Red Dirt artist Brandon Jenkins grew up knowing music would be how he made his unique stamp on the world.
Even still, his family encouraged the Tulsa native to attend college. Somewhat reluctantly, he enrolled at Oklahoma State University.
It turned out to be a pretty good choice, Jenkins said. I found a pretty good group there.
That group included Cody Canada, Mike McClure, Stoney LaRue and Bleu Edmondson. In the mid-90s, the collective helped make Red Dirt music what it is. The old friends still work together, even after hitting it big.
We are all comrades, Jenkins said. We have our own individual units, but as a whole, we are a team.
Of LaRue, he said, Were pretty much best friends. Thats probably the reason Ive written so many songs with him. Trying to write a song with another person is kind of like masturbating in front of someone: Its really tough to do. Youve got to feel really comfortable with somebody.
Jenkins might be the most unique piece in the set, certainly with the least stereotypical country facade.
Im a big guy with a shaved head, ZZ Top beard and sleeved-out tattoos, but I think it suits the music, he said. We are more than country, anyway.
That appetite for individuality translates to how his music is released. Rather than releasing his latest and 11th album, Project Eleven, upfront, he began doling out the 11-song effort on Nov. 11, 2011. The last song and a physical release will be unveiled on Sept. 11, the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
Music business is changing, and its adapt or die, Jenkins said. You cant hang on to this paradigm that doesnt exist anymore. Lots of artists are abandoning the traditional format of albums. People arent really buying CDs. This sounded like a good idea.
Artistically, it also continues his path toward doing something special.
I could keep putting out the same record over and over again, but at my heart, I want to consider myself an artist, he said. To me, that means always being in a state of becoming something.
Editor's note: This summer, Jenkins, Stoney LaRue, and a handful of other Red Dirt musicians will be flying to Alaska for a series of concerts benefiting the organization Autism Speaks. Head to LaRue's website for more information.