Brandon Ratcliff was meant for music. He grew up witnessing impeccable talent and was surrounded by the influence of creators such as Alison Krauss and his mother, Suzanne Cox of the Cox Family bluegrass group. With perfection as the model, Brandon Ratcliff knew exactly how he wanted to sound as an artist and he also knew exactly what governed that sound-Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder and Alison Krauss.
In humbling efforts to show patronage to the music that shaped him as a songwriter, Ratcliff released renditions of three songs he deemed most inspiring from his life. The project titled Uncovered, presented Ratcliff’s reimagined versions of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon”, Alison Krauss’s “Forget About It,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City.”
Today he is sharing even more insight on the project and why those songs played such a powerful role in his art, in a detailed video, documenting the recording process of each song in the Uncovered series. And in an interview with American Songwriter, Ratcliff dived deeper into the whole experience, commenting on song selection, recording, production and much more.
“My manager, John Peets, actually helped me see this project through a lens that I feel propelled our whole team to get to work on this project,” Ratcliff told American Songwriter. “My inspiration stemmed from us having a meeting where we talked about the ‘whys’ of doing something like this. It wasn’t until I felt the purpose of showing people the things that inspired me as an artist that I fully felt like there was a reason to do a cover project.”
Ratcliff said it was difficult to pick one of the three songs as a favorite, but “Living For The City” held a special place with him. As a staple song in family car rides, the song was always around and made an impression on him from a young age.
“Honestly I feel like ‘Living For The City’ may be the song that speaks to me the most out of this group,” Ratcliff said. “I love everything about this song- the lyrics, the melodies, the groove, it checks every box for me.”
With each of the three songs showcasing a different style of music from R&B, rock and country, Ratcliff had to consider the necessity of digging into the foundation of each song and the emphasis on the recording process to be able to build each song back up with his own ideas in mind.
“The cool part about diving into these songs was understanding that they could be produced a myriad of different ways,” he said. “We really had fun stripping these songs back to the lyric and the melody and making it sound however we felt it should sound as if we just wrote it.”
With visions already in mind, Ratcliff, worked hard to rearrange the songs in a way from the ground up, always mindful to not “mimic the genius these artists already created,” he said. And while keeping production as the differentiating factor, he revamped the songs and brought them into a modern light.
Equally as crucial in the process for Ratcliff was the value of his ears. He expressed how listening was an essential piece in creating something worthwhile. And part of being a listener for Ratcliff is the inherent sense of knowing when a song is great. In order to do that you can never get too close to it, he shared, a finesse that Alison Krauss, Stevie Wonder and Fleetwood Mac all have.
“I think all three of these artists, in their own way capture that same spirit, the brilliance of being able to know when a song is truly special,” Ratcliff said.
Ratcliff is excited to capture that same ingenuity in his own material. He has had an extended opportunity to cultivate songs during 2020 affairs of isolation, with a music industry that has slowed down, enabling artists time to create more freely and reflect on their art. For Ratcliff he has spent this time fine-tuning his craft and doing some inner-soul searching in his music.
“The silence has been a real silver lining,” Ratcliff said. “I’ve been able to peer inward and really dig into the things I love about my own music and I think I’m honing my songwriting more and more. I don’t know that I would’ve been able to have this time of self-discovery if we didn’t have this massive pause on life and although I’m so ready for the world to start spinning again, I’m even more excited to start working on my next project and put more of ‘me’ into my music than I ever have.”
Prior to Uncovered, Ratcliff released several singles, which included his debut song “Rules of Breaking Up.” The debut massed an incredible amount of popularity, landing on Spotify’s Viral 50 chart and was named on Pandora’s One To Watch list, while fans continued to hit play over 50 million times. Coming out of the gates at full-speed, Ratcliff is ready to keep up that same pace with the release of his debut album, while also working on a second.
“I’m currently excited to drop my first record, while simultaneously working diligently on my next record. I know artists often fear the ‘sophomore slump’, but I feel more confident than ever in the new music I’m currently writing and I’m so ready to just get more of myself out into the world for people to listen to.”
Be sure to be on the watch for Ratcliff’s new album and until then check out his video documenting the Uncovered process, here today.