By Tonya Little
Tulsa, Okla.~ Brandon Jenkins, The Red Dirt Legend himself, has been a part of the music scene since 1990, having been a part of the early pioneers of Red Dirt music in Stillwater at the time. He has spent the last twenty plus years making quite the name for himself as he continues to put out album after album of incredible music. He definitely hasn’t slowed down at all, but continues to gain momentum in the scene. Jenkins is one of my personal favorites. His music is rich and varied, his voice is incredible and his lyrics offer depth and meaning. Aside from his music, Jenkins is just a fascinating person as well. He’s an avid reader and his interests in spirituality as well as just his views on life are interesting and diverse. He has a wide ranging set of interests. I always enjoy the conversations I have with him, the topics always take a surprising turn it seems. From learning that he took ballet as a youngster and that he grew up in a commune, to the fact that he went by the name Brandy instead of Brandon in school and likes to write poetry, there’s always something interesting to learn about him it seems. One of the first in depth conversations I had with him took place about three years ago sitting on the stage of the now closed Arbuckle Ballroom in Davis after a show, where I learned that he had no idea what a sock monkey was. He played the Wormy Dog two weeks later, so I made him a look-a-like sock monkey and brought it to him. It is still one of the coolest sock critters I have ever made. The next time I saw him at a show he mentioned that he saw a sock monkey and thought of me. I’ll take it, I’ll gladly be the sock monkey lady.
Jenkins recently spent a week in Tulsa and I got the chance to catch up and chat with him about what he’s up to these days.
”I just moved down to Nashville a month or so ago, I’ve got a lot of songwriting opportunities there. It’s a strange, I lived in Nashville 20 years ago, and you know I get there and think it’s a totally different town than when I lived there. It’s a totally different experience. When I went there, I was at the bottom of the barrel, I was just one of the thousands of artists to come there every month. I think they have like 5000 artists move there every month,” explained Jenkins. “It was tough, and truthfully it really kicked my ass, but at the same time as much as people want to bash Nashville, it really is the major leagues of songwriting. If you want to be in the major leagues, that’s where you have to be, you have to at least have a presence there. A lot of Texas people have a real nasty chip on their shoulder, and I’ll be like well who is your favorite Texas guys, and they’ll say well Guy Clark and Steve Earl man, and I’m like well they both live in Nashville. But at the same time, there are still thought of as Texas music, and I would like to think that I’ll still be thought of as Red Dirt/Texas music.”
The move from Austin to Nashville puts Jenkins in a position to hone and work on his songwriting craft more. Jenkins has always excelled at songwriting, but believes that you should constantly be learning and growing as well.
“I’m not there to teach them any lessons or anything like that, you know I’m there to learn the trade of songwriting, and that’s something that you are constantly learning. But that’s my focus there is songwriting. My focus is a songwriter, I think I’m a really good singer and a good performer but I know my God given talent is writing songs. That’s something that over the years, I’ve gotten caught up in playing and I couldn’t ever imagine not playing and not performing live, but at the same time, my gift is writing songs. I’d like to think that if given the chance I’m as good as anybody else you know in Nashville,” said Jenkins.
This time around, the move to Nashville has proved to be more of a success. Although the last time he tried to move down there, he faced many closed doors, this time many people have welcomed him with open arms.
“I showed up and it’s been a totally different experience, people know who I am. They know my songs and they look up to Texas and Red Dirt. There’s a mythology to that, those people are like ‘wow these people have their own scene down there and aren’t playing this game’. They know me and they know my songs, and people want to write with me. That’s kind of the deal there, is getting into the writing sessions with the people that are the big dogs there, and I think that’s going to happen,” said Jenkins. “I’ve been there all of about 7 days really. I’ve lived there about 6 weeks, and I’ve been there 7 days. I’m going to get in a little more time in the next few weeks. I’m doing a lot of stuff writing with Casey Twist, he’s really in the flow of writing with these young writers and people that are kind of movers and shakers. They work with people like Lee Brice and Lee Ann Womack, and all those type people, and that’s kind of the foothold that I have now. I’ve been writing some with him and he’s got a whole group of writers that are all young and cool, and I write with them. Casey and this guy named James Riggs we kind of wrote a really cool song while I was in town. There’s just so much synergy there just within the week I was there; we wrote a really cool song and I got to be in a music video and just all kind of shit happened, it’s fun to be in the mix.”
Jenkins isn’t just spending his time in Nashville these days, he’s also been spending more time in Tulsa.
“When I moved to Austin in 2003 there were a lot of years when the only time I came to Tulsa was when I played and then I was out, I was just in and out. There was a decade there that I was hardly ever in Tulsa. I lost connection with a lot of the scene and the younger guys, and a whole group of younger dudes that I didn’t really know about,” said Jenkins. “Over the last 3 years or so, I have a house here and my wife lives here, I’ve been coming back a whole lot more and really getting back and reintroduced into the Tulsa scene. I mean not even as a performer, but just getting to know all these younger guys and all these guys at Horton Records and stuff. Anytime I come in I always go into The Colony and do the Tom Skinner thing. I was so happy that for two or three years I was back every month, at least once a month, and really got to sit in and do dozens of performances there with him in the last year or two, with Tom and all those guys. And I still do it now, I’m in town now and I’m going to go out there this Wednesday, but I think my move to Nashville will just reinvigorate my Tulsa thing, it’s closer and I’m spending a lot more time here, between here and Nashville.”
Even though he has moved out of Austin, as far as his band and performances are concerned, not much will change.
“I’m keeping my band in Texas. Most of my shows are still in the Texas/Oklahoma region, of course there’s going to be a lot more in the southeast region but the majority of my shows are still around here. So I’m keeping my band in Fort Worth and I’ll just fly in for shows,” he explained.
Jenkins has a new album that’s already rising on national charts and it hasn’t been released yet.
“The Flag is the name of the new album. We’re talking about a release right now, it’s going to be in April, either the 15th or the 22nd, not sure which one it’s going to be just yet. Currently the single is number 40 on the charts and hopefully will keep moving up, and we just found out today that the album is number 102 on the Americana charts, which is the national chart. We’re hoping it’ll keep moving up,” he said. “I think it’s a really good record, we recorded it down with Dave Percival, the guy I’ve recorded most of my records with. Recorded it down in Wimberley Texas. Just a few noted players on it, Dony Wynn; he played on all the Robert Palmer records, he played with him for over 20 years, he played with Brooks and Dunn, he’s a badass. Bukka Allen, the son of Terry Allen, he played accordion on the record. He plays with Joe Walsh now, he’s in Joe Walsh’s band. Just a bunch of really cool badasses, Kim Deschamps played lap steel and dobro, he played with the Cowboy Junkies and Bare Naked Ladies.”
I’m looking forward to hearing the new album, and seeing what great things come up for Jenkins in Nashville as well. You can find out more about Jenkins including show dates at his website at www.brandonjenkins.com as well as his various social media sites