James Gwinn’s Queer-Country-Rock Song re-introduces the World to Cristal Conners
First Single and Music Video from His Bullit Album, Brandon James Gwinn’s new single, “Cristal Conners,” is a country-rock pop-infused ode to the character portrayed by Gena Gershon in 1995’s infamous Showgirls film. The song is a love letter to aggressive feminine fierceness, which BJG has to embody after several vodkas. “As the song says, ‘I try to be good but baby, I don’t try too hard,” he laughs before noting how there is a dark side of Cristal.
“As fabulous as she is, she wreaks a lot of havoc.”Brandon James Quinn
It’s a quality that Gwinn admits he can relate to. Written by Brandon James Gwinn and produced by BJG and M.P. Kuo, “Cristal Conners” is being distributed by Indie Chameleon and is available on Apple Music, Spotify, and all digital platforms, along with the Bullit album. The video to accompany is out now, which can be watched below:
The music video echoes the chaotic, queer joy of the single. Directed by Chris Ruetten and shot at NYC’s legendary Stonewall Inn, the video is laugh-out-loud funny with Brandon made up as Cristal, courtesy of drag queen and makeup artist Chelsea Piers. “I can be, at times, very specific about what I want and then, in other moments, at a loss for how to connect the dots,” Brandon explains. “Chris and Chelsea were really great about meeting me at that vision and then filling in the blanks where needed.” Brandon’s unapologetic erraticness permeates throughout the collection of songs on his Bullit album. Much of it is darker than the piano-based quirkiness of his previous work. Bullit is queer pop but also theatrical rock ‘n roll. It’s about messy ends, and the rocky, mirky, often uncertain paths many of us travel in life before getting to what we celebrate as new beginnings.
“I started writing the album while on the nationwide tour for my first record, opening for drag star Trixie Mattel,” Brandon explains. “It was at the tail end and I was reflecting on the amazing and somewhat unexpected experience of traveling the country and how it would soon be over. At the same time, I found myself at the end of a serious relationship. All that tumult made me look at where I was and where I was going.”
Brandon never imagined he’d be a solo recording artist. He doubted he was good enough to sing his own compositions or that anyone would care about what came out of his mouth. The mantra behind Bullit has become a kind of armor to the young, out artist. It’s a “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality where he embraces his imposter syndrome and pushes himself to pretend that he matters. “I say to myself, just bull-it, Brandon. Trust you have music to make and something to say.”
Brandon James Gwinn was raised in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee where he lived with his parents, grandparents, and sister. He recalls a big Southern and Italian-American family where there was always an uncle or cousin around. They were fairly conservative and religious, and Brandon was forced to hide his queerness. “I secretly dated a boy or two in high school, but I didn’t officially come out until my freshman year of college at Middle Tennessee State University.”
“The gender journey has been really eye-opening,” he continues. “Even as a young gay man, I found I always had problems fitting neatly into the cis and straight culture at large.” Today, he identifies as queer and gender fluid. After college, Brandon James Gwinn continued his studies at NYU, earning his MFA in musical theatre writing. He has enjoyed a prolific career in theatre, writing ten stage musicals that have had various levels of production from college to regional and even Off-Broadway. He was nominated for a Drama League Award and won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Richard Rodgers Award for his musical TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix.
He first entered the pop realm with the production of two albums for RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars winner Trixie Mattel: 2017’s Two Birds and 2018’s One Stone; both of which he performed on. “It was really Trixie’s idea that I could sing my own songs on my own EP, Not Too Late, and then perform them at 2800 seat theatres. She believed folks would buy it, and they did!”
The success of Not Too Late and the nationwide tour encouraged Brandon to reinvest in himself and rethink that maybe he did indeed have something to say. “I want Bullit to be fun when you need it to be, and a devastating feel-fest, if that’s what you’re after,” Brandon says. “Like life, the album’s a journey where you deal with shit, but then look around and realize the darkness you were complaining about is sexy and dangerous. You’re older and maybe a little tired, but you came out on the other side learning a thing or two. Sure, you made it by the skin of your teeth, while faking it just a little bit, but you smile because ultimately it doesn’t matter how you got there. You got there.”
Be sure to follow Brandon on the social media’s below:
Instagram : brandonjamesg