The last year has seen its share of struggles and triumphs. While we have all felt the pains of the pandemic and the turbulent social climate, for country artist, Chris Bandi, the year has brought some great gains as well. In 2020, he saw the release of his first EP, made his Grand Ole Opry debut, and released a single that has impacted fans and country radio in a big way.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Bandi says he moved to Nashville eight years ago to “chase this crazy dream!” He adds, “I think I always knew that I wanted to play music when I ‘grew up’. I did a lot of singing in my bedroom.” He joined a band during his junior year of high school, and though they broke up when everyone went to college, Bandi never gave up on his dream. “I just loved performing and being on stage,” he says. “So a couple of years after I moved to Mississippi, I started playing any local bar that would have me.” Before he knew it, he was playing nearly every night in Oxford.
Though making music has always been the goal, Bandi’s inspiration comes from some unexpected sources. “I had some very different influences growing up,” he says. “My mom listened to nothing but 90’s country, and my dad listened to rock music, so depending on who took me to school that day, that’s what I was listening to.” But like any kid, Bandi eventually decided that nothing his parents listened to was “cool,” and he gravitated toward what his peers at school were listening to instead. “One big influence, being from St. Louis, was Nelly! I picked up the acoustic guitar for the first time listening to guys like Dave Matthews and John Mayer.” But Kenny Chesney’s “Summertime” rekindled his love for country music when he heard the song on his way home from high school football practice.
And that love is what led him to his current career path, though he has his own unique sound. “I think there a few things that set me apart [from other artists],” he says. “One is my eclectic taste in music. I grew up listening to everything from Nelly to Garth Brooks to O.A.R to Prince.” His St. Louis upbringing also allows him to bring something different to the table, and he infuses his music with all those elements. “I grew up loving how true the lyrics were in country music, and that’s what I try to do with my songs. Make them as true to myself as possible!”
Bandi brings his truth to the rest of us in his debut self-titled EP, which released on May 29, 2020. He helped write four of the seven tracks and calls the making of the EP “such an incredible experience. It was something that I had dreams of doing when I moved to Nashville, and the fact that I had a team behind me that believed in me is more than I could have ever asked.” The EP includes Bandi’s current single, “Would Have Loved Her,” which he co-wrote with his friend, Zach Kale. The idea for the heart-wrenching track was inspired by his grandfather, who passed away about six months before he met his girlfriend. “I just knew that if he had gotten the chance to meet her, he would have loved her,” he explains. He took the idea to Kale, whose father had passed away before he met his wife. Their shared experience brings raw emotion to the song, which Taste of Country and The Boot have dubbed “the tearjerker of 2021.”
The accompanying video brings that same level of feeling, setting Bandi at his piano against the stunning backdrop of Tennessee’s Caney Fork River. Dustin Haney directed the video, and according to Bandi, “He’s got an amazing way of taking a song and telling an amazing story through the video! I have full faith in everything he does, so I knew he wouldn’t steer us wrong!” The fans agree. The video and the single have acquired over 7.2 million streams, and after hitting country radio on December 7, the single became the third most added song.
This success has allowed Bandi to take part in some fantastic experiences, the highlight of which is his Grand Ole Opry debut last February. “Moving to Nashville, you just know how much history is in that building and how special it is,” he says. “Not only Nashville, but country music as a whole!” With his family, his girlfriend’s family, and his drummer’s family in attendance, he took the stage at the iconic venue in an experience that will stay with him forever. “I hope we get to play it many, many more times, but I’ll never forget that first time!”
Bandi also recently had the opportunity to participate in 478 Sings United, a Georgia-based United Way event that involved a virtual singing competition for local bands and musicians. Bandi served as a mentor for the event, which raised $84,000 for the Central Georgia COVID-19 Response & Recovery Fund. “It was great,” Bandi says of participating in Zoom calls with an artist from Georgia and talking about music and his dreams. “I don’t know if I would call myself a mentor, but I tried to tell him some things I wish I would have known when I first started playing music and decided to make the move to Nashville!”
The singer also boasts accolades such as Entertainment Weekly’s “Breaking Big in Country” artist, The Boot’s “New Artist to Hear Now,” and Sounds like Nashville’s “2020 Artist to Watch.” So what’s next? “We’ve started to book some shows for 2021, which is amazing,” he says. They have already played a few and have been able to do so safely, which gives him hope for future touring prospects. “My hope is to get back playing every weekend and playing some of our favorite venues while crossing a few more off the venue bucket list!”
In the meantime, fans can continue to stream his music and videos. And for more on Bandi and his upcoming tour dates, follow him online @chrisbandi and chrisbandi.com