Brandon Lay: Former Hoops Star Hits Row Running

Brandon LayJackson, Tennessee is a couple hours northwest of Nashville, and it’s the city where the new Music Row singer and songwriter Jason Lay made his first mark – as a basketball star.

He was a four-year starter as a point guard for Jackson’s Trinity Christian Academy Lions, earning All-West Tenneessee honors. As a senior, he averaged 14 points per game and received a scholarship offer from hometown Union University.

It was a very different team at Union, and indeed something of a different world.

“I was the only guy in the Union locker room wearing cowboy boots,” Lay says, with a smile.

By the end of his junior year, Brandon had shifted his focus from hoops to his other passion, music. He was a preacher’s son who hadn’t sung all that much in church, but it was a concert by an appropriately named Capitol Nashville star that changed Lay’s life. That star was Eric Church.

“Eric was singing the soundtrack of my life,” Brandon says. “So much of country is for middle-aged fans, and Taylor Swift’s music is for teen girls. But Eric’s songs were directed towards young males who happened to be in college.”

Lay’s high school priorities had been playing hoops and working on cars with his buds. Like so many young artists and writers coming from all over the world to Music Row nowadays, Brandon’s own musical tastes are as varied and complex as the countless tunes they have stored on their iPods.

“I really liked a lot of Nineties rock, bands like Collective Soul and Guns N’Roses,” he says. “I also loved the Hair Bands of the 1980s. And growing up, before I was even old enough to go to school, I would be glued to the tube, watching CMT to see Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks.”

After Lay shifted from basketball to music, he applied the same intense work ethic which had made him such a star athlete to his new passion. He started taking guitar lessons in Jackson from Charley Baker, a longtime member of Carl Perkins’s band.

Brandon began making the rounds of Karaoke bars, and even sang at Legends Corner on Nashville’s Lower Broadway on a Tuesday night adventure with several college pals.

He also started to become more and more at ease playing live. Brandon put together a solid band, and also got more and more serious about his songwriting. His originals showed a great deal of variety. “Gotta Have It Now” is a mid-tempo country radio-friendly hit, while “Tell Me She’s Ugly” is a rocker in the Zac Brown Band mode, and his new “Everybody’s Country” is an edgy tune that will be posted on iTunes in November.

One of the highlights of Jackson’s social calendar each year is the annual Miss Tennessee Pageant, held at the Carl Perkins Civic Center there every June. Brandon performed at one of the preliminary competitions for this year’s contest, where he happened to meet a lovely young lady from Memphis named Nicole Jordan, who shared Brandon’s love for music and singing.

In June, Nicole was named Miss Tennessee 2010, singing the classic Eric Carmen ballad “All By Myself” in the Talent Competition. Nicole Jordan and Brandon Lay are now one of Tennessee’s most musical, attractive, gifted, and intriguing young couples.

By August of 2010, Lay was finally ready to make the big move to Music City. Happily, one of his older sisters already lived in the area, working as a teacher in nearby Rutherford County. So Brandon immediately both had close family and a place to live within driving distance of Music Row.

He’s already had a writing appointment with Ash Bowers, a Stoney Creek Records artist and another Jackson product whose video “Stuck” has become a CMT favorite.

Brandon also has the discipline of the elite athlete, something that’s often hard to find in musicians and songwriters. Lay is up at 8 a.m. every day, writing till about noon, then coming to Music Row to network and co-write.

“I’m hungry for a publishing deal or a record deal,” he says.

Brandon Lay has beaten long odds his whole life, in fiercely competitive arenas. He’s already become a star athlete, dated Miss Tennessee, and made Music Row take notice of him in his first months in Nashville.

It’s a slam-dunk that he’ll be a success now that he’s here.

Story by:  Phil Sweetland |


  1. David, This is a great article on Brandon. I am so glad that I can say that I knew him when. He is gonna be a great asset to Music Row.

  2. Hey there David – – – – Thx so much for your kind note, and for loving Brandon’s music!

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