Rock star guitarist based in Los Angeles and advocate for disabled young people, BRANDON MENDENHALL, joins the growing list of celebrity ambassadors for Daytrippers Children’s Charity. Mendenhall fought hard and worked hard to become a musician in his earlier years despite physical challenges due to having cerebral palsy and constant bullying. Brandon’s determination and dedication are awe-inspiring. His dream was to form his own band, The Mendenhall Experiment. He not only managed to start the band, but they went on to win several awards and perform professionally. TMX also recently signed a record deal in Southern California with Lucent Records. Not bad for a boy from Illinois who was once told he could not make it as a musician.
Here is Brandon’s story:
My name is Brandon Mendenhall and I am the founding member of my band The Mendenhall Experiment. I was born in 1983 , 2 months premature with complications during my birth. A life with Cerebral Palsy is all I’ve ever known.
I knew from an early age it would be difficult for me to reach my dreams as a musician. I couldn’t just join any band. Not just anyone would have the patience and understanding to work with my unique playing style based on my physical parameters due to my disability.
On August 16, 2014 I reached a personal and professional milestone, signing a record deal 6 years to the day of The Mendenhall Experiment’s first show in my hometown of Kankakee, IL at a dive bar called Paul’s Place. If anyone had told me that day 6 years from right now I would be signing a record deal in Southern California, I would’ve told you, you’re crazy. In order to understand the profound impact of that moment in my life I must go back to the beginning.
I was born in a very conservative part of North America and raised by my Grandparents. My Cerebral Palsy left the entire left side of my body damaged. I didn’t walk until I was four years old. Throughout my life I endured ten corrective surgeries on my leg and ankle. My left hand had nearly zero mobility and strength.
I started out my school life in a Special Education Cooperative and then went onto a more mainstream elementary and high school. School, for me, was a constant struggle as I was bullied, teased and harassed because of my disability. As a teenager I had surgery on my left eye.
Fortunately, I fell in love with music at a young age, listening to bands like Korn, Pantera and Nine Inch Nails that allowed me to escape the uninviting world. Inspired by these musical heroes I was determined to get a guitar in my hands. When I was growing up there were tons of people who doubted me including my own Grandfather. When I was 19 my Grandmother secretly loaned me $1000 to buy my first guitar. Of which I had to pay her back over the course an entire year making french fries and washing dishes at a local McDonalds. I had to hide the guitar from my Grandfather, but after just 2 months of playing, he found out. One day I was playing in my bedroom. I had no clue what I was doing just figuring things out. My Grandfather went to go to the bathroom which was adjacent to my bedroom. He stood in my doorway looking at me. After a moment he said, “ No grandson of mine will ever be a musician.” That comment was very hurtful and damaging but it also lit a fire in my soul. Despite my Grandfather’s words I persisted in my guitar playing. Not only did I learn how to play guitar but in doing so I rehabilitated my left hand bringing mobility and strength to it for the first time in my life.
I moved to Florida to attend Full Sail University. Going to Full Sail and subsequently moving to LA was more of my own personal choice to escape family life and all of the small town antics of people saying I’ll never make it. I wasn’t going to gain any recognition there. I wanted to be surrounded by people who inspired me to aim higher and musically that pushed me to raise the bar. In my mind going to Full Sail solidified the thought in my head that said you either need to move to New York , Los Angeles or Nashville and for me it was always Los Angeles.
Full Sail, where I received my Associate Of Science Degree in The Recording Arts Program and my Pro Tools Music Operator Certification , was a great opportunity for me. I learned the ropes of music production and the proper techniques and the studio etiquette it takes to make an “on the level” professional record. My Full Sail education provided the foundation for which I stand upon today. I remember sitting in my apartment with a couple of good friends on down time between classes asking them their thoughts on me starting my own me band called The Mendenhall Experiment. At that time it seemed like a crazy dream, but as I thought about it more and more I knew deep down that it could become something more. After I graduated Full Sail I went home to IL. for a few months to regroup and then went to visit a friend in Los Angeles. I got there and never went home.
In my early days in L.A I secured an internship at Westlake Recording Studios, while also working at Target to pay the bills. After a while I realized that my foot wasn’t going to hold up. While at the same time struggling to keep my internship because I couldn’t get a driver’s license. Since I had to walk everywhere and take public transportation, it took a toll on my body. I came to a point where I needed more surgeries. This was when I had my first set of foot and ankle surgeries at UCLA. After that I fell into a deep depression. I felt like the limitations on my body had won. I fell in with the wrong crowd and was headed down a dark path.
In early 2006, still on my private downward spiral, I had a chance encounter with my guitar hero, James “Munky” Shaffer of Korn. It was during that encounter that Shaffer and I had a moment to talk and connect over our mutual love for guitar. Our conversation inspired me to climb out of my hole and give music and my life another chance.
Over the next year and a half I would rebuild my life from the ground up. Relocating to the valley with a better job, a better place to live and healthier friends. It was a new beginning. However, that new beginning soon became clouded with elements of the past. It was in the spring of 2007 when I realized that yet again, I would have to go undergo another series of foot and ankle surgeries at UCLA. In July of 2007 recovering from surgery, I began writing for The Mendenhall Experiment. In August of 2008 with five songs completed it was time to test The Mendenhall Experiment in a live environment. During a months long vacation visiting my family I decided to reunite with my high school jam buddies and book a couple of shows for fun playing the material that I wrote for The Mendenhall Experiment. After two successful shows in the span two weeks with 100 plus crowd each night The Mendenhall Experiment had proven to be something of value. So at the end of my vacation it was time to return to southern California and find permanent members for my band.
From 2008 to 2014 the line-up for my band was a revolving door of musicians.
Every band goes through the process of finding the right combination of musicians who believe in what the band stands for. During this period I had the fortune of working with some very talented musicians. With these former line – ups The Mendenhall Experiment opened for bands like Korn, Megadeth, POD, Alien Ant Farm and many more. Playing shows like Monster Energy’s Aftershock Festival and playing famous venues such as the Whiskey A Go – Go. , Roxy, The Viper Room and The Glass House. However I didn’t find the combination of musicians right until beginning of 2014…
At the start of 2014 with my dream team of band mates finally in place a filmmaker approached me about filming a documentary about the story of my life and journey through the music industry living with Cerebral Palsy. The man who wanted to tell my story is my long time friend and lead videographer and photographer for Korn. Sebastien Paquet The band that had first sparked my passion for music at the age of 11 was now, in a way, connected to me on a professional level.
From that point on things have been moving rapidly. My band went from playing our first gig as a group at a dive bar in Santa Ana in March of 2014 to being signed artists with worldwide distribution an EP on it’s way and the documentary release not far behind. All of this happened in less than a year. In that year we have played venues such as The Citizen’s Bank Arena , The Viper Room, The NAMM show and Whiskey A Go – Go several times.
My band and I were honored to win the August Artist Of The Month for Guitar Center on July 11th 2014. An honor that was especially important to me because I grew up a loyal Guitar Center customer. Just before that win my band and I also got to play the Anaheim House of Blues, where we won 2nd place for the Battle of the Bands for Warped Tour. We were discovered by an A&R representative for Lucent Records where we signed a deal on August 16, 2014.
The moment I realized the coincidence with the dates was the moment I realized I was on my way to making it… August 16th 2008 (first TMX show ever) August 16th 2014 (TMX signs with Lucent Records in Southren Ca.)
While some people are enticed by money and fame that’s not me; I really do everything that I do for the kids. For people growing up like I did with disabilities or challenges that make dreams like mine seem impossible. The other stuff is just an added bonus.
Over the past year I have met so many wonderful people whose lives have been touched by my message and my music. That’s a pretty surreal feeling after being doubted and disregarded my whole life. I don’t really care about the people who doubted me back then. I care about the kids I might inspire in the present and years to come.
I am looking forward to helping create a future that will bring happiness, success and ability to those formally considered disabled.
– Brandon Mendenhall – Founder/Guitarist of The Mendenhall Experiment
Connect and support Brandon: http://www.themendenhallexperiment.com/