“Universality,” notes artist and songwriter Chris Bandi, when asked about the key to songwriting. “It’s effective to say what’s true to you, because it connects to what is true to other people.”
With a wide range of childhood musical influences, from Garth Brooks to Bruce Springsteen (a favorite of his parents) to Usher, Bandi stuck to writing what came naturally as a means of defining himself as an artist. “It’s kind of a culmination of R&B—more ‘Usher’—with a storyline, which, to me, has always been the biggest part of country music. Being put in a place where you can see what’s actually happening; it’s just amazing. That was one thing I wanted to stay true to was my music telling a story people can relate to.”
In Nashville, a town full of Georgia natives, true Southerners, and fans who are drawn to songs featuring dirt roads and pick-up trucks, it can be difficult for an outsider (like St. Louis-born Bandi) to find a place. “I can’t sing a song about riding around in a jacked-up truck. People would be like ‘You grew up in St. Louis, what dirts road did you go down?’” Luckily, with brave dedication and support from Canaan Smith, Jason Massey (Kelsea Ballerini’s The First Time co-producer), and Jason Duke (“Dibs”), Bandi has been able to begin carving out his own space in Music City.
When it comes to songwriting, Bandi’s advice is to write as often as possible. “You have to stick to it,” he begins. “Some people are poetic and it comes overnight, but in my experience, you just gotta want it and work hard. Eventually, it will click.” As for the live show, Bandi states that it is never the foremost reason for writing: “We want to write what’s true to us and try to make it relate to everybody else. There have been times where I say ‘I could hear a huge crowd singing this,’ or ‘This has a anthemic feel,’ but all you can do is hope that everybody will like it and catch on and sing along.”
Bandi often takes to the web to watch his contemporaries’ performances and learn from their techniques. “I spend a lot of time studying YouTube,” he says. “I like to watch the live shows and watch Luke [Bryan] on stage or [Thomas Rhett] and see what they’re doing to interact with the crowd, their fans. I try to take little bits and pieces of what they’re doing and make it my own. I want to make the best show possible.”
Between opening for acts such as Canaan Smith and working with producer Jason Massey (Kelsea Ballerini), Bandi has built quite a following of fans who are eager to get his album in their hands. “It’s been a long time coming and trying to figure out exactly what I want to say and how I want it to be said, so we’re really excited about it.”