For four years, our friend Brandon Morrell has run his podcast The Backstage Pass, where he has conducted interviews with hundreds of artists ranging from musical legends to the brightest up-and-comers in music. We chatted with him to get the inside scoop on how he has built his brand!
Pro Country: You’ve been in radio broadcasting for many years. What was it that initially got you interested in the field and when did your focus become music and sports?
Brandon Morrell: I initially got interested in the field of radio broadcasting when I was in high school and took part in my journalism class. I loved everything about journalism and how it was so cool to report on various aspects of school sports, events and student life and culture. It was fun to attend high school games and report on those games. I then decided to attend Lamar University and major in Broadcasting and graduated with my degree in the field in 2005. My love of music and sports stemmed back from my early high school and college days and I used to attend concerts at an early age and was hooked. I got my first radio job at 18 and never looked back. I got my foot in the door and knew that one day a podcast was possible, and decided to launch my brand back in January of 2019.
Pro Country: Can you talk about forming you The Backstage Pass show and what it was like establishing yourself as both a brand and trusted source in the music industry?
Brandon Morrell: The Backstage Pass was always a dream of mine, although I never really saw myself pursuing it until one day back in winter of 2019. I was sitting at my day job and I knew something wasn’t right. Something was missing. I already had the knowledge and experience from the industry to embark on a podcast. I then realized that I just need to figure out how to get on the air and then get folks to start believing in me and trusting my brand. I think the mix of sports and music is unique because both integrate themselves very well. As a musician and an athlete, the grind is what it’s all about. Once you understand that concept, the rest will fall into place. As for the trusted source in the music industry, you have to establish trust and honesty. You start paying your dues with each interview you take on. Let your body of work do the talking. Let the interview be authentic and the trust will come. Do as many interviews as possible, and then once the publicists see your body of work, they will earn your trust to know that your brand will take care of their clients.
Pro Country: You’ve worked with several co-hosts with your show and your team continues to expand. How important has it been for you to have the perspectives of the additional members of your team and to feel that camaraderie with them?
Brandon Morrell: I come from a sports background, so team is very important. Without the building blocks, it’s very difficult to expand and move forward. The people you work with are just as important, if not more, than the content itself. The content will be there as long as you have the people around you who believe in your core values and share in the dream to know that hard work pays off. My number one team member and business partner in my brand, Kirstie Kraus, has been there for me every step of the way. She is also an aspiring musician, and her work speaks for itself. She works hard to build her brand as an artist and has put in many hours helping me build The Backstage Pass. The camaraderie is extremely important as we share each other’s’ vision for the long term growth of the podcast. Kirstie is my right hand co-host, and I trust her with my brand, as she has tremendous loyalty.
Pro Country: When did you start to feel like you were catching a stride and hitting momentum with the show?
Brandon Morrell: I felt like I was catching stride and gaining momentum with the show during COVID. Crazy to think that a pandemic could grow a brand, but it did. The music industry was shut down, and live shows were not happening. During that time, artists had to do media interviews to keep music out there and stay engaged on social media with their fans. I was doing six interviews in one day since I had the break from my day job. Content was very important during these times and putting shows out was my goal. The more interviews I did on the audio side, the more traction the show gained. Then I noticed after my first year, the brand was catching the eyes of managers, publicists and record labels, and I started to conduct interviews with the main acts such as Terri Clark, Lee Brice, Don McLean, Billy Gibbons and lots more. That’s how anyone builds a brand. Start small and work your way up the ladder.
Pro Country: You’ve conducted hundreds of interviews at this point. Are there any interviews that stand out to you and an interview you’d consider your favorite?
Brandon Morrell: Many interviews stand out, but I would have to say my favorite interview was when I had the chance to talk with two of my favorite artists of all time. First, interviewing a country music icon such as Terri Clark was amazing, Terri is one of the nicest and most genuine stars in the business. Terri was so authentic and upfront with me, and that made me feel comfortable during the show. The interview flowed very well as Terri told me stories of her great 90s country songs and much more. The other interview that stood out was Mickey Gilley. May he rest in peace. Mickey is another country music icon, and he talked about his hit songs, and it was amazing to listen to Mickey tell stories about Johnny Lee and all of the great people he had worked with in the industry. Hearing those stories is what it’s all about. Two more interviews that really stood out to me were Don McLean and Richard Sterban of The Oak Ridge Boys.
Pro Country: With all of the interviews you’ve done so far, who are some of the artists you haven’t interviewed yet that are “bucket list” interviews for you?
Brandon Morrell: My bucket list interviews for me have to be Luke Combs and George Strait. Two of the biggest names in the industry. I would love to interview George Strait to hear more great stories about his history of country music and his exceptional career. As for Luke Combs, I would love to connect with him and hear him talk about writing great songs with hit songwriters. Luke is an outstanding artist, and it is a dream of mine to have him on my show.
Pro Country: You were present at CRS this year and conducted several live interviews over just a few days. Can you talk about what that experience was like and what you learned from being so active and being surrounded by so many musicians?
Brandon Morrell: The presence at a national event like CRS is everything. It really makes your brand stand out. CRS allows you to meet so many people in the music industry you otherwise may not have a chance to meet. Lots of things are happening during the three day event, and the interviews are short and brief, but you can really make your brand stand out more as publicists, managers and lots more people in the music industry see your face and brand stand out live on location. The trust factor grows exponentially working an event of this magnitude. You can showcase so many artists and their music! It’s amazing.
Pro Country: You were recently nominated for a Josie Music Award in the Media Company of the Year category. What does it mean to you to be recognized from within the industry in that way, and how much are you looking forward to the Awards in October?
Brandon Morrell: It was shocking to be recognized by The Josie Music Awards and to be nominated for Media Company of The Year. I didn’t get into this for the awards and recognition, but I was so blessed and honored to get chosen. My team works so hard to ensure we are number one at what we do. Our content, preparation and research to conduct these interviews is very important. My co-host and business partner, Kirstie Kraus, means so much to my brand and is a saint at what she does on social media and behind the scenes. She is a terrific person and a terrific artist. I’m excited to see if we win the award at the awards show in October, but being nominated is already a win in itself.
Pro Country: In the time since you started The Backstage Pass, how do you feel you’ve grown most as both an interviewer and host?
Brandon Morrell: I feel I have grown by leaps and bounds as a host and as a person. It takes lots of work to conduct an interview and grind with all of the homework and research you have to do as a show host. Lots of responsibilities come into play. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the publicists, managers and record labels for the work they do for their artists. Lots of folks don’t see what goes on behind the scenes, and that is where most of the work is done. Again, teamwork is very important to continue building a brand, and I have a new understanding for what it means to be a show host and creator of a media outlet.
Pro Country: What are your plans for the Backstage Pass for the rest of 2023 and beyond?
Brandon Morrell: My plans for the long term growth of the show is to syndicate my brand with a major network or make my show into a full-time television show. I really want to showcase my team and have that opportunity to grow with a major network or radio station. I would like to do both audio and video podcasting and leave my day job behind and sign a deal with a major outlet to be syndicated and continue to support live music for many years to come as we continue to provide a platform that showcases the best talent in the music and sports industry.
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