“Music has always been a part of my life,” says musician Brandon Bethel.
Born and raised in North Carolina, Bethel grew up in the church, testing his vocals in the kids’ choir before moving on to solos. He was 7 or 8 when he remembers hearing country music for the first time. He loved it, but as a young African American boy, he didn’t think it was for him. All that changed when he discovered Charley Pride.
“It was a shocker when I found out the late, great Charley Pride was an African American country singer,” Bethel says. “It just blew my mind. I was like, ‘What?’ I was inspired and I thought, if he can do it, I can. And then, of course, I found out about Hootie, Darius Rucker, and that was another influence.”
Bethel moved to Oklahoma after high school where he attended Muskogee’s Bacone College before transferring to Oklahoma State University, graduating with a degree in criminal justice. The Fort Gibson resident writes his own songs, and he has a real appreciation for the musical history of his adopted state.
“It’s had an influence on me, especially once I really became aware of all the great artists who came from the area, being in Stillwater and finding out about Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton from Ada,” he says.
After years as a part-time musician, the now 30-year-old Bethel recently began pursuing his passion full time. He released a new single, “How to be a Man,” in October. “I wrote the song about my dad and how he raised me,” Bethel says. A five-song EP is expected around New Year’s Day.
The pandemic presented challenges, but Bethel, like many musicians, found creative ways to keep moving forward.
“We figured out a way to still give people music,” he says. “We did a lot of live streaming on social media and, slowly but surely, things started opening back up.”
You can find Bethel and his band performing in Tulsa and surrounding towns at bars, clubs and casinos. He will play Dec. 10 at Margaritaville’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar.