A Conversation with Nashville-Based Musician Chris Bandi
“People look at you a little weird when at 14 or 15 years old, you say you want to be a rock star,” says eclectic country singer and St. Louis, Missouri, native Chris Bandi. His elders may have thought it a youthful fantasy, but Bandi was certain of his musical drive from an early age. Now based in Nashville and with two singles released—“Man Enough Now” and “Gone Girl”—Bandi will be returning to St. Louis to take the stage at LouFest September 9-10.
The 27-year-old Bandi’s unique style of country music blends R&B, pop, rock and country sensibilities—an unexpected fusion developed through the diverse music he used to listen to growing up. His dad played Prince, Cat Stevens and Michael Jackson, while his mom preferred county phenoms like Garth Brooks, Randy Travis and George Strait. “It depended on who took me to school that day,” he says, as far as what he heard in the mornings.
With additional influences that include Bruno Mars, Nelly and Fall Out Boy, Bandi still asserts his music is definitively country. “The lines are so blurred now with what’s supposed to be country, or what’s supposed to be R&B,” he says. “Great songs just speak for themselves. People can say songs on the radio right now are not ‘country,’ but it still may be a country song that leans a little bit more pop or R&B.”
After a few summers in Nashville fostering connections in the heart of the industry, Bandi moved to Music City full time after college. A self-taught musician, he first started performing with cover songs. A friend who also moved to Nashville at the same time landed a job as a booking agent and solicited Bandi’s first live gigs. “If I experience something that I think will be a good story or a good title, I keep a note in my phone. I have just song title after song title after song title,” he says of the process.
Bandi calls his hands-on method more of a grassroots approach than anything else, which began with playing 350 live shows before he even recorded he first single. Called “Man Enough Now,” it’s an earnest, punchy ballad. “We built the fan base by getting out there and meeting the people at the shows, meeting the fans—really grinding it out and paying our dues,” he says. And to this day, no money has gone towards PR. “Everything we’ve picked up has been by word of mouth. It shows that people are loving the music, and that’s what really matters.”
At LouFest, expect Bandi to play a lineup of fresh, original material. “We’re trying out new songs, seeing what people like,” he says, in preparation of selecting tracks for his first album, now in the works. For easy listening this summer, he also recommends Jon Bellion’s danceable pop and fellow Nashville artist Jillian Jacqueline to freshen up a rote Spotify playlist.