The month of March changed everything for Chris Bandi.
The aspiring singer/songwriter watched as the eye of a devastating tornado hit just five doors down from his East Nashville home. Days later, he watched as COVID-19 took a cruel hold on the world. And soon after, he watched as his ever-growing tour schedule disappeared before his very eyes.
And it hurt.
It still does.
But it won’t stop him.
Because if there was ever a time when Bandi had an inferno raging in his heart to make his country music dreams a reality, it is now.
Now, living with the ever present pandemic-based reminders that life is short and time is of the essence, Bandi recently made the decision to release his much anticipated, self-titled debut EP early (May 29.) He also made the decision to share the acoustic version of his addictive single “Man Enough Now.”
“We kind of realized how much people need music right now,” Bandi tells American Songwriter, who is exclusively premiering the video Thursday (May 21.) “Music takes you away and puts you in your own world, and I don’t think there is any better time than now to do exactly that. Give them this music and let them hear it.”
In the acoustic version of “Man Enough Now,” Bandi can be seen sitting outside by a fire, playing the guitar alongside guitarist Devin Ross Trout, with the pair taking the song back to its initial lyrical and musical roots.
“You can tell a good song by how it stands out acoustically,” says Bandi, who spent a chunk of his childhood riding in the car with his dad listening to the artists he looked up to. “This song was created with two or three guitars in a basement of a publishing house in Nashville. Stripping it down and playing it in its purest form is just a really cool thing to do.”
Of course, this unexpected coronavirus break is leaving many to take a moment to strip down our collective pasts, a common theme that rings true throughout the prose of “Man Enough Now.”
“There was this relationship I had in college that gave me the idea for the song title,” says Bandi, who graduated from Ole Miss and six days later, moved to Nashville. “I was a young, dumb, 21-year-old guy and when I was writing this song, I was thinking about all those mistakes that dumb 21-year-old guys make. (Laughs.) I started thinking if we had met later in life, would have it worked out differently? Or, would we still have broken up in the end?”
So, without a record or publishing deal under his belt, Bandi brought the idea to the writing room.
“It was just one of those songs that fell out into the room knew, and we instantly knew that we had something special,” says Bandi, who wrote the song alongside Jason Allen Duke and Jason Massey. “I mean, it was done in under two hours. We started playing it and sharing it and it eventually led to a publishing deal and then a record deal and then allowed me to send my first single to country radio. I was never sure it would actually happen.”
But it is happening. And having the time to watch his first single grab hold of country music fans in real time has been quite the silver lining in this cruel time for Bandi.
“I’ve learned a lot in the last few months,” says Bandi, who made his Grand Ole Opry debut earlier this year. “I’ve learned how to slow down a little bit. I’ve gotten into woodworking. I bought a keyboard. I sit in the backyard and I watch a fire in peace, rather than going 100 mph every single day.”
He takes a pause.
“I guess I am just one of those guys that realize there is nothing we can do sometimes,” he admits quietly. “You just have to make the best out of every time and every situation. You know? Look at the glass half full. Adapt to the curve balls thrown your way. That’s what I’m going to keep doing.”