Sounds Like: Sophisticated, shimmery goof-free pop-country in the vein of Hunter Hayes and Dierks Bentley's "Black," but with an activist twist
For Fans of: Hayes, Billy Currington, LeAnn Rimes
Why You Should Pay Attention: Born in Tennessee, the Los Angeles-residing Stansell got his start in the music industry as a backup dancer for Taylor Swift, and it wasn't until he landed back home after two years on the road supporting her Fearless tour that he even started exercising his own talents as a songwriter (fun fact: he's one of the members of Swift's crew that inspired her Speak Now track "Long Live"). Going through a breakup, Stansell began to find some healing within his lyrics, a process that bred his first EP – and there's no shortage of love lost on his debut LP, Slow Down, either. An openly gay man, Stansell has also intently used his platform and his artistry to support the LGBTQ community. He actively works to advocate for issues that matter to him while, at the same time, putting out gorgeously-directed music videos that show stories of romance and relationships that just happen to be between two men – a priceless message for the genre of country music.
He Says: "Coming out was the most tumultuous experience of my life," Stansell says. "And a big part of my passion is also my advocacy work. I hear from people in my community so often through email, about what it means to feel represented in this genre. And if there is anything that I can do to have one less person have to go through what I went though, then it's all worth it. It's not just that people are hearing music that they enjoy – it's artistry and advocacy going hand in hand."
Hear for Yourself: A collaboration with friend and collaborator Ty Herndon, the record's title track "Slow Down" is a sultry, mid-tempo rewriting of a romance that burned out as fast as it flamed. M.M.