Phillip Brandon ’06: From Morehouse Glee Club To Solo Singing Career With ‘The Story Begins’Date Released: November 16, 2017
By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
Phillip Brandon ’06 always liked music and the entertainment world. His mom, Brenda Davis, had been one of Ray Charles’ background singers, The Raelettes, and would tell him all about her experiences.
But after touring as a member of the famed Morehouse College Glee Club, something came to him.
“It was like, ‘Oh, this could possibly be done as a career-type thing,’” Brandon recalled. “That’s what literally gave me that moment of ‘Oh, wow. This is actually cool. Being in a different place every day, singing for a different audience.’ That was my ‘a-ha’ moment.”
That moment became a career decision. Brandon has just released his first, full-length CD, “The Story Begins,” an R&B/jazz fusion mix that actually has become his own life story.
“I always call myself a storyteller,” he said by phone in Los Angeles. “I love hearing someone else’s story and seeing what their journey was. So, telling other people’s stories is what kind of gave me the gumption to tell my own, which is what brought us to where we are now with ‘The Story Begins.’”
An Inglewood, Calif., native, Brandon loved hearing his mother’s stories about touring with Ray Charles, for whom Morehouse’s Ray Charles Performing Arts Center and Music Education Building is named.
He decided to go to Santa Monica College nearby, but after a year there, Brandon realized he needed something more.
“I was kind of getting into the fact that I was growing up, growing into my manhood, and all that stuff,” he said. “Morehouse was the only out-of-state school that I applied to. So, I decided, after getting accepted into a couple of California State University schools, to go ahead and go to Morehouse. That was the best decision that I could have made.
“I’m talking lifelong brotherhood,” Brandon said. “There are some Morehouse brothers I talk to weekly, some daily. There are a couple of Morehouse brothers… they will literally make a trip if I’m doing a particular theater performance for a while or a big gig with my band. They will make a big trip wherever it is, which is really awesome.”
Brandon majored in business marketing, but he also got a partial scholarship to perform in the Glee Club and the Quartet.
“With touring and everything in the spring, it all kind of gave me the bug,” he said. “I always knew I could sing, and I had done a few competitions before I even got to school. Once I got to Morehouse, that’s what kind of gave me the bug. With the performing and touring, it was like ‘Oh, this could possibly be done as a career-type thing.’”
By the time he graduated, Brandon earned a marketing internship that turned into a full-time job offer.
“But I kind of wanted to be back home and I didn’t know what was going on, so I actually didn’t take the full-time position,” he said. “I just finished the summer internship program and came back to L.A.
“Then a buddy of mine, that I sang in an a cappella group with before, reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in singing in an a cappella group on a cruise ship,” Brandon said. “That literally is what started it. My thought process was, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll go out here for a few months and that way I can figure out what I want to do.’ Fast forward to ten years later, I guess I’m still figuring it out.”
Brandon’s cruise stint morphed into a stint with “The Lion King” in Hong Kong, then as a member of the national tour of “The Color Purple,” a number of other acting and singing gigs, and then as a current narrator for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a nationally-touring, progressive rock band that has sold more than 10 million concert tickets since forming in the early 1990s.
Brandon produced his own EP, “Philip Brandon,” in 2013, but said he took much of what he has learned since then to hone his own sound. “The Story Begins” incorporates many of his experiences into a jazz/R&B/pop album with rock and funk flourishes.
One of the collaborations, “Stay In The Moment,” is a duet with his mother.
“That was such a beautiful experience,” Brandon said. “She did a couple of backing vocals, but she’s featured on this song. That’s where she and I did some vocal things back and forth and kind of play-off of each other. I was thrilled because she was actually the main proponent in putting music and entertainment into the scope for me. It was such a wonderful experience to be able to do a couple of tunes with my mom.”
Brandon believes this storytelling experience is just the first of many to come.
“I definitely want to move more into creating and utilizing my own personal artistry, as far as my singing and songwriting, and touring with my band,” he said. “It’s something I just really, really enjoy. I enjoy the creation process, singing and presenting new works for folks and I want to continue doing that.”
Last Modified: November 16, 2017, 16:11 PM, by: Kara Walker