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Brandon Ratcliff: 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter

by Jim Casey
Brandon Ratcliff 5 Songs That Shaped Songwriter
photo by Nick Rau

Singer/songwriter Brandon Ratcliff busted into 2023 by releasing his debut album, Tale of Two Towns, on Jan. 6. The 18-song offering is a tale of two volumes for the 28-year-old, who is the son of bluegrass royalty Suzanne Cox (vocals/mandolin of The Cox Family).

Vol. 1 features eight songs Brandon co-penned with some of country music’s tops songwriters, including Shane McAnally, Tenille Townes, Lori McKenna, Pete Good, and more. Vol. 1 explores Brandon’s decision to leave his rural Louisiana hometown, while Vol. 2 features eight instrumental interludes intended as placeholders for Brandon’s next journey.

On the heels of his new album’s release, Outsider caught up to Brandon to find out the 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter.

1. ‘Red Dirt Road’ – Brooks & Dunn (written by Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn)

Brandon Ratcliff: I love this song because it’s just extremely relatable to me. I grew up on a little dirt road on the outskirts of a tiny town. And every time I hear Brooks & Dunn sing this song, I can’t help but reminisce about the good old days. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug and certain songs, when they’re written like this, can feel like boarding a time machine, even if only for a moment.

2. ‘Stop This Train’ – John Mayer

Brandon Ratcliff: This song is one that stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard it. It’s thought provoking, while feeling both beautiful and tragic. It wrestles with the human condition of mortality and the concept of time. We’re all on this train of life, and it never stops to let us take a breath. We must enjoy the view while we’re passing by and soak it in as it slips through our fingers. 

3. ‘Gentle On My Mind’ – Glen Campbell (written by John Hartford)

Brandon Ratcliff: I love this song because it’s pure poetry. Every single line of this song is written with such detailed imagery. It captures the very essence of what it means to be in love with someone that feels like a best friend. 

4. ‘House That Built Me’ – Miranda Lambert (written by Tom Douglas, Allen Shamblin)

Brandon Ratcliff: Anyone who grew up in the same house most of their life and later lost or sold that home knows why this song is so special to me. It makes you feel like a kid again, like rediscovering a lost core memory that molded you into who you are. This song is a masterclass on writing. 

5. ‘Viva La Vida’ – Coldplay (written by Guy Berryman, Johnny Buckland, Will Champion, Chris Martin)

Brandon Ratcliff: This song inspires me because of its imaginative storytelling quality and the anthemic nature of the melody and music. It’s hard to write a song that has a lyric with meaning and depth but also sounds like it’s made for arenas. This song does that better than almost any song I’ve ever heard.