Brandon Lay’s mix of rock, blues and country music makes for a powerful stage show, but the 2017 Taste of Country RISER says offstage he’s very much the quiet, occasionally troublemaking son of a preacher he’s always been. If the Jackson, Tennessee native's not on a stage, he’d prefer to be under a truck.

Lay’s Instagram page is dedicated partially to his garage. A 1978 Lincoln Continental Coupe is his most recent conquest. He calls this car “the queen,” and his wife doesn’t seem to mind. “I started working on cars in high school,” Lay says. “There was a guy down the road that would sell old Ford trucks out of his front yard and one summer we bought one that had been wrecked, but it had a 429 Big Block and we just got so excited when we lifted the dented hood and saw that motor.”

Music would come later. Old trucks and basketball fueled life for Lay growing up in the shadow of Memphis. He and his siblings went to church and school and played sports, and that’s about it. “We have a song called ‘Speakers, Bleachers and Preachers,’” he says. “If I had a song that summed up what I was all about, and where I came from, it would be that song in particular because I guess the message of the song is everything I've ever learned came from a speaker, bleacher or a preacher.”

Guns N' Roses, the Eagles, James Taylor and ’90s country music shaped Lay’s early sound. That started in college, but within a few years he’d bought his own RV so he could tour campuses nationwide. By building a large grassroots fan base, he found his voice onstage and off. Still, some days he just needs to get away from it all. Hand Lay a wrench and a broken down diesel and he’ll do just fine.

“Just the solitude of it,” Lay says when pressed to explain the feeling. “For me, mentally at least, it's a yin and yang kind of thing to the music business. I feel like the music business can be a little more gradual, you can spend a lot of time and not see the result until months or years later. I feel like it's the exact opposite when you’re working on something old and bringing something to life, you can [say], ‘I painted that, it looks totally different than it did two hours ago.’”

After signing with UMG Nashville, Lay plans to release his debut single this spring or summer.

Brandon Lay On Set at the 2017 RISERS Shoot