwhelming amount of music submissions, the team behind the launch of the new network was pleased with the outcome of their songwriting session. Since the original launch date was postponed to the start of 2022, the song first found its home in an episode of the kids show “Puppy Place,” on Apple TV.
“Us being all songwriters, whether we’re pitching to an artist or pitching to a network or wherever, were so used to it,” Ray acknowledges. “We thought, ‘why would it work out?’ So we just chalked it up to you know what? We’ve got a good song and it’s not exclusive to Magnolia Network, so why not just have our people pitch it?”
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Luckily, a few months later, the deal with the Magnolia Network was back on and once again, “Stories” was chosen. Getting to experience songwriting for both industries, Ray has established a new method for writing music.
“What I’ve started doing now is when your writing to a brief or an outline for something, you’re not putting yourself in a box, but you’re kind of taking the thinking out of it and you’re just having fun,” he says. “It kind of takes the stress and the pressure out of it to where now, I take that approach of writing a personal song, a country song, pop or whatever. I take the same approach of, let’s just have fun with whatever we’re doing. It’s really paid off and it’s completely changed my process for everything.”
Humming the beginning of the tune, Ray described what he envisioned for “Stories” during the writing process.
“I think I wanted it to be upbeat, I wanted it to be happy and crazy catchy. We started with that whistle riff at the top and I just wanted it to convey something like, ‘lets live life to the fullest’ basically. The line says, ‘there’s so many good good people doing good good things.’ All of us are trying to make a difference, so let’s be behind each other and lets do it together.”
This song is currently playing on promos for the launch of the new network. Ray explained that seeing his work on TV for the first time emanates the same feeling as hearing his songs on the radio for the first time. “It’s like a dream come true.”
“We got home from visiting family in Baltimore for Christmas, I was exhausted and we decided to just turn on TBS. ‘Big Bang Theory’ or something was on, we were just winding down and the commercial comes on,” he remembers. “It was the first time I had seen it on so my wife said ‘that’s your song!’ I was just like, ‘that’s so cool.’”
When he finds the time between songwriting and being a father to his 8-month-old son, Ray enjoys watching shows on the Magnolia Network, and not just because he hears his hard work playing on the channel.
“I was already a massive HGTV Chip and Joanna Gaines fan. I love doing Reno work, I love working on cars, and just any kind of project, so this was right up my alley,” he explains. “I especially love ‘Fixer Upper,’ I’ll just admit it.”
While waiting to see “Stories” appear on the TV screen, it can also be heard on all streaming platforms now.
Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.