Sure, he enjoyed seeing the nation’s capital and meeting lawmakers. But the Rural Electric Youth Tour had a bigger benefit for Bryton Stoll—one that in many ways helped him land a spot opening for country music superstar Clint Black.
“I think for me it was a lesson in not being so shy and being forced to meet new people and get to know them over the week,” Stoll says of his 2012 experience. “I wasn’t the most outgoing person at that point—and I’m still not always—but it definitely helped me gain confidence in meeting and talking with new people.”
Youth Tour was just one stop on the long road to the evening of October 22, when Stoll stepped on stage at the nearly 2,000-seat Lied Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where he’s a senior on his way to a utility industry career.
“I’ve been singing all my life, just to the radio and in school musicals. I first learned to play the guitar when I was about 11. I started on a bass guitar and picked up the normal six-string from there,” says Stoll, 21. “The reason I started learning the bass in the first place is because my dad could play the six-string guitar and sing, and my brother could play the drums. So the only thing you need after that for a full band is a bass guitarist.”
The equipment was always set up in the basement of the family’s Marysville, Kan., home, and they’d play whenever they felt like it—or until told otherwise. “At 8:30, Mom would say, ‘Your sister’s got to go to bed. Knock it off,’” Stoll recalls.
Today, his mother sells merchandise at his concerts, his father handles sound, and his brother is still his drummer.
Stoll started writing songs in junior high. A high school rock band class—“I don’t think it’s very common. I just lucked out on that one”—gave him his first opportunity to publicly sing the songs he’d written. Looking back, he says those songs “weren’t very good,” and he doesn’t sing them today. “They have been retired.”
But, like Youth Tour, it was a confidence booster.
Soon after, he was invited to enter a music video contest, which he won.
“I think that was a spark that told me it’s time to push for my music—for my original stuff, especially, instead of going to the bars and playing all the covers.”
Stoll had made a few CDs, but in January 2016, he decided it was time to make a studio-quality album. He also played at the 2015 and 2016 editions of the amateur show “KU’s Got Talent.” One of the judges both years was the executive director of the Lied Center, who called last spring to ask Stoll if he’d like to be the opening act for a male country artist.
He readily accepted. But when Stoll asked who it was, he was told he’d have to hold on until an official announcement was made.
“I waited until May 1, a month or so, and then they finally announced that it was Clint Black. And I realized what I had gotten myself into.
“I tried not to worry about it too much because I knew that wouldn’t help,” Stoll says. “I think it took a while to sink in—like possibly until five minutes before I started playing— to realize this was a big, big deal.”
Stoll did get to chat a bit with Black before the show, and the star later Tweeted to him, “Great having you on the show!”
But he’s not letting success go to his head. Stoll has interned with Westar Energy, the investor-owned utility serving Lawrence, as he continues studying mechanical engineering. Upon graduation, he will become a full-time plant engineer at Westar’s Lawrence Energy Center.
Stoll says he enjoys working in the energy industry and would like to “continue to do music at as high a pace as I can, as long as it’s fun.”
It’s barely been four years, but it’s a long way from Youth Tour, where Stoll was sponsored by Nemaha-Marshall Electric Cooperative.
Shana Read, director of communications at Kansas Electric Cooperatives (statewide), remembers escorting a quiet student.
“You could tell he was absorbing every experience,” Read recalls. “I remember how deeply affected he was by the war memorials and the Holocaust Memorial Museum and how he took the loss and sacrifice of those who came before him to heart.” Even then, she recalls Stoll giving everyone one of his CDs.
“We often speak about how, through this trip, we hope that our students will gain some awareness of how our electric cooperatives work and how important it is for them to be involved in their community,” Read says. “Bryton has demonstrated that he has the dedication and the talent to make a difference in his community through his music.”
To learn more about Bryton Stoll, visit his website:brytonstollmusic.com.