By Katie Ellington, Contributing Writer
If it weren’t for the fliers hung around campus, I probably wouldn’t have recognized him. Prior to his concert in the Stuce last Friday, indie-folk artist Brandon Wadley wasn’t off preparing for the show or waiting to make a grand entrance. Instead, he was meandering around the Stuce, saying hello to people and attentively listening as GraceNotes—the campus’ new acapella group—rehearsed and performed a couple of songs.
Quiet and friendly, Wadley could have easily been mistaken for just another student. Wadley is a senior at Eastern Tennessee State, where he is majoring in Art and Design and minoring in Bluegrass music. “One of my favorite things to do is come to colleges and do shows for people who are in the same positions I was in,” said Wadley.
As soon as he got onstage, he became a singer-songwriter and one-man-band. Wadley switched instruments multiple times during the show, pairing his honest, contemplative lyrics with a mandolin, banjo or guitar, occasionally adding a harmonica or kick drum to the mix. “It’d be nice to have band mates to talk while I switch instruments…every…single…song,” he said jokingly to the audience while he swapped a guitar for his mandolin.
“It’s not my type of music, but I think people enjoyed it,” said senior Asher Allison. Freshman Shelby Burnett agreed with Allison. “I thought the concert was really nice and laid back,” said Burnett. “I really enjoyed his style of music, and it was neat how he played everything by himself.”
Throughout the show, Wadley maintained a very laid back, conversational tone with the audience: explaining the inspiration behind his songs, sharing some of his story and even asking if he could start a song over when he forgot the words. “I liked the chill music,” said senior Joylily Bogle. “And I liked that Asbury is supporting musicians who are just getting started.”
But Wadley’s pleasant down-to-earth personality didn’t stop there. It was evident in his lyrics. “I write about life; I write about God,” said Wadley. “It’s definitely personal. I think if the songs weren’t personal, they wouldn’t be as meaningful.” Many of the songs he performed were inspired by memories and experiences. “Civil War Brothers,” which took him about thirty minutes to write, dealt with his struggle to trust God with his relationship with his wife, Katie. “It was something I needed to learn when we started dating,” said Wadley. When he didn’t know how the relationship would go, writing the song enabled him to hand the future over to God. “He didn’t like this song for a while, but I told him to keep it,” Katie told the audience when she joined Brandon onstage to sing it with him. “It’s one of my favorites.”
One of Wadley’s older songs, entitled “Sleepwalking,” was a favorite among the crowd. As one of his more upbeat tunes, it compares muddling through a toxic relationship to sleepwalking and dreaming. It’s not until the bridge that the singer realizes his mistake: “Before I knew it/It’d dreamt the winter, spring and summer away/Who wants to live in this real world anyway?” “Dynamic is really important, especially when it’s just me as a solo artist,” he said. “I like going from something loud and rambunctious to something soft and intimate…Life has a lot of variety. There are some days that are quiet and contemplative and some that are wild.”