Brandon Scott Sellner sings the blues

Screaming blues guitar riffs and passionate, soulful vocals are only found at clubs in the heart of the South or recorded on a classic vinyl album, right? Not if you catch Brandon Scott Sellner at one of his performances.

The Budweiser Blues Series will bring Brandon Scott Sellner and his band to the Empire Arts Center on Saturday.

Screaming blues guitar riffs and passionate, soulful vocals are only found at clubs in the heart of the South or recorded on a classic vinyl album, right? Not if you catch Brandon Scott Sellner at one of his performances.

The 26 year-old musician has been performing professionally for about three years and will make his debut appearance in Grand Forks with his band at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Empire Arts Center. Tickets will be $18 in advance or $20 at the door, with a $3 discount for Empire members.

Sellner said he was a pretty average kid in high school. Growing up in the small town of Sleepy Eye, Minn., it was difficult to break free from the expectations people had of what he would be, he said. His parents always were supportive of his goals, encouraging him to "follow his heart and chase his dreams."

After he picked up his first guitar at age 16, Sellner soon realized his life would never be the same.

"Music was the only thing I found I could relate with," he said.


Sellner attended college at Minnesota State University in Mankato to work with people with mental and physical disabilities and worked in that field as he developed his musical career.

After landing in the hospital with a ruptured appendix about five years ago, Sellner said he gained a new perspective on life.

"It was an eye-opening experience," he said. "It made me re-evaluate my life, and I took steps in the direction I wanted to go with music."

Sellner got his band together. The lineup has changed a little, but today the Brandon Scott Sellner Band has four members who've been playing together for a little over a year. Rick Monpetit is the bassist, Brad Wynveen plays the keyboard and Chance Jean is the drummer. They're all experienced and professional musicians, Sellner said.

Sellner performed in bars and at open mic nights for years, but quickly made his way to bigger shows. He and his band have gained exposure outside of the region, performing in Georgia, California, and other locations, and have gained a wide fan-base.

In high school, when he was teaching himself guitar, Sellner was influenced by the music of Stevie Ray Vaughn, he said. Now, many of his fans compare his music with Vaughn's sound.

Sellner's sound also has been compared with Jonny Lang, a rock and blues singer-songwriter from Fargo whom Sellner also credits as one of his influences.

"I knew who Jimi Hendrix was before I played guitar, but didn't get into his music until I started playing," Sellner said. Now he considers Hendrix another major influence, and Sellner and his band often cover Hendrix's songs at their shows.


Sellner took cues from Doyle Bramhall II, who toured with Eric Clapton. Bramhall founded a band called the ARC Angels, and Sellner's band once opened for him.

"That was probably my favorite show," Sellner said. "It's an honor to be on stage with the people who inspire you to do what you do."

It was hard not to be star-struck, Sellner said, but he took pride in the show because he knew he had to give it his all in front of one of his idols.

"If there was any time I wanted to take the time to shake someone's hand and tell them they inspired me, that was the moment," he said.

In 2009, Sellner's band performed at several blues festivals around the region. Recently it played at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., which featured more than 100 blues bands.

Last year, Sellner released his latest album of pop/R&B, titled "Things Are Gonna Be Good." Sellner's first album, "Wrongs to Rights," also will be available at his Saturday show at the Empire.

For the rest of 2010, Sellner plans to record new material and release a new record. The band is working on the licensing and artwork to finalize a DVD release, and Sellner wants to keep touring and to catch the eye of some labels.

"There are a couple of people in business that are waiting to hear stuff we've been working on," Sellner said. "Hopefully they like it and we can get some new exposure and open some new doors."


Through his transformation from an average, small-town high school student to an up-and-coming blues musician, Sellner said, "The only advice I can ... give is to think big and never give up."

Ring is a reporting intern at the Grand Forks Herald. Reach her at (701) 787-6754 or .

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